The label for women of every body shape with a hint of Bulgarian culture.
Bibi Sakalieva, the label named after the designer herself, is a staunchly slow and sustainable fashion label based in London. Her designs take inspiration from her native culture in Bulgaria and are combined with the folklore and gold standard of British heritage. Her current collection includes a solid colour palette with some styles flaunting asymmetric blocks of floral prints spread across everyday-wear patterns of dresses, skirts, pants and jumpsuits. Bibi also reimagines her collection for the 21st century customers who want empowering, confident fashion without climate consequences of wastage. In this interview, Bibi tells us what’s at the heart of her fashion label and how she incorporates all the elements to make it sustainable:
- When was the label Bibi Sakalieva launched?
The label Bibi Sakalieva was launched in 2018, but after the Covid crisis came, I stopped all development activities, and in the spring of 2021, I can say that the label was reborn.
- What does your label represent?
The label Bibi Sakalieva presents premium ready-to-wear in limited series fashion. For years, even when I worked for another brand, I had an idea to make clothes that could be worn and liked by all types of women – tall, short, thin, chubby, young, and mature. Every woman I have met has something about her that she doesn’t like. And I want to show precisely that we don’t need to be ideal and perfect because we are not. We need to choose the clothes that will make us feel excellent. All my designs are modelled so that they fit any figure. Even in my last photoshoot, I used a model that is an X-Large size.
- What inspired you to start your own fashion label?
Fashion has been inside me since I was a child. As a child, I created collections for my dolls. Then I started making clothes for myself and my loved ones. I graduated from a fashion college and for many years worked for another brand in my native Bulgaria. In 2015 when I moved to London, I decided to start making clothes under my name very soon to give women the confidence they all need. And a few years later I took my first step.
- Who is your target client and how do you make your label known to them?
I don’t have a specific target customer. I have clients of all ages and different professions. My designs are mainly aimed at the modern woman who tries to combine career and family care. Who doesn’t have much time to shop for herself. The woman who has to follow a certain dress code at the office, but after work has a business dinner or a meeting with friends for a party and doesn’t have time to change outfits, so my clothes are aimed exactly at this woman. Fortunately, every customer who has met my label remains satisfied and loyal to the brand.
- What makes the label slow and sustainable?
Fashion trends don’t affect me. I am ley on classics and comfort. And comfortable is always trendy. I use high-quality fabrics that are resistant to constant treatment. No one likes to buy a new garment only to wear it once and after the first wash, it looks like an old one.
- What is the label’s inspiration and design process?
When I have a muse, things happen very quickly. I enter the studio and forget about the time and for one whole week, I have a full collection. But sometimes, when I lack inspiration, I can’t even sew a single button. Otherwise, I get inspired by many different things if I’m reading a book, watching a movie, walking in nature, or meeting friends and travelling.
- How do you include the aspects of these cultures in your design?
The folklore of my culture exceptionally influences me. I am Bulgarian, and our folklore is quite rich and saturated with elements. So, I put a minor feature typical of Bulgarian culture in almost every collection I create. Or I make a modern version of something old Bulgarian and people like it.
- How is the sourcing and manufacturing of the orders carried out?
Now the world is open, and we can travel freely again. The fabrics I go to choose by myself. As I said, I get inspiration from everything. Sometimes I go to the fabric warehouse to look for a particular material, but I see a roll hidden in the corner and a dress pattern is born in my head. And for the garments, the delivery is also relatively easy. For the USA, for example, it is sometimes several times faster to send from Bulgaria than from London. It has happened to me that shipments from London reach the customer in as little as three weeks, and from Bulgaria, the parcel is in the hands of the customer in 7 days.
- You are known for your custom-made mannequins for each customer. How do you achieve those?
When a customer orders a garment from my collection online, we conduct a detailed correspondence; I ask them for their height and basic measurements so we can accommodate that. But in most cases, clients come to me in the studio when I need to do something more specific and to their measurements. At this stage, I manage to cope, and I don’t know how.
- How can one identify the ‘Bibi Sakalieva’ factor in the label’s designs?
Everyone who met Bibi Sakalieva’s brand once recognized her style afterwards. Elegant, at the same time casual, with a unique character.
- What kind of styles can one expect?
I don’t think I can make drastic changes in my styles, but most likely, in one of my future collections, you will find slightly punkish touches and a completely casual line for free time when we are on vacation or at home.
- What aura do your styles create when someone wears them?
I have clients who initially resist my proposed designs, but I am sure they will look great in this pattern. Once the garment is finished, they radiate happiness, and obvious delight, that they look excellent.
- Tell us about some of your recent collections and what inspired you to create them.
Two weddings, of which I was a guest, inspired the last collection. I wanted a dress that would fit perfectly for the occasion but not sit in my closet and wait for the next one. I wanted a dress I could wear during the summer days, nights, and special events. That is how I created the collection. Dresses, jumpsuits, a set of skirts, tops, pants, and tunics to fit everything I want.
- Lastly, where can people find or shop for your label?
I sell mainly online; I have no partners with physical boutiques where I can sell. I am open to this type of partnership. But for now only online on my website, and I also have a shop on the Etsy platform, where I offer my old collections.