We get asked lots of questions each day about how our business began, where our ethos comes from and how we do what we do. To get the nitty gritty detail of how it all started and what goes on behind the scenes each day we have asked Snow, our Creative Director, to explain the story behind BIBICO and share how she strives to enjoy a simple lifestyle, combining her love for the outdoors, motherhood and working from home.
Snow, let’s start with the most obvious question. You have a really unusual name…
My real name is Nieves (Snow in Spanish) and I grew up in northern Spain. I lived and worked abroad for a number of years and I quickly noticed that people found my name hard to remember and also to pronounce. So, I adopted the nickname ‘Snow’ and I’ve been called this ever since!
And want about the name BIBICO? Is this Spanish too?
It was really hard to choose a unique name for our business and my husband Tim and I wanted it to have meaning to us. My childhood nickname was ‘Bibi’ and ‘bibi’ also means ‘married lady’ in Hindi which tied in really well with our work with a women’s co-operative in India. Then we just tagged the ‘co’ on the end.
What was your childhood like growing up in northern Spain?
As a child, I was very entrepreneurial and my dad urged us to be so and to develop our imagination. We would go to the forest to pick eucalyptus to make lollies and sit at the end of the drive for hours to sell them. I come from a family of architects, but maths was never my thing and my creative outlet was always clothing. My childhood was spent between my mother’s house in the beautiful city of Santander which is very classically Spanish, and my dad’s remote farm in the surrounding countryside. I can see now how this upbringing is reflected in my collections. I’ve always wanted to create very functional, yet classic pieces, for those who want to feel good about what they’re wearing, love natural materials and believe that less is more.
Did you always want to work in Fashion?
I always had a passion for fashion and studied for a degree in Fashion at the École de Mode in France. I then went on to work for Zara for five years, moving on to work in the fashion industry in Madrid, Sydney and London. With ten years’ experience behind me and another relocation to my husband’s home city of Bath in the UK, I felt ready to do something of my own. I was becoming increasingly concerned about how the fashion industry operated on such a massive scale and the mounting environmental pressures it creates. As much as I love designing clothes, I knew I had to do it differently.
What was your vision for BIBICO?
My dislike for the mass-produced nature of fast fashion grew, both in terms of environmental damage but also how it did nothing to lift those involved out of poverty and exploitation. I decided to embark on a mission to find out if there was another way! And so, I packed my bags and travelled to India looking for a Fair Trade organisation that could manufacture clothing in a way that was both fashionable and affordable. Finally, I came across an inspirational women’s co-operative in Mumbai and began designing a collection of woven dresses and shirts which they could make. It was both exhilarating and scary to start from nothing but before I knew it, our first BIBICO collection was being sold in Topshop, Oxford Circus. With this success under my belt I moved my attention to knitwear and travelled to Nepal. I wanted to find a small-scale, ethical supplier and after three weeks of searching I came across a women’s co-operative in Kathmandu working to help under-privileged ladies from across the Himalayan valley. These ladies were incredibly skilled knitters and were able to create amazingly accurate prototypes of my designs with relative ease despite the language barriers. We continue to work with these two remarkable ethical suppliers today and they are at the heart of everything we do. More recently we have seen the need to work with suppliers closer to home and so for the last eight years we have been producing a collection of machine-made knitwear using Italian wool in Bulgaria.
How has the business changed since the early days?
BIBICO became a real family business when my husband Tim joined as COO in 2009. Tim and I met in Sydney, Australia. He is fortunate to have dual-nationality as his mother is Australian and I was working there in the fashion industry and improving my English. Tim had spent many years in sales and marketing for large organisations, so when the time came, we knew we could both use our individual skills to move the business forward. Of course, it’s sometimes difficult to separate home and work life but we are around a lot for our kids which is something we both wanted and we’ve been able to grow and nurture the business together. I try to travel to see our suppliers as often as I can as they are the lifeblood of our business but the pandemic has made this difficult recently. My focus is now working with our suppliers towards sourcing more sustainable and ethical fabrics. Being a small fish in a big pond is not always easy. I want to use the latest sustainable fabrics but the minimum order quantities are often very high so we have to work especially hard to source the best raw materials we can find.
What do you like to wear?
I have a very small wardrobe considering what I do for a living. I don’t enjoy just accumulating ‘stuff’ in general. I don’t like clutter or anything unnecessary and often do a big clear out and give away to charity. When a new collection comes in, I will have my eye on two or three styles and I will wear them for the whole season. My clothes, like my life need to be simple.
What keeps you creatively motivated?
I often feel I’m competing with myself year on year. I often fear that the next collection will not be as good as the last. The product development of each garment comes just from me and I’m always challenging myself to do better and be more creative. Somehow each collection seems to improve from the last, and I push myself to evolve, whilst being mindful of what our customers need. Thanks to the lovely people that work at our shop in Bath, I get as much feedback as I can about how our customers have responded to each collection, and this is invaluable and always creates a focus for my energy.
What is a typical day like at BIBICO?
I like to get up early each day, around 5.30 a.m. so I can enjoy the initial stillness of the house. I’ll read my emails and make preparations as the rest of the household begins to emerge and the chaos begins! My office is the spare room which was ideal when the girls were small as I could work around their routines. Now they are both at school, the office is in full time use and is the hub of my day. The school run is always hectic as I will drop the girls off and then walk to our lovely shop in Bath before I return home. I like to see how things are looking, check the sales figures and stock levels and to leave any messages for our team of sales assistants. Back at my desk I’ll be designing the next collection, working on the production patterns, organising photo shoots, skype calling our suppliers or creating content for our social media. Tim also works from home and will be busy in his office upstairs liaising with our wholesale customers, managing the web orders and overseeing the finances. Each day flies by and although we rarely manage to take time off, this is our dream and we try to embrace the challenges. I try to find balance in my working day with yoga, swimming and lots of fresh air. Whenever we can we travel back to Spain to enjoy time with my family and the freedom of the farm, which my kids adore. I love my job and I work very hard for it and the girls also need my time. You can’t expect to have everything; my down time will come.