Recently, I started working at EB Denim, an upcycled vintage streetwear brand with a pop-up store at South Coast Plaza. The founder, Elena Bonvicini, who is an alumna of Sage Hill (Class of 2017) and a current Public Relations Major at USC, started her brand with a passion for fashion and thrifting. Two years later, she has multiple retailers from New York City to Newport Beach carrying her products and dozens of engaged influencers and celebrities.
On Wednesday, December 4, 2019, I had the pleasure to sit down and chat with Elena about her start in the business world and her love for fashion.
Pictured Above: Elena showcasing all the vintage jeans in stock waiting to be reconstructed
Q: What is EB Denim? Can you explain a little bit about the business?
A: EB Denim is a brand that upcycles vintage Levis 501s. Recently, we started to incorporate vintage T-shirts and sweatshirts. The brand was started two years ago by me, and now I’ve grown it to be mainly marketed through Instagram. We sell mostly through our online market, but we are sold in several stores across the US. And now, we have this pop-up shop at South Coast Plaza.
Pictured Above: The inside of the Costa Mesa pop-up shop located in South Coast’s Carousel Court at 3333 Bristol St, #1870
Q: What inspired you to start EB Denim?
A: Actually, at Sage Hill, I was a junior and I loved going thrift shopping–so I would go thrift shopping and make myself these cut-off shorts. I was making a ton and my friends wanted them and then people at school started asking to buy them. Eventually, it grew into this little business and before I knew it, I was having these locker room sales. I would scatter shorts all over the floor and girls from all different grades would come and buy them for 10 dollars a pair. Then, I learned how to sew with my mom and I started reconstructing the pants when shorts were out of season. I came up with the OGs, which we still sell in store today, and did some PR, and soon enough, it became a brand.
Q: What would you say was the greatest challenge you faced when you started your business?
A: The biggest challenge was definitely having the confidence to be prideful in the brand and be secure about it. When I first started, a lot of people were really judgemental about it. I was so young that I didn’t really have the confidence to approach stores or have the backbone to negotiate wholesale prices. Being so young and being in an environment where it’s not cool to go against the grain–that was something I had to overcome.
Q: What advice would you give to younger girls aspiring to start their own businesses?
A: Just go out there and do it. Don’t do what other people are doing. I’d say the thing that is going to make you actually profitable is having your niche and creating a new place in the market. I feel like a lot of people see someone else and what they’re doing, and they just try to replicate what works for somebody else. But when you do that, you’ll never be able to define yourself and make yourself stand out unless there is something unique about your product. You need something people can point out. I want people to be able to say, “Oh, that’s EB Denim stitching” or “Those are EB Denim pockets.”
Q: What has been your proudest accomplishment?
A: Definitely the South Coast Store. But also Gigi Hadid wearing my jeans. It’s been really rewarding to see someone that famous, like literally the most famous model in the world, wear your product multiple times, especially when she’s not even being compensated for it. I think that’s just really special.
Pictured Above: Gigi Hadid wearing EB Denim’s classic pair of jeans, the OG Reinvented, in the Light to Medium wash
Q: How has fashion positively influenced your life?
A: I’ve always grown up in a fashion environment. My mom is a fashionista in the retail space, so I guess it’s really given me the creative voice to express myself. I’ve always been super weird when it comes to fashion. I’ve never dressed like anyone else. I’ve always used my parents’ clothes and my brother’s clothes to style something different and cool. Also, I want to use my brand to support the sustainable market, which is how I think I can impact fashion in a positive way.
Q: One main focus of your business is sustainability. Why is the issue of the environment so important to you?
A: The issue definitely found me. I didn’t necessarily go out looking for it. I started thrifting before Poshmark and Depop, and I hit the wave before even knowing I hit the wave and really even before the wave even happened. And I’m very grateful I happened to come into this market because I’ve learned so much about it just through the research I’ve done. It’s really, really terrible seeing how much clothing actually goes to waste because of fast fashion. I’ve personally decided that I will never contribute to anything fast fashion, not only because of the amount of waste it produces but also because fast fashion brands often rip off many small designers (which is something I’ve been a victim of.) It truly just destroys trends and the environment.
Q: How do you feel your time at Sage has helped you be an entrepreneur?
A: Sage really allows you to be yourself. It harvests and encourages “Sageyness.” At Sage, it’s cool to be different, and I don’t think if I went to another high school, I would have had that same experience. As I look back, I don’t believe EB Denim would exist if I didn’t go to Sage. Where else would I have had the ability to walk into a locker room and start up a sale? Literally only at Sage. And with the teachers being so amazing– I feel so thankful that I had the opportunity to be a student there.
For more information about EB Denim, be sure to check out their website: https://www.ebdenim.com/ and their Instagram: @ebdenim.