How about starting your own fashion label on… beautiful Bali? It combines the greatest wishes of nearly every girl boss: sitting by the pool, checking your email and surfing during lunch breaks. That’s exactly what Sabine (23) did. She hopped over to Bali and launched The Confidante, a label that aims to give girls confidence.
Born in Rotterdam, raised in Dordrecht and settled in Amsterdam for the last couple of years, this blonde bombshell moved back to her parents to save money for her dream. “The whole process was like a puzzle which I tried to solve, with a little help of my friends. I still have a lot to figure out.”
How would you describe The Confidante?
Sabine: “I wanted to create pieces for girls that give them confidence. Every piece is designed to be your soulmate piece, something that you would wear on every occasion. Especially now, with a visual overflow of unreal perfection, I believe that no girl should compare herself with someone else. It’s important to focus on your own uniqueness and beauty. That’s why I work with models who have personality, and I ask the photographers to not edit the images.”
Sabine: “My friend Thico, who has a surf brand based in Bali, reached out to me last summer when I just got back from traveling through South America. He asked if I could design something for him. The last couple of years, I did a lot of assistant styling work for magazines. Thanks to Thico, I rediscovered my passion for designing. I knew Thico had a pretty good network in Bali and took a shot. My first plan was to live in Bali for 3 or 4 months and set up The Confidante. It ended up living in beautiful Canggu, which feels like one big digital nomad village. Everyone pitches their ideas to random people you meet at a café. There are so many entrepreneurs here who are willing to share their advice. It’s really a giving and returning atmosphere on the island.”
How do you start a label from scratch?
Sabine: “Before you start, you’ll probably have a mind flow going on with visual ideas and a rough concept. You know, these little ideas that pop into your head before you go to sleep or when you wake up. I made everything visual and drew out the designs and wrote down some names, short concepts, and quotes, so it really became a physical map with all my inspiration. After that, I contacted a friend of my graduation class if he could help me with gaining my technical design skills back, and he did. When that was settled and I had a more technical look at the designs, I reached out to my friend in Bali and asked if he knew some tailors that could work with technical drawings. He said that he actually didn’t really know but I should just come over and try, so I did.”
Building up a business abroad seems like quite a challenge. What it difficult?
Sabine: “To be honest, as long as you’re not scared of chaotic traffic and driving around on your scooter and discover, it’s not that difficult. I am blessed with my friend who has been a real angel to me. In the end, Thico introduced me to the right tailor. That made it way easier! If you’re a social butterfly like me, you meet so many people that can help you out. The smallest pieces of advice can be the most important. The challenging bit is setting goals, especially in the beginning I had difficulties finding a daily routine.”
Was it a lot of trial and error at the beginning?
Sabine: “Yes! Especially the first samples are a challenge: they end up being so different from what I pictured in my head. I changed fabric for over more than 6 times until I found the perfect materials. And then it goes back, forth, back, forth. In the meantime, I worked on my website, decided what kind of colors and prints I wanted and found someone who could help me designing a print.”
What has been the most difficult part of growing your business?
Sabine: “The whole creative bit wasn’t the hardest. I know how to design and make my own technical drawings (big shout out here to my old classmate from whom I gained my skills ;)). But the whole manufacturing process was the hardest part. Getting samples, fitting, sizing, coloring, printing. That was a BIG lesson. Also, during the process, I learned how to grow my business on social media. I’m not a professional in Instagram and certainly not a marketing or communication expert. Luckily, I have people around me that helped me out. The whole process was like a puzzle which I tried to figure out myself, with a little help of my friends. I still have a lot to figure out. Like, for example, will I sell my brand online only, or shall I approach stores too? Shall I work with influencers? Whatever I decide, it’s important to stay true to myself and the brand’s identity. ”
What would you advise other girls who are dreaming of setting up a label abroad?
Sabine: “Try and find a place where you can experiment with small batches, and find yourself a country with a decent fashion manufacturing industry. Once you know a few small things and saved some money: go! You have literally nothing to lose. By figuring out this whole project, I’ve already learned so much, which is valuable. Even if The Confidante won’t work out, I know I got skills and I will learn from past mistakes. I firmly believe failing does not exist. Life’s about learning, being curious and dare to try something new. Yes, I’ve been scared and insecure in the past. That mindset didn’t get me anywhere. Traveling by myself gave me more confidence, it made my brain and mind breathe. I needed that escape from my surrounding including all the judging and sometimes our narcissistic and perfectionism visual overflow. Possibilities are created by the universe for you to get them, so go and explore.”
What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting or running your business?
Sabine: “A solid income and being away from my friends and parents. I sometimes stress about not having an income yet. I’ve worked my ass off last summer to save money but that was not enough to be here too long. So hopefully it will pay off in the end, in whatever form that might be.”
Which of your traits are you most proud of?
Sabine: “I am trying to not judge people, what I used to do, but I figured that those judgments are about your own insecurities and they will not make you a better or wiser person.”
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
Sabine: “I call my mom and my dad, who are a huge mental support, or my best friends back home or the close people around me on Bali. Also, I recently started with mindfulness and meditation, because I figured out that I also should be able to do that myself. Fear, for example, is one of the biggest mindfucks that I personally have, but fear is nothing more than a future thought that is not reality.”
Any start-up lessons for someone who wants to start a label?
Sabine: “Use all the time in-between waiting for your samples or whatever, to work on your brand identity, for your website and for thinking about what kind of shoots you want to do. I could’ve worked way more efficient. If I would make a new collection I could do it 3 times faster.”