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Every business owner will tell you that entrepreneurship is hard and it takes time. Rarely do you find a “silver bullet” or the thing that leads to your “overnight success.” Most overnight successes are really 5, 10, 30, 50 years in the making. Nothing happens overnight, especially in the fashion industry. My guest today has spent the last 15 years growing an incredible ethical fashion brand that is changing lives, and changing trends. Belinda Kazanci is the founder of Bel Kazan, and ethical women’s wear brand made with modern women in mind: Empowered, adventurous, independent spirits. Belinda started Bel Kazan after a life-changing journey to Bali, Indonesia. From the delicate flower offerings that lined the streets to their vibrant textiles and joyful spirits, she felt an unparalleled sense of inspiration among the people of Bali. It was then that Belinda decided to uproot her life in Los Angeles, determined to make her vision of a socially and environmentally responsible apparel line real. I can’t wait to share Belinda with the Business with Purpose listeners!
Belinda Kazanci is the owner and designer of the brand Bel Kazan, that specializes in women’s clothing made from original prints in Bali and uses sustainable and environmental practices. The goal is that the Bel Kazan garments have minimal impact on the environment.
Belinda and Bel Kazan have been in business for 15 + years now! They built their own factory in Bali from the ground up and have been training women and men from villages in skilled training like sewing, quality control, and more. They’ve been slowly growing their business through this skills training program.
Belinda has been a singer and songwriter all of her life. She has always been doing music, and she felt like her only other creative outlet was through fashion. Her family comes from the textile business in Istanbul, which is also where Belinda was born. Much like music, she’s been around textiles her whole life.
Textiles and creative expression through clothing has always been an interest of Belinda’s, but she never thought it would take off into a career. In 2005, she took a course with the Landmark Forum where she met a woman who spoke about her business in Bali. She and Belinda connected after the talk and that’s how Belinda was introduced to the manager she has now.
After their initial conversation, Belinda booked trip to Bali within two weeks! She fell in love with the people, the culture, the textiles, and she started sewing her own designs with help from local women along the way. Slowly, it turned into an independent business with its own factory!
And before all of this, Belinda was already a singer-songwriter who grew up playing jazz flute, singing in choirs, and was even in a band called The Echo Cell, and played all over Los Angeles for many years! She’s also written and created albums as well as worked on a few TV show and written songs for film.
All of Belinda’s grandparents were in the textile business. They sold and purchased textiles, and both of her grandmothers were also seamstresses who made beautiful clothes for her and her mom growing up. Her parents own a dry cleaning and alterations business. It taught Belinda about how style, how care for fabric as well as production and purchasing.
The timing of the Landmark Course aligned with where Belinda was in her life, and she left feeling like anything was possible. She was ready for a change, and she fell in love with Bali. She was like a sponge, learning about the culture and getting to know people around her. She really felt a warm welcome from the people there.
She also started falling in love with culture, textile, and colors. Belinda wanted to find a way to bring two worlds together while modernizing the textiles but also keeping their cultural feel.
The plan was never an intentional move toward big production. Everything started very small scale, and even with their own factory now, is still relatively small.
Belinda uses what she calls a “lean production model” which means each order is “cut to order.” When an order is placed, the garment is then cut, sewn, made, and shipped. Having their own factory allows Bel Kazan the luxury of not having to meet minimum order requirements.
Reducing waste has always been a value of Bel Kazan, but they also now look at what fabrics are sustainable, garment wearability, their impact on the environment, and more. All garment cuttings are upcycled and donated to villages that need baby and kids clothing.
22:33 – 15 Years, Humble Beginnings, Calculated Risk
There’s a statistic that most business fail within the first 18 months. Belinda is now 15 years in with Bel Kazan. I mentioned that things start small with Bel Kazan, but go all the way back to the beginning and it started even more humbly with no investments and $1,500 that was borrowed, and run in a garage while Belinda continued working full time.
Slow strategic growth and minimizing spending helped Belinda and Bel Kazan get off the ground, as does continued awareness of the budget and spending carefully and conservatively, minimizing costs as much as possible.
