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Meet and get inspired by Honest Bob

Here at START by WGSN, we believe a lot in sharing stories to inspire, motivate and empower other fashion entrepreneurs. That's why we’re starting a series of blog posts featuring small brands from different countries that have an inspiring trajectory. They have kindly shared a little of their history, challenges and achievements as small fashion companies, in addition to useful tips on strategies for new businesses.

Today we present Honest Bob, a Mexican maker of bucket hats focused on slow fashion and with a team made up entirely of women. The brand’s Bobs are all unique, high-quality and carefully crafted and hand-embroidered in the heart of Mexico City. Founded in November 2020, it has gained prominence in cities such as Miami, New York and CDMX.

Honest Bob has a socially and environmentally responsible purpose: working with locally sourced fabrics, ensuring fair pay, respecting working hours ​​and preferring ecological practices such as biodegradable packaging. The team is constantly thinking of new ways to remind people around them, through their unique designs, that "words have the power and energy to help, build, heal and transform – the world needs happiness".

This month, inspired by Pink October, Honest Bob launched Honest Boobs, a campaign targeted at educating younger audiences about breast cancer by inviting its followers to have an honest conversation with their bodies. 30% of each sale will be donated to Fundación SenosAyuda, an NGO that supports the most vulnerable patients in Venezuela, as the campaign aims to support and change the lives of 230 Venezuelan women by donating mammograms. This was the brand's first campaign before it turned one-year-old, and has since turned into an annual fundraising commitment for this cause. Every October, it adds an “O” to its name and invites customers to change someone's life.

“Being an all-women company we wanted to support a cause that has affected 7.8 million women in the past five years. We know that the best way to increase survival rate is by early detection. We want to contribute by informing our audience about symptoms, myths and preconceptions that build the stigma around this disease. Honesty is the core value of our company and we believe that an invitation to a sincere conversation can help a lot,” says Mariana Alvarez Zubillaga, founder and creative director of Honest Bob.

Images: Honest Bob

Read our exclusive interview with Mariana below:

- Tell us a little about how you started your business and the concept behind the brand.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in starting a business. I had a rough idea and explored different possibilities, experimenting with the idea of creation. Honest Bob happened as a surprise and the result of many experiences that drove me to starting a brand that seeks to get better every day, in an ever-changing and sometimes unfair industry.

The product came in first. It was supposed to be a one-time production of a bucket-hat – hand-embroidered, one-of-a-kind and 100% cotton. After posting the first Bob ever on social media, I received 10 orders in a day. I sat down that weekend and came up with the name, designed the logo and started building our identity.

Bob (as bucket hats are called in French) is born out of the quality of staying honest – nothing to hide or be ashamed of, real. We believe in slow, conscious and intentional fashion. Every day, Honest Bob thinks of new ways of reminding those around us through our designs that words have the power and energy to help, build, heal and transform. We’re here to protect your head with happy thoughts.

- What sparked your interest in fashion?

My great-grandmother has always been my biggest fashion inspiration. Growing up, I’d spend hours in her closet and with her, chatting about clothes and trying on hers. I've always loved drawing, origami and collage… Experimenting in general. I think fashion is a lot of that – being able to create something that doesn’t exist, or redesigning it to serve a specific function and to have a purpose.

- How has your work evolved since you began your business?

I’ve learned to be more organized and goal-oriented while allowing room for improvisation. Responsibilities nowadays have a heavier weight. When you get positive results on an idea you want to keep going; you learn how to work on things parallelly, delegate responsibilities and bet on the future, every day.

- What was the biggest mistake you made when just starting out? Why?

Not keeping track of my data and having it disorganized. For the first few months, my numbers and visibility on the brand were everywhere. I kept notes here and there but didn’t dedicate time and space to organize and study it.

When you sit down with all your data you can move forward, understanding the past in order to do better in the future.

- What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your company?

Things get out of hand fast, so it’s important to take time and build the company from within – building structure, securing processes, collecting data and planning ahead. At the beginning I was mostly focused on selling through my online-only channel and I’ve been learning to understand our capacity. I’m still focused on sales and production, but have been juggling between other fronts that are as important as the other pillars.

- What was your biggest fear when going out and starting your own line?

Bob’s spontaneity in its creation allowed me to experiment a lot with my product. I believe that before creating this project, I was getting too distracted by the logistics of building a business. Bob happened fast so I got to work on the product and perfect it in order to build a base of understanding on selling and designing. Before Bob, I’d spent too much time thinking about starting. Being able to make a product, test it on Instagram and start a production process allowed me to focus on the excitement of starting instead of the fear of it.

- Who were your first clients?

My first unofficial client was my boyfriend. The first Honest Bob was meant just as a birthday gift to him with his five names embroidered. After that, friends swung by with requests and orders. Then came friends of friends and family.

- Where does your inspiration come from?

Paying attention to conversations, reading, listening, looking. Honest Bob is a mix of observations inspired by Mexico City and Miami (our second home), its people, their vocabulary and lingo, and their celebration of art and real honesty. A reminder that words have the power to build, heal and transform, using them to protect our heads with happy thoughts.

- How is your creative process? How do you improve your creativity?

Working with the hands, developing various designs, testing techniques that might improve our product and/or result in a new idea.

I sketch my ideas and take notes whenever a new one comes to mind. I try to stay in constant creation. Whenever I hit a bump, I go again and exercise my mind. Creativity is a muscle.

- Which channels do you use to promote your brand?

Mostly Instagram, but we’ve been understanding TikTok better. We recently launched our website and are learning about digital marketing and strategizing.

- Which START tools do you use most to optimize your routine?

E-books. You can get a lot of answers and ideas from reading it now and then, using the downtime to learn and foster goals.

- We know the future looks especially uncertain right now and long-term thinking can be challenging. But what are your future plans for the brand?

Collaborating with artists that share a similar vision with the brand;

Growing our product portfolio;

Developing new techniques;

Expanding roles in the team and hiring more;

Conducting at least one successful fundraising campaign a year.

- What advice would you give to fashion entrepreneurs who are starting their business?

Question yourself a lot, don’t assume something as true until you can prove it. Dare to test it out. Even if it doesn’t work at first, you can build on top of it, reinvent it and fix it to serve a different purpose. Keep your work organized, have fun with it and share the dream with people who are close to you.

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