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Meet Belinda Kazanci of BEL KAZAN in Echo Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Belinda Kazanci.

Belinda, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve been a musician for some time now and loved creating costumes for my performances. I was working a 9-5 job pursuing my musical career but was not happy with my day to day. I realized I needed to do something else that was also creative and since I have always had a love for fashion, it seemed like the only other natural thing to do.

I come from a family who was in the textile business in Istanbul. Turkey and grandparents who were seamstresses, so I have been around traditional textiles my whole life. I started BEL KAZAN after a life-changing journey to Bali, Indonesia.

From the delicate flower offerings that lined the streets to their vibrant textiles and joyful spirits, I felt an unparalleled sense of inspiration among the Balinese people. It was then that I decided to uproot my life in Los Angeles, determined to make my vision of a socially- and environmentally-responsible apparel line real.

Today, I split my time between the BEL KAZAN production facility in Bali and my studio/shop in Echo Park. I am committed to giving back to the culture and people that gave me a renewed sense of purpose.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Fashion is tough. Though it looks glamorous on the outside, anyone on the inside knows how much work it really is. It was even tougher for me because I did not have any training or experience working for a fashion company, so I had to figure it all out on my own.

I had no idea how to produce a garment or what that entailed when I started and got my biggest order the 2nd of year business selling dresses to all Nordstrom stores. Fulfilling that order definitely taught me production and the ins and outs of running a business pretty quickly. We also built our own factory in Bali literally from the ground up by purchasing land and building and then skill training women and men in villages who needed jobs.

This process was not easy but necessary to run a brand that would operate by my ethical standards. The fashion business has constant ups and downs because anything can go wrong during a production run, especially in the way we do thing things, using more traditional techniques of hand printing and batik.

Our garments are more special that way, but then we deal with the weather being an issue or dyes not depositing properly and so on. There are so many steps in getting to a final quality garment, and when strict deadlines are involved, it can become challenging.

BEL KAZAN – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We specialize in original handmade prints, made ethically in Bali. Our vision has always been to be a socially-responsible, environmentally-kind company. We pride ourselves in abiding by a lean production model, we’re a cut-to-order business, which means that we don’t make a bunch of garments in the hopes of selling them all.

Instead, we make sample sets every season and show them to our clients, who then put their orders in so we can go into production. Even items in our online shop are cut and sewn after an order has been placed, which allows us to purchase only the fabric yardage we really need, reducing waste.

Plus, since we own our factory, we don’t have any high minimums to adhere to—most companies have to make at least 100 pieces per style, leading to lots of unsold stock and squandered materials.

Any leftover fabric we do have gets upcycled into children’s clothing that gets donated to local villagers in need or turned into floor mats and pillow stuffing so that nothing goes to landfill.

We also developed a skill-training program so that employees could develop marketable expertise in hemming, sewing, fabric-cutting, pattern-making, beading, and quality control. When we realized that women make up 85% of all garment industry workers—many of whom have children who need supervision while they’re at work—we established policies to ensure that local craftswomen could work out of their homes in order to care for their children.

We even offer loan plans so that employees can borrow company cash (which slowly gets paid back through each paycheck) to make big purchases that make their lives easier, like a motorcycle, which is the most common mode of transport in Bali. Also, all BEL KAZAN employees receive a living wage that’s 50% higher than the industry average in Bali.

We invest in our team and they, in turn, provide the best work and quality garments you can find.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success to me means I have built a team that is happy to be a part of something greater.

Ultimately, I know fashion isn’t going to save the world, but maybe through BEL KAZAN we can have a greater impact somehow. We just started working with the Bali Children’s Foundation who provides an educational pathway for disadvantaged Balinese children.

Through the sale of our garments, we are sponsoring children to go to school who otherwise couldn’t afford it. If I can grow BEL KAZAN to a place where more jobs are created, more education is provided, and the brand has become an example for the fashion industry of what is possible: fashion being socially-responsible and environmentally-kind with a greater mission, then I have achieved success.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Erick Est, Lukas Vrtilek

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