Taking risks and putting Bel Kazan out there has also truly paid off for Belinda. She’d always dreamed of having Bel Kazan garments in Anthropologie, so she had an artist in Bali paint a picture of the Anthropologie window with Bel Kazan dresses in the window. She shipped it to Anthropologie’s buying office with samples of each dress.
A year later, an Anthropologie representative contacted her to tell her that Anthropologie saw one of her pieces and a partnership formed. The store loves Bel Kazan prints and does a lot of exclusive pieces with them. It’s been a great partnership with new projects starting regularly. A face mask partnership is on the way now!
It’s a great start to see a big fashion corporate company partnering with a sustainable brand. All the money made from masks with go toward helping Bel Kazan sewers and keeping them employed during Covid-19!
Belinda would love to see her prints in stores like HomeGoods. So many people compliment Bel Kazan prints (which are all created by Bel Kazan and copyrighted!) and ask for them on pillows and baby clothes.
Get to know some fun things about Belinda like who she’d choose to sit next to on a 13-hour flight to Bali, which of her pet peeves is the strangest, how she’d prove she’s from the future if she could time travel 400 years into the past, and of course, what it means to Belinda to run a business with purpose!
8:21 – “Well it’s a process, and even though I think one is writing a song and the other one is designing a garment, the process is very similar. There are different types of steps, but it’s all about details and they all kind of work together.”
19:04– “What we can now do is, maybe (if) we have some fabric left over, we can rework that fabric into a new style so it’s not just wasted.”
About Belinda Kazanci and BEL KAZAN:
Behind every collection is designer Belinda Kazanci, who started BEL KAZAN after a life-changing journey to Bali, Indonesia. From the delicate flower offerings that lined the streets to their vibrant textiles and joyful spirits, she felt an unparalleled sense of inspiration among the Balinese people. It was then that Belinda decided to uproot her life in Los Angeles, determined to make her vision of a socially and environmentally-responsible apparel line real.
Today her time is split between the BEL KAZAN production facility in Bali and her studio in Los Angeles. She is committed to giving back to the culture and people that gave her a renewed sense of purpose.
BEL KAZAN womenswear is made with modern women in mind: empowered, adventurous, independent spirits. Inspiration is taken from around the globe to create bold prints and effortless silhouettes that easily take wearers from day to night, and quickly become wardrobe staples. Every BEL KAZAN garment is crafted in our personally-constructed factory in Bali, using traditional techniques for an authentic, timeless feel. Learn more about our design process, fabric choices, and the art of creating each print by hand.
Did you know I have an ethical brand directory? That’s what Chelsea used to start finding products for her boutique almost four years ago! Now, Amma’s Umma carries over 50 intentionally sourced brands and is the perfect one stop shop for all your gift giving needs. As a thank you to the Still Being Molly community, she is offering 20% off with code SHOPWITHMOLLY. Head to shopwithmolly.com for all the details.
At GOEX, we believe in the power of purchase. We use a simple t-shirt to connect our customers with their apparel makers. GOEX customers sustain fair wage jobs that liberate workers from poverty and empower them in their families and communities. We are proud to be a verified member of the Fair Trade Federation. Shop sustainable, eco-friendly t-shirts and sweatshirts with purpose today at goexapparel.com.
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Simple Switch is an online marketplace for ethical and impactful shopping. They let you shop online for more than 3,000 products ranging from everyday essentials like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, to special gifts like journals or jewelry. Every product has a positive environmental or social impact, like planting trees or fighting human trafficking.
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The Lemonade Boutique
This episode is sponsored by The Lemonade Boutique, a women’s clothing with a cause store. Featuring ethically made and fair trade items from over 10 countries, every item is made by women facing extreme challenges such as trafficking, poverty, and more. Your purchase empowers women to take life’s lemons and make lemonade. Shop at THELemonadeBoutique.com. Listeners of the Business with Purpose Podcast can save 15% by using code PURPOSE15 at checkout.
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