Every day, everywhere, we encounter people who are passionate about bringing change, creating value not only for themselves but for all around them. Bernadette Bodenmueller is one of them. Like many others, she had a dream – but the difference was made when she crystallised it... Be inspired by her beautifully designed handbags, which also provide means to improve the livelihoods of the artisans that lovingly hand-craft each one of them.
Sublime: What is ONO Creations and what inspired you to set up an eco-friendly business?
Bernadette Bodenmueller: It all started in 2013 during my time living and working in Bali. I was inspired by the incredible lush nature, the meticulous craftsmanship around me, the natural elegance of the Balinese women, and the profound and simple life philosophy I learned there: ‘cause no harm’. I simply decided to create products that combine it all: beauty, elegance, art, natural materials, quality, durability and a fully sustainable approach for people and the planet. I loved the idea of having no longer to choose between beauty and sustainability. Why would people, animals or the future generation have to suffer for us to have beautiful things? Why not create beauty and a higher value for everyone involved including customers, team and partners? I was inspired by this challenge – I wanted more so I went ahead and did it.
S: How would you define your company’s brand core values?
BB: Honesty and integrity are values I live by, and which I try to implement with Ono. When I discovered cork, which is promoted as such a great and natural product, I instantly loved it. However, as I looked closer, I discovered that actually cork leather is made with 90% polyester and only 10% of cork, with a layer of plastic and a chemical glue. I was disappointed and absolutely not satisfied with using such material, so I started to develop our own cork tencel® with a great partner in Portugal which doesn’t use any polyester or plastic, just 100% tencel®.
S: What makes your product unique?
BB: That we combine all these factors: beauty, elegance, a terrific tactile experience, art, natural materials, quality, durability and a fully sustainable approach for people and the planet. We don’t compromise when it comes to style and sustainability, and we value design and hand-crafted artisan work. Our bags, our cork tencel® material and our hardware are all hand-crafted and we take the time to design and develop each material to ensure the highest quality and unique beauty that each bag embodies.
S: How the materials used for ONO Creations products contribute to a more sustainable world?
BB: We decided to completely refuse fabrics made from artificial materials and animals. We only use plant-based natural materials like Oeko-Tex certified tencel®, GOTS certified organic cotton, 100% natural bamboo and highest quality cork sourced from Portugal. Like this, we not only ensure that our ecological footprint is low, but also that we don’t harm nature and preserve it for future generations.
When we started to sew our first bags, we supported women in Bali to open their own business by producing our bags. We trained, educated and supplied the machines for them. As a consequence, these women were able to generate a secure income, improved their skills to a higher level and gained self-confidence. Today they are self-employed and own high-quality equipment which empowers them to generate an income by doing work they love.
S: What are the principles for choosing your suppliers?
BB: Our aim is to produce items that are crafted with love and passion. We are aware that our success is based on a variety of factors, including the confidence of our team, our partners and our customers. We believe working together based on honesty, transparency and trust creates a bigger value for our customers and everyone involved.
Therefore, all our partners are carefully chosen on the basis of their experience, talent and work ethics, and we exclusively work with partners and experts who provide high quality and comply with eco-friendly processes and fair working standards. This norm is applied for our supply and our production partners.
S: What has been company’s biggest achievement so far?
BB: I think I am just very thankful that I was able to turn my dream into reality and that we found so many incredible dreamers who love the bags. We also managed to find outstanding partners and suppliers who help us to make it possible. I think to build a dream with bare hands and loads of support is the biggest achievement.
S: You have recently launched new fall/winter collection. Could you tell us more about Stelo?
BB: The Stelo collection combines all the inspirational forms of the Island of Gods. The design is a combination of three uniquely patterned, high-quality natural materials, creating the contour of a star by being joined together. Each of the materials provides an exceptional haptic and visual experience to ignite your imagination. The collection was created over a period of 18 month, involving design, development and testing. Each material has been specifically designed and produced for Ono, by our experts and artisans in Bali and Europe and each bag is hand-crafted under fair conditions and is natural, eco-friendly and vegan.
S: Are you planning to launch more collections in the near future?
BB: Yes, we do, we are currently working on our next collection coming out autumn/winter 2017. We bring out one collection a year, following the idea of slow fashion.
S: Do you see the changes in next generation’s attitude towards the ethical fashion?
BB: I absolutely do. I see a strong growing awareness in the current generation and even more in the new generation. Today we have access to all the information we want, which makes choosing the right items so much easier than 20 years ago.
I also believe that it is time for us to make a change, away from competitive ‘me against you’ and towards cooperation. It makes much more sense in the long run. I am convinced that the younger generation understands this more naturally, and they request honest products that support cooperation, preserve the planet and help create peace in the world. Sadly, fashion is currently the second most polluting industry and has a deep impact on so many lives… Sustainable and ethical fashion is a logical path to create change.