With a love for everything hand-made and sustainable, this former architecture student shares the story behind her embroidered pieces at Re Clothing and how one fashion documentary changed her life.
Ever heard of the saying: “wear your heart up on your sleeve?” As cliché as it may be, it takes a grander meaning now for Bianca Gregorio, the founder of sustainable brand Re Clothing. If you’ve been scrolling on the ‘gram, chances are you’ve seen her works already. Re Clothing is a local brand that sells custom hand-embroidered pieces of either affirmations, memorable phrases or even pop culture icons. “All of our pieces are curated secondhand items or made from dead stock fabric so we’re not hurting the environment and most importantly, our fellow human beings.”
Bianca revealed that she had a fast fashion phase where everything she wore was from mass-produced brands. But years later, discovered thrifting although didn’t have that sustainability mindset yet. Until she watched the film, The True Cost, when she was working on her undergraduate thesis. “It changed my life,” she says and decided to be a volunteer for Fashion Revolution Philippines soon after. This is where Re Clothing began.
What age did you start as a fashion designer?
I’m 25 years old now, and I started Re when I was 21, but just as a curated thrifted brand. I started upcycling and doing embroidery on it when I was 22. Then I discovered more about sustainability and made that shift in my life.
What was the moment/instance where you realized that this is what you wanted to do?
I’ve always loved fashion ever since but I ended up studying architecture in college, so it was set aside for a while. When I was doing center for sustainable fashion for my thesis, I ended up watching, The True Cost, as part of my research. My eyes were opened to the dark side of something I loved, and that’s when I realized I wanted to be part of the movement that would create change in that industry. Sustainable fashion was the turning point for me as it’s something I loved. While I also advocated for what would I believe would create change in the world.
Tell us about Re Clothing’s story. Were there any struggles as a young Filipino designer?
There were definitely a lot and still a lot now. As I mentioned, I didn’t come from a formal fashion background, so I felt like I knew nothing about what I was getting into. The community for sustainable fashion was also way smaller at that time. I wasn’t sure how to make my brand noticed. Luckily, I joined Fashion Revolution Philippines, a global NGO that promotes transparency in the fashion industry and that’s where I found my community.
Another big issue for me was that I also had zero knowledge on how to run a business (this is still a current struggle). Being a social enterprise, it’s really a hard balance of wanting to give back but also needing to earn enough to keep the business going. It’s really a journey of learning, but it’s something I love so it’s worth it.
What are your 5 favorite pieces and why? We’re obsessed with the collection you made in light of the #HijaAko movement!
There have been a lot of collections and pieces and it’s hard to choose as it’s usually just one per design. But the collection I also really loved was the one inspired by #HijaAko movement. Women empowerment is something we really push for especially since 85% of the workers in the fashion industry are women. Another favorite would be the Take What you Need collection because we’ve all been struggling during this pandemic. It was a great reminder to take a breath while also having fun making these tarot inspired designs.
The last one would probably be all the custom orders I get. Because it’s really heartwarming to know that the pieces have a story that celebrates all types of relationships. Also knowing that this piece is something they’ll cherish for a long time. My collaboration with Bubba Doodles has really been great in a way that it allows me to bring children’s drawings into their parent’s clothing and seeing the joy they have when they receive it is really a breathtaking moment.
How has your aesthetic and approach as an artist changed now that there’s a pandemic?
It’s definitely been more challenging creatively. I feel like my inspiration to create has really been having so many ideas to having none at all. I’ve learned to be better to myself about things like that. The past month, I had a big creative block and I didn’t know what to create. So, I designed something based on what I enjoyed and I released a collection on pop culture female icons. It’s really easy to get stuck, so I have to take myself out of that head space and find a way to create again.
Pre-pandemic, I was supposed to create modern Filipiniana office wear from deadstock fabrics. But it didn’t seem like a wise decision once everyone was stuck at home. No one was going to work in person so I decided to do a 180 switch. I ended up launching Loaf Studios, which is sustainable loungewear since that’s what people are more inclined to wearing at home.
Any tips on how to get into the fashion business, especially keeping things sustainable, for aspiring designers?
I think one of the biggest things is to find a mentor. I feel like a lot of people find the fashion industry really intimidating and so it’s hard doing it alone. Reaching out to people who’ve been in the industry can be such a huge help in making the right decisions. It’s also important to just really take every opportunity, especially in the beginning. Because you never know who’s going to see that article or attend that event or scroll through your social media page. So, just always be prepared and don’t forget to enjoy it all. Fashion is all about self-expression and experimentation so just have fun with it 🙂
Photos courtesy of Bianca Gregorio