Brace yourself, because this one’s going to be a long one. What can I do, there’s simply so many things to say this year. Plus you get two photos, of me. Talking about evolving, am I right, or am I right? Next year, I might just become a model, who knows 😊. Anyway, not to make this longer than it needs to, without further ado let’s do this shit, why don’t we?
They say there’s a fine line between reality and imagination and for the better half of my life I’ve been tiptoeing around it. Sometimes with both feet firmly stepping on each side, maintaining, what self-help gurus so proudly proclaim to be the fine balance, but who am I kidding really, most of the times I’ve been leaning towards the imaginative side with both feet running as far away from that line as my feet would allow. This has often annoyed people around me, one of them being my dad who used to say: “Girl, you’re living in your own world.” and “Your head is in the clouds. You need to come down.” I used to get so mad at him for saying that. Even till this day, it gets me to the point of frustration, oftentimes ending in tears. Being surrounded by pragmatic and logic led people my entire life is great for keeping dreamers such as myself grounded, but it can also be quite limiting and oftentimes debilitating for free spirits, if you allow it. Needless to say, I didn’t, despite of the countless days that I spent wondering what the hell is wrong with me. I took whatever lessons I could out of it, but didn’t let it anchor me down and so 7 years later, this “living in my own world” thing turned out to be the reason behind flipping so many impossible things into countless of possibilities. And dare I say, it was enough to make my dad start saying things like “I see you crawled your way into Forbes. Who did you pay up?”. I guess it’s his own way of saying “I support you and keep on going.” and honestly it’s a far cry from “living in my own world”, so I’ll take it. 😊
This year had been quite the rollercoaster ride. It will go down in history as one of the most awkward and yet somehow the most rewarding one for Bastet Noir. We began the year strong and then somewhere around mid of March got rejected again by Dream Assembly. Oh well, what can you do? Such is life. This small defeat was followed by the pandemic breakdown in April when sales started to go down, enough to put me into a direct panic mode. I mean here I was, working my ass off to expand the label, taking it to a level where we had a network of 5 women single parents, with hopefully more to add by the end of the year when April hit us so hard, taking things to a screeching halt, throwing curve balls left and right. While I tried to keep things from falling apart and simultaneously not lose my mind I came up with this idea to start a fund for our community of women single parents, because I genuinely wanted to help them navigate these turbulent times and didn’t want to find myself in a situation where we’d have to stop working with any of them. So in July, once we promoted the fund on our social media and countries came out of lockdowns, our sales started to dramatically increase. People started buying again, but most importantly they started donating to the fund which helped us tremendously in keeping the women owned studios we work with afloat. We managed to gather around 2.500$ which went straight to the women owned studios we worked with. This to many might not seem like a lot, but to our small community, it gave a sense of stability, purpose and safety in times when chaos ruled their lives and I just want to say huge THANK YOU to all of those who donated. You have no idea just how big of an impact you’ve had. I’m eternally grateful to you all.
Around that same time, while the whole world started to adapt to working and doing almost anything from home, the demand to shop online increased tremendously and so our small team here started looking for options to make it easier for you to try things virtually and bring online shopping as closer as we could to the physical experience. Somewhere around the end of April, we introduced the Virtual Try-On where you were given the option to either see how a design fits on a model with similar body shape to yours or upload a photo and see how it’ll look on you.
Navigating this whole COVID-19 situation, I guess you could say, came a bit easier to us than the rest of the fashion labels and the reason for it was our zero-waste production model. At the beginning of 2020, we reached the decision to only use deadstock materials, which means that we started buying scraps of fabric cast aside by big brands, materials which would otherwise end up burning in a landfill, poisoning our land, rivers and by default polluting our air. This initiative helped us close the loop and become 100% zero-waste and sustainable, but along the way it has also helped warehouses in North Macedonia get rid of the excess of materials created as a result of canceled orders by big brands. These materials in most cases weren’t paid for which left these, oftentimes small family-ran warehouses, vulnerable with a huge overhead. Furthermore our production model is organized in such a way that all of the women we collaborate with, work from the comfort of their own homes or their own micro studios, preventing them from being exposed to the virus, which wouldn’t be the case if they were forced to use public transportation to get to production facilities. This enabled them to be safe and still earn an income to support themselves and their children. Since we don’t use fulfillment centers either, every order was delivered from their independent studios straight to the doorstep of our customers through DHL Express.
Going full zero-waste this year, made us also think about the environmental impact of every parcel. Back in November a potential customer reached to us and asked whether we had a way to offset the carbon emissions we’ve made. She wanted to donate a percentage of the order towards combating the carbon footprint created by it. This was such an eye-opening experience for us, so we started looking into options that would make this possible and in December we found one. We launched the Carbon Offset Initiative, in an effort to make all of our shipping emissions carbon neutral by supporting forest protection projects.
Let’s start with the bragging part now, shall we? We’ve been blessed with so many features this year and support from globally renowned Youtubers and Instagramers. As a small brand, we operate with a 0$ marketing budget and the reason for it is that we are a bootstrapped label, an entity that has taken 0$ investment capital and so whatever profit we make is reinvested back into the growth of our community of women single parents. Our goal is to help as many women as we can. So fortunately for us, many of the ambassadors we wanted to work with were touched by our story and recognized the impact we made both on our small community of women and the environment, so they extended their selfless support by allowing us to share their stories and spreading the word about our brand on their channels and social media platforms. This has helped us tremendously in expanding our reach, so to all of these badass human beings, I just wanted to say I’M BEYOND TOUCHED BY YOUR GENEROSITY AND SUPPORT. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to repay you in kind. Each of you have been personally responsible for the success we’ve had this year. From the feature in Elle_nl thanks to the amazing Yin Fung and Forbes to being listed on Katie Sturino’s blog, Chloé Kian, Vanessa Ziletti and CatCreature’s Youtube channels, all the way to finding one of our pieces in the pages of the print publication Tatler Asia, where Sarah Chen the co-founder of the Billion Dollar Fund for womenposed in the Michelle Dress, custom made for her. It’s been the wildest ride ever.
On the personal side of things, this year will go down in history as the year of heavy blows and losses. Before writing this, I wasn’t sure whether to even mention it, because I believe it’s such a private matter and I’ve always been the type who keeps things in, but in order for me to process it, I believe it’s important for me to share it and allow myself to open up and be vulnerable. It’s what makes us humans after all, ain’t it? Almost 2 months ago, a close relative has lost her 2 year long battle with brain cancer. She was 41 years old. Needless to say this brought my family so much sadness, but also deep gratitude for the things we have taken for granted. In some weird way, I guess you could say it brought us closer. The reason why I decided to share it here is to let you know that sometimes, despite all of the peaks you conquer like I believe I had this year, life decides to turn itself upside down to bring you a new perspective, its own way of showing what’s important.
Since than I’ve buried myself in work so much, that I can’t even tell exactly where my work day begins and where it ends. It’s almost as if my every goal in life needs to be accomplished by the end of this year. It’s an extreme pressure to be under and I know it’s unhealthy, but being razor sharp focused on building Bastet Noir, in some way helps me deal with the situation better and keeps my mind away from wandering in dangerous territory. You know what I mean? Some of you would probably say I’m in the stage of denial and you’d probably be right, but this is my only coping mechanism that keeps me sane, so well I’ll take it. I feel like loss is such an important part of life and maybe by sharing this, the blizzard of emotions I find myself buried under might just calm down a bit or perhaps by simply communicating it with all of you it might help someone who’s going through the exact same situation as mine to at least understand that you’re not alone. Perhaps you, like me will find solace in the fact that everyone at some point in life has dealt with such a cathartic loss. On the other side of things, by writing this, in some strange way makes me feel like I’m honoring the person I’ve lost. Does this make any sense? I hope it does. You gotta take the good with the bad and make something hopeful out of it.
Anyway, to avoid sounding like my personal confession let’s get back to the good stuff, shall we and skip to the things I’m most grateful for. Apart from having the most amazing family one could ever hope for, the thing that made me most proud this year was joining four equally supportive families, The Female Founder Collective, Dough, DWEN & Nest. These communities of women, apart from my sister, have been the rock that I’ve leaned on so as to not lose my mind this year. Through Vanessa and Erica’s Dough lift-me up coffee chats to the Female Founder Collective Slack group of fascinating women across the globe like Rebecca Minkoff, the support of Nest’s amazing artisanal community and DWEN’s (Dell’s Women only social network) virtual summit, where I got to meet and talk to so many impressive ladies (granted online, but still counts), these 4 groups have acted like my personal shrinks especially during the months when work slowed down. Having the support system of women who were dealing with exactly the same pressing issues like yourself was such an uplifting experience. Just talking with these women and getting an insight on how they were dealing with their situation has had such a profound impact on me and my way of thinking.
Speaking of support, this year was also marked by a partnership very close to my heart. We welcomed Milena Tanaskoska, a renowned stylist and made her a part of our team. She advised us on design, improving the quality of the production and offered her expertise on creative direction. She made us get out of our comfort zone by adding color to the designs, a bold move which you obviously liked, resulting in the launching of Youngbloods.
Another equally important achievement was getting part of our designs featured in the high profile fashion app The Covet Fashion. The digitalized version of the items draw so much attention, bringing so many eyeballs to our website. It gave us the credibility, we’ve worked so hard to achieve, as well as so many loyal customers that were drawn to our cause.
So there you have it, a year in the life of an entrepreneur, full of tripping and falling and getting back on my feet again, walking, running and than falling again and doing this exact same process over and over again. Crazy I know, but you have to be a bit crazy and delusional to run a company and I guess I am, because there’s just something about me that simply refuses to accept the hard, cold reality of life. Perhaps that’s what got me so far, my relentless pursuit, childish like persistence and almost impossible belief in myself and if you too have these, I suggest you make something with them.
I don’t know what the next year holds, but I’m sure it won’t be a smooth sail, just like all the previous ones. The only thing I hope to do is have the strength to navigate whatever shit storm strikes next. So I won’t be making any New Year resolutions, because if there’s anything that life has taught me this year is that life is so unpredictable. My only wish is to stay healthy and be able to keep on changing the society I live in by investing in our community of women single parents.
Shit, that’s way too many things. I’ll stop now. Wish you all the best these holidays and see you next year in a hopefully better world than the one we leave behind.