GENDER NEUTRAL STYLE SUPREME
Bash + Sass’ Irene Lee took some time to answer some burning questions. We enlisted Diedre Johnson to get all the deets on bringing her clothing line to fruition. Her inspiring story is below.
How did Bash + Sass get started?
Becoming a mama really pushed me to make the jump. I left the corporate world (most recently working for Google) to carve a new career path that allows me the flexibility to spend time with my growing family. I wanted to do something creative on my own that I felt passionate about. Bash + Sass fulfills this more than I thought possible, as my brand is an extension of myself, my style, and directly influenced by my kids. It’s beyond rewarding to work really hard at something so personal and know that it’s teaching and setting an example for my kids to go after their own dreams.
What makes the company and the brand unique and why?
Bash + Sass collection pieces are minimalist in style with an edgy look. Aside from our aesthetic, two main aspects that make our brand unique are:
- Gender neutral style. I think it’s important to give kids choices. Clothing is a way for anyone, adult or child, to express and feel good about themselves. There are plenty of girl and boy-centric options out there but they might not be what every kid wants. I know for me, I don’t prefer adult styles that are extremely feminine and appreciate that women have a wide range of designs to choose from. Why shouldn’t kids’ clothing be the same? Gender-neutral clothing is just another option for them to choose from, if they like it.
- Monsters with a Meaning. Each collection introduces a monster that embodies a specific social value or characteristic that I believe is important for big and little kids to acknowledge and share. With today’s social and political climate, I think it’s important to start teaching kids at a young age about self-confidence, helping others and being proud of who they are no matter their skin color, gender or family makeup. The monsters and what they represent are directly influenced by my own kids, Bash and Isa. We’ve already introduced 2 monsters, Babu who represents Optimism, and Breeze who represents Patience, and are excited to debut Collection III’s new character(s) soon! [update for 2021: Collection III/IV has two additional monsters now, Boom who represents Confidence, and X + O who represent Spontaneity.]
Explain some of the details involved in developing your the Bash + Sass line, raising capital and finding a manufacturer?
I knew NOTHING about manufacturing, sourcing materials, or how to build a business from scratch. All I knew is what I liked, and wanted for my kids as options in terms of clothing. It was and still is very challenging to put all of these pieces together to create a brand and line. First and foremost, I have to say that I absolutely would not be here today without the help and support of family, mentors and friends. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have a strong circle behind me who have helped me to pave this path. I’ve learned a lot from my previous experiences in ecommerce as a Creative Director and designer. I also took a start-up business course and have mentors in this space who advise and share their resources and experiences. Its how I found my fabric resources, local manufacturing team and other 3rd party vendors needed to produce the collections. I’ve been lucky to have enough savings to get the brand off the ground from my corporate days but need to figure out a long-term financial plan soon (on the list!) in order to forecast and plan for the next years to come.
Did you do anything special for your launch?
For my official brand launch last year, I partnered up with the SupergaSF store and hosted a weekend pop-up event where we had live music performances by the Grammy nominated Alphabet Rockers, Music for Aardvarks, face-painting, kid-friendly snacks and drinks and lots of balloons. It was such a great way to introduce my brand, meet local communities, and bring families together for a fun-filled weekend. I’m really grateful for my relationship with SupergaSF too because their kids’ shoes (and adults!) are a perfect compliment to my line’s minimalist but edgy styles.
What does Bash + Sass offer customers that will keep them coming back?
Bash + Sass offers high-quality made modern edgy styles that are year-round basics. It is a line for both boys and girls and places FUN as the first priority. All of our pieces are “made for play” and our basic silhouettes are simple and stylish with subtle details that allow kids to be kids. These pieces will never go out of style and can be passed down to younger siblings or other little loved ones. We’re very proud to be a brand that locally source our fabrics and supports California businesses that practice sustainable manufacturing with a sharp focus on high-quality standards.
What is a typical workday like?
