Every woman entrepreneur in Africa has a unique story to tell and usually an inspirational story of how their own personal entrepreneurial journey started. The back-story for Bushera Bashir, the founder of ethical fashion label Trebene, takes us on a unique journey from the birthplace of Cashmere wool, Kashmir, from where Trebene’s beautiful luxury cashmere scarves are handwoven, through to Cape Town in South Africa where they are designed, printed and retailed.
LoA spoke to Bushera Bashir, the founder of Trebene, this month to find out more about her vision for her company and where the inspiration for the design of these incredibly beautiful scarves comes from.
What does your company do?
TREBENE is an ethical fashion label, designing, printing and handweaving luxury Cashmere scarves. The label combines the rich heritage of this luxurious textile with modern and contemporary designs. Our 100% Cashmere range consists of scarves which are carefully handcrafted over a delicate ten-step process which has been perfected over the generations. It takes about 30 days to handcraft just one 100% Cashmere scarf! At the heart of the business model lie the Kashmiri women weavers; the Trebene label invests up to 20% of its profits into the education of their children.
"TREBENE, which means ‘three sisters’ in Kashmiri, invests up to 20% of its profits into the education of the children of Kashmiri women weavers."
What inspired you to start your company?
Firstly, luxury accessories is a growing market; it alone captured 29 percent of the € 225 billion market and grew by 4 percent in 2014 – more than apparel or hard luxury, the next two largest luxury categories. This scenario alone presents the lucrative opportunity to launch a luxury accessories business.
Secondly, Kashmir is the birthplace of Cashmere wool - in fact, Cashmere is the old spelling for Kashmir, but not a lot of people know this fact. This coupled with the lack of a luxury label from Kashmir on the global stage prompted me to launch the business. My vision is to infuse a fresh lease of life into Kashmir’s rich artisinal heritage.
Thirdly, on a personal level, I am deeply passionate about changing how we do business in today’s world with a deep focus on purpose, people and profits.
"The social value lies at the epicentre of the brand. When you wear a TREBENE scarf, you know that not only is it exclusive and ethically sourced, but as a buyer you have also invested in the education of children."
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Only 0.1% of global world production of Cashmere comes from Kashmir, thus making TREBENE scarves highly exclusive. Each scarf is carefully handcrafted over 30 days, thus combining craftsmanship with stylish designs. The scarves are designed and printed in South Africa. Additionally, the social value lies at the epicentre of the brand. When you wear a TREBENE scarf, you know that not only is it exclusive, ethically sourced, but as a buyer you have also invested into the education of children.
Tell us a little about your team
As we’re a start-up, I’m the only full-time team member. However, we work extensively with consultants on a regular basis.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Since the time I was living in Kashmir, I was always keen on being engaged in meaningful work. However, I landed a great work opportunity in Singapore during campus recruitment at Delhi University, at the end of my degree, and life moved on. While consumer-consulting work provided the intellectual stimulation for 5 years, I was lacking a sense of purpose and meaning in my life. I was keen to move to an emerging economy at the cusp of social innovation, social impact and entrepreneurship. South Africa perfectly fitted the bill for me. So, I quit my job, gave up my apartment lease, packed-up my life in a suitcase and bought a ticket to Johannesburg.
I worked in the non-profit sector for 3 years, first working at Richard Branson’s Centre of Entrepreneurship and then launching Umuzi Academy aimed at developing black creative professionals with the support of Investec’s funding. But it was also a conflicting time in my life, as I realized that even though the non-profit sector is full of meaningful passionate work, it is not a sustainable model as the bulk of investment is donor funded. So, I decided to create an organisation which has both a social conscience and sustainability at it’s core. My years in the non-profit sector trained me to launch and run an initiative with lean resources, which is the best training for any entrepreneur.
My dad is an entrepreneur at heart and in spirit. I grew up listening to his stories of road trips from Asia to Europe whilst being entrepreneurial (to fund his trip). Maybe, entrepreneurship lies in my genes.
"Only 0.1% of global world production of Cashmere comes from Kashmir, thus making TREBENE scarves highly exclusive. Each scarf is carefully hand crafted over 30 days, thus combining craftsmanship with stylish designs."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
To establish TREBENE as an ethical luxury brand globally. We’ll be participating in the prestigeous Premiere Classe in Paris in September and the Sanlam Contemporary Handmade Fair in Johannesburg in October.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
That I’m building a sustainable business with strong social values at it’s heart.
"The only way to know whether or not entrepreneurship is for you is by jumping straight into it." - Bushera Bashir
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Focus on unraveling your passion, develop a compelling vision, and finally, and most importantly, create a thorough execution plan. A true test of an entrepreneur is not just creating the vision but executing it.
The only way to know whether or not entrepreneurship is for you is by jumping straight into it. There are no maybes. What’s the worst that can happen? Worst is not you failing at it, but not knowing how great an entrepreneur you are.
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Why LoA loves it….
We love Africa’s women designers, makers and crafters who are taking the world of luxury accessories to a whole new level globally, and Bushera Bashir is definitely one such entrepreneur that falls into that category. But what we also love about her brand TREBENE is that it has an ethical heart that defines it. As a result, the incredibly talented Kashmiri women weavers who have been producing the world’s finest cashmere for centuries and who have seen so much turmoil and destruction in their country and their communities, are now been recognised for their craft and their tradition. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa