Bianca Elgar, the designer that's keeping her statement pieces 100% British
Bianca Elgar, although born in The Netherlands, has lived in the UK since 1979 and currently lives and works in Oxford, where her studio is based. Bianca has created a collection of versatile statement pieces to allow a woman to mix and match her look. Frustrated by the minimal amount of outfits she could bring with her on an extended trip abroad, she wanted to design key statement pieces that would allow a range of styling options. Here to speak about her brand, which ranges from jewellery and scarves to tops and dresses, is designer Bianca Elgar.
Describe a typical Bianca Elgar girl?
I would describe her as a sophisticated professional who cares about her wardrobe, travels a lot for business and pleasure and loves statement pieces.
Where do you see your brand going in the next 5-10 years?
Currently I am only selling my pieces online and in a few physical stores across the UK and Europe. I would definitely want to expand my reach, but am not entirely sure if opening my own brick and mortar would be suitable as that involves a whole different setup from I am currently used to.
What's your favorite piece and why?
I love the Skinny collection as the pieces have a dash of colour and personality, and are also my best-selling set of items. The Skinny scarves are also multifunctional and can be worn as a hairband, around your wrist, as a scarf or tied around your bag (see below).
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in fashion? Has it always been a childhood dream of yours?
I always did enjoy fashion. But I was never much of a follower of fashion, I was far more interested in print and interior design. I love very understated and simple pieces, with an added 'wow' factor like Chanel's Little Black Dress with a statement accessory, in Chanel's case a pearl necklace. As the saying goes, fashion comes and goes, but style is eternal. I find that when I want to buy something I want to buy a piece that I'll cherish forever.
Your pieces are 100% made in the UK, from the manufacturers to the suppliers. Why did you make the decision to keep all production in the UK?
I wanted to go for the best quality. I find that working with manufacturers based in the UK allows me to produce my pieces at a very high standard. Plus, when you are just starting up a brand it can be expensive and time-consuming, to work with high minimum orders and the communication is difficult. I have one manufacturer that is located just 30 minutes away from me and if I need to make a particular order, I can just pop in the car to see her. I have just done a podcast for an organisation called Manufacturing at Heart, which promotes and encourages manufacturing in the EU, and discuss at length the numerous benefits of manufacturing in the UK.
If you could have any celebrity wear one of your pieces who would it be and why?
At the moment, it is Lottie Moss. She wore my Forget-Me-Not Skinny scarf to support the Homage Fashion Charity Show to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society (see below).
Another celebrity that I would love to wear my pieces would be Helen Mirren, as she is very stylish and a great example of how a mature lady can look fabulous.
What advice would you give aspiring designers regarding the first steps to starting a label?
Take your time, don't rush into things. It takes about a year, at least, to get everything ready. Don't rush into producing several collections, focus on one. Aspring designers should keep in mind that it is very costly to set up a brand; not just the costs of producing a collection, there is also the PR, the makeup, the models, photography, etc. I would recommend aspiring designers to read Katie Hill's blog posts on "Make it British", as she discusses the costs associated with setting up a British-based brand.
If there is one thing you could change about the fashion industry it would be...
Fast fashion. I would love to change fast fashion and for people to invest in durable pieces to love and cherish, instead of throwing them away.
I am inspired by...
The world around me. I live in a beautiful place, Oxford, and just need to step outside the front door to see the Thames or the amazing Ashmolean and Pitts River museums. I am going to Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland next week and can't wait to see all the ruined castles and coastline. I love getting inspiration from the beauty around me.