I’m excited to interview you today Bianca! We first met last April at the Dutch Embassy in London. Expecting an abundance of tall women, the reality was very different… it was only you and I that stood head and shoulders above the rest. Naturally, we did the tall girl nod of acknowledgement before gravitating towards each other – tall girls stick together and all that jazz!
You were buzzing with passion and enthusiasm as you explained your new, ready-to-wear collection of scarves. Fast forward to today and I am thrilled to see the progress you’ve been making over at BIANCA ELGAR HQ. Your stylish offering now comprises of a high quality collection of ready-to-wear silk scarves, skirts, dresses and tops.
I’d firstly like to congratulate you on the success of BIANCA ELGAR before we rewind back to the start of your fashion journey, so our readers can learn a bit more about you; the designer, the entrepreneur and the fellow tall girl!
Q1: Tell us a bit about yourself…
A1: I’m a 6ft tall, single, proud mother (of two grown up sons), living in Oxford, England. I’m Dutch born but, looking to improve my English, I came over to the UK in 1979 to work as an Au Pair and I decided to stay; training as a chef before moving into hotel management.
I completed a hotel and catering management degree, but noticed that the one thing I enjoyed the most was the interior design and table setting side of the hospitality business. After I had my children, I walked away from my career, as it was not a good fit for my marriage and it didn’t allow me to spend the time I wanted with my sons.
For many years, I was a full-time mum, with a keen interest in screen-printing. When my first son was young, I took a range of courses, such as upholstery, making soft furnishings, screen-printing and textile design. From this, I went on to produce a range of soft furnishings for the home, which I sold locally.
Q2. When did you start the business and what inspired you to launch BIANCA ELGAR?
A2: The idea for the business came when I relocated to Belgium for six months with my two teenage sons. I had to pack light and keep my own clothing to a minimum, due to limited space. I selected my favourite black basics and a variety of brightly coloured scarves to dress them up with. The challenge of creating many different looks with just a few items, whilst showing off scarf prints in a new way is what inspired me. When I returned to the UK, I decided to start my own fashion brand.
Q3. Before you embarked on this fashion adventure, did you have any previous fashion or business experience?
A3. No, I am mostly self-taught but I have had invaluable help from a variety of mentors.
Q4. Do you design your own collections and how involved are you in the creative side of the business?
A4. I am the creative director and I design all of the collections myself. I work with a graphic designer to turn the screen-printed designs into scarf designs and a pattern cutter translates my toiles (or ‘test versions’) into wearable garments.
Q5. How many people does it take to make BIANCA ELGAR a reality and are you the only tall girl on your team?!
A5. A lot of brilliant people help me to make the brand a reality; PR and Marketing, the models, photographers, illustrators and business administration – I could not have done it without them all.
We have a lovely intern called Cara working with us at the moment, she is 5”11 and also works as a part time model.
Q6. Your intention has been to create high quality, exclusive clothing for women; inspired by your love for creativity, expression of individuality and a passion for high quality craftsmanship. You describe it in two simple words: “Wearable Art”. Tell us a bit more about that…
A6. I believe that self-expression is very important. You learn this quite quickly when you are growing up tall. Always being the tallest, you stand out and that’s when you learn to stand up for yourself. You learn how to explain and express your difference and I am proud to be who I am.
Art is a form of self-expression. It is my personal opinion that fashion and print design rightfully belong in the category of the Fine Arts. As an art, it is just as important as good architecture, and is certainly more closely associated with our everyday lives than paintings are!
Q7. Tell us a bit more about your current collection as well as what we can expect to see from the BIANCA ELGAR brand in the future?
A7. The current collections draw inspiration from a visit to Marrakesh, aptly named “Out of Africa”.
The ‘Beads’ collection pays tribute to African jewellery. Using imaginative designs and shields, they symbolise spirituality, prestige and protection.
The ‘Men’ collection draws inspiration from African masks. Masked dancers form an elemental part of traditional ceremonies in many cultures.
At the moment I am working on a series of new scarf prints and I’ve spent most of the last month screen printing in my studio. All I can tell you about it at this stage is that it’ll be colourful!
Q8. Can you describe yourself in ONE word?
Bianca’s Tall Guides Takeaway
What three pieces of advice would you give to other women who might be looking to start their own business or a fashion brand?
1. Understand why you want to do it
2. Use your passion
3. Have a purpose
To see more of Bianca’s collection, head over to her website or connect with her on social media