My day starts when I hear my mini me, Isa, singing to herself (Baby Shark is her jam right now) around 6:30 am. After her milk, it’s all about morning snuggles and playtime. Bash joins the snuggle party around 7am and this is literally the best part of my day. Charles and I get breakfast and kids ready and they’re out the door for daycare and preschool by 8:30 am. Daddy usually does the drop offs so I can get my day started asap.
Laptop opens for me around 9 am when I get to my office and doesn’t close until 5 pm unless I have meetings or production appointments peppered in. I’m wearing multiple hats to keep Bash + Sass growing so I allocate a few hours each day to marketing, design, social media, overall planning and strengthening the brand identity. I’m focusing on Collection III production and Collection IV designs now so there are a lot of moving balls up in the air!
At 5 pm, I’m out the door to pick up the kids and we’re all home around 6 pm. Then it’s the dinner dash, family time and bath/bedtime routine. Isa goes to bed around 8 pm then it’s the Bash Show until about 8:30 pm. Getting in that 1:1 time with him before bed is so nice. I love starting and ending my day with the kids. If don’t pass out with him, I’ll open the laptop again but usually try to sleep by 11 pm but lately…passing has been more of the norm.
What makes Bash + Sass valuable in today’s world?
The Monsters. I really believe that they can be a strong vehicle for educating our youth in a fun and playful way. As a mother, this cause means a lot to me as I want to teach and expose my own kids to positive channels that will educate them about positive values, having strong self-confidence, being aware of community, standing up for themselves/others, and accepting everyone’s differences. We are raising the next generation and it’s our responsibility to equip them with the confidence and power of knowledge to be their best selves.
What’s the most important thing a budding entrepreneur needs to know?
Surround yourself with positive people. The power of community and support is phenomenal. I thought about creating a line for years before I actually had the courage and confidence to do it. I am beyond lucky to have a strong circle of family, friends and entrepreneurial (many of them new!) people around me. I know I can lean on them, ask stupid questions, freak out, and grab a glass of wine whenever necessary. I would also say research, research, research and educate yourself on how to start your own business. I took a course at a local women’s entrepreneur center on how to start a small business. I was familiar with the design/marketing side of things, but financials and numbers scared the shit out of me (they still do but I have a better grasp now). I quickly learned there are so many resources out there specifically designed to help entrepreneurs, especially women, in this space.
What comes to mind when you see clothing lines, designs, accessories, brands, and product made here in the US?
The clothing industry as a whole is the second most pollutant business on the planet. I’ve researched offshore manufacturing conditions and while not all offshore factories are the same, it’s devastating to know that big name companies fuel extremely dangerous conditions, ignore child labor laws and proper wages – especially in the name of fast-fashion.
Understanding what I do now about local vs offshore production, a warm feeling of satisfaction and pride is what I feel. I want to do my part with Bash+Sass to help reduce this margin while creating modern fun pieces for kids to wear. I only source materials from overstock fabric wholesalers to help minimize this pollutant impact and manufacture all clothing in California. So much fabric is wasted each year so I’m trying to do my part to make the best of what is already produced for my designs. Prioritizing these aspects as part of my business core can be challenging but I feel it’s definitely worth it and critical to support being a sustainable brand.
What are your plans moving forward?
In 5 to ten years, I hope to see Bash + Sass expand into a lifestyle brand that encompasses kid/adult clothing and new categories like decor, accessories, educational toys. I also see the monster characters developing their own vehicle to educate kids about values and social messages that are important for today’s youth – ie. eco is the new friendly, don’t be afraid to shine and be yourself, love has no color. Sustainability will continue to be a driving part of my brand’s core and will absolutely be reflected into how these areas grow. Prioritizing sustainable manufacturing across products will be an active example to lead this effort. Collaborations with other like-minded style and eco-friendly businesses will also be part of our brand community.
Now that you’ve met Bash + Sass, go buy some cute clothes for the kiddies, like this adorable pullover hoodie. Heck, they’ll even give you 10% your first purchase! As a result, you’ll surely want to thank me!
While you’re at it, take a look at our brand post on Bash + Sass!
Lastly, thanks to Irene for taking the time to participate in this interview!