A conversation with the founder
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Siobhán and I am a former engineer turned writer – and now a budding ‘fashion entrepreneur’! I’m probably not your typical fashion designer and certainly not a fashionista. That’s more in the realm of my sister, who is never slow to let me know when I’ve made a fashion faux pas!
I’m probably not your typical fashion designer and certainly not a fashionista!
How would you describe your own personal style?
Well, I love simple designs, timeless styles, and clothes that look amazing but don’t make me check my watch every five minutes wondering when I can go home and put on something a little more comfortable!
It has always bothered me that ‘trendy’ clothes are sometimes not the most comfortable – don’t even get me started on high heels and pantyhose! Anyway, that’s what brought me to underwear! Shouldn’t this be the softest and most comfortable item in your wardrobe?
So, is that how the idea for BON+BERG came about?
Yes. Well, sort of. Since I reside in the small-boobs camp, I’ve always struggled to find bras that fit properly. To put it plainly, what the heck do I need all that bulky padding and underwire for? Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love a cute lacy bralette and a pair of knickers that make me feel ‘sexy’. But I also want comfortable bras and underwear that I can happily throw on every day AND still feel amazing and empowered.
Since I’m a fairly practical person, I figured: why not make my own underwear? I was certain there must be other women out there with the same problem, who would love a well-made comfy alternative to existing lingerie options. And so the journey began.
Before we go into more details, where did the name BON+BERG come from?
Of course, the first thing I needed was a name. After much deliberation, I settled on BON+BERG, which represents everything I wanted the brand (and our underwear) to convey.
In French, bon means ‘good’ and is also, quite conveniently, my childhood nickname! Our garments will strive to be good in every way possible: ethical, sustainable, and fair-trade. Oh, and I think I already mentioned comfortable and well-made. Those are good things too!
Berg translates as mountain in German. The mountains are my silent partner, my muse, and a source of inspiration. Mountains are a symbol of strength and nature. They stand there, stoic, without notions or expectations. Yet they can be equally dramatic and conjure up feelings of passion and power. Have you ever been close to the peak of a mountain when a storm suddenly rolls in? It can be terrifying and utterly inspiring at the same time.
The mountains are my silent partner, my muse, and a source of inspiration.
While the mountains are ever changing, they still remain a constant presence reminding us of the importance of protecting the beautiful world in which we live.
As women, we are powerful too. And we have the ability to drive positive changes in the world. So, let’s start with the clothes we wear.
Is that what inspires you? Was that your main drive for establishing the brand?
When I started looking into the fashion industry, I was horrified to learn about the impact fast fashion has on the environment as well as the sheer extent of the problem and the inaction. I always knew the fashion industry had a few dirty little secrets but I didn’t fully grasp the immense, widespread impact on both people and the environment.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry produces more CO2 emissions than international flight and shipping industries combined. If you're anything like me, and as we keep learning more about climate change, you might be feeling a little guilty about all the air travel you’ve done. It also turns out that we should be even more concerned about our shopping habits.
To make matters worse, more than 70% of garments end up in landfill sites each year where they don’t biodegrade but instead spend years emitting toxic greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
We can create renewable energy, right? So, shouldn’t we be designing clothes in a more renewable way? The planet only has a finite amount of resources. What happens once they’re all used up?
What has starting a lingerie brand made you realise about yourself?
I truly believed I was a feminist until I learned that fast fashion has a disproportionate impact on women in low-income countries. By feeding the fast-fashion machine, we also disempower women. And women are not the only ones being affected. Big manufacturers are still not averse to using child labour even in this day and age.
That made me take a step back and seriously rethink my own actions. Just being aware or knowing something is happening is not the same thing as actually doing something about it. Suddenly, buying just one or two things in shops like Zara or H&M was totally off-limits.
What are your main aspirations for the brand?
My hope is that BON+BERG can create comfortable, high-quality bras and underwear from materials that are responsibly sourced. But more importantly, that we can also spread the word about the impact fast fashion has on the environment and on the most vulnerable people in our societies.
I truly believe the small choices we make, even as simple as the underwear we buy, can have a huge impact on the planet and society.
We are all human and we are all in this together. I truly believe the small choices we make, even as simple as the underwear we buy, can have a huge impact on the planet and society. And that’s really how BON+BERG came about. The company values are driven by the belief that every single person on the planet has the ability to change the world.
How have you found the entrepreneurship journey so far?
Starting the brand has been an amazing learning experience, and a challenging one too.
So far I’ve discovered that there are, in fact, many factories and producers out there genuinely interested and committed to reducing their environmental impact and providing fair working conditions. The next step will be choosing the right partners and turning the dream into reality.
Based on your experiences so far, how do you feel about the future of the fashion industry?
Like I said, I’m a total newcomer to the industry. My feeling right now is that as climate-change movements gain momentum, the fashion industry can and will change dramatically over the next few years. The future of the fashion industry is bright, and I want BON+BERG to be part of the new fashion revolution.
The past is the past and the future is what we make it. But we need to act now. We need to clean up our wardrobes to help fight climate change and social injustice together.