Belabumbum: Our Story as a Social Enterprise
When I started Belabumbum in 2001, sustainability was not in fashion — our first customers, mostly wholesale accounts at that time, were more concerned with price and production capacity. They were not looking for a scrappy startup with a social mission. So, although we’ve always been a social enterprise, I kept that aspect of our work under the radar. Fifteen years later, business models and mindsets have changed. Customers now have a much more direct relationship with brands and there is increasing awareness about how merchandise is actually made. Tragedies like the Rana Plaza collapse, and questions regarding the ethical standards of major brands (especially around labor practices) and the social and environmental impact of fast fashion have pushed mindsets in Belabumbum’s direction. Belabumbum was founded as a social enterprise — a company that contributes to improve social and economic outcomes as it does business — based on my professional experience of working on social development programs in Central and South America for over a decade. I started my career in the early 1990s during a time of mass urbanization in Latin America. I was working with women and marginalized youth in major cities creating programs to boost employment opportunities, fight substance abuse, and prevent violence. I became fascinated with the nuances of the daily lives of the people I was designing programs for: Where did they sleep at night? How was their mental health? How might we improve their livelihoods? Since these populations — and more broadly Latin America as a region — had a rich legacy in the textile industry, I decided to tap into them by creating Belabumbum. The first factories I worked with in Brazil received their training from Triumph International. When Triumph pulled out in the early 80s, moving production to Asia, they left behind skilled workers and mom-and-pop factories scrambling for new clients. Belabumbum was built on connecting this type of quality and capacity in Central and South America with markets in the United States and beyond. Fifteen years later, we now produce our intimates, loungewear, and activewear collections by nurturing entrepreneurs and boosting job security in family run production facilities in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico. [caption id='attachment_11498' width='498'] In Peru, working out details for Belabumbum's Spring-Summer 2017 collection.[/caption] Going forward, we’ll be talking more about Belabumbum’s social mission. We’ve taken the first step by updating our About Us section , which now highlights the strategies we use to sustain our commitment to ethical fashion, which range from micro lending to lowering our profit margins. I have always been fascinated by how many lives are touched along our supply chain starting at the fabric mill, to the cutting table, to the seamstress, to the ladies who iron the finished garments, to our sales reps, independent boutiques, larger companies who stock Belabumbum, and our Belabumbum.com customers. There are so many hands, faces, families, and stories. We prioritize care, ethics, and dignity in our work and interactions and are committed to promoting well-being all along the way — from the woman who bastes those first stitches, to the mom who is anxiously awaiting her new baby.