Belle & the brave

Belle and the Brave is an online shop based in Stavanger, Norway. This is one of the first shops in the country selling brands like Sela 9, Purusha people and Arnhem. We had such a great time meeting up, and chatting with Guro, the person behind this magical store, and hearing about her journey and experiences that follow when starting your own business. Since 2015 she has had multiple pop-up stores and stands at different festivals. Make sure to use the code KalonAzure at checkout for a 15% discount! (This coupon is valid until 31.Dec 2017, not valid on already reduced items or in conjunction with other coupons).

How did you get started and why? 

It all kind of started when I, after having lived abroad for quite some time, came back to Norway and couldn’t find the brands and the kind of fashion products that I was looking for on the market here already. I started shopping a lot of my stuff online, from all over the world, and in doing so started thinking how much easier it would be if I could shop from somewhere closer. Preferably with an opportunity to try on and a possibility to return things that might not fit without so much hassle, and time and money wasted as it can happen when you shop online from far away. So, the thought was to start something for the Norwegian market, but since then we have developed into shipping internationally, as we started getting requests and noticed that there also was demand for the things we carry, from all over Europe. We now ship to countries all over the world.

Why the name “belle and the brave”?

The name Belle & the Brave just popped into my head one night and in the moment it did, I knew that had to be it. It should be said that I had spent quite some time in the weeks prior brainstorming but not really coming up with anything that felt right. All I knew was that I wanted it to reflect a concept where people could feel a sense of belonging and that it reflected a place you could go to create your own kind of style without following the latest hypes and trends. What’s so great about our range of products is that you can do exactly that. Our entire range of brands is very much about creating fashion based on vintage pieces and trends from times past, that allows for creating your own kind of wardrobe with high-quality items, that will withstand the fast-changing hypes of today’s fashion industry. So, the name reflects that you can be whoever you want, be the Belle or be the Brave, or both. Whatever you feel like.

Talk about the journey of having your own start-up.

Well, for me the journey of having my own start-up has, to try to sum it all up; included a lot of excitement and fun, a lot of sleepless nights and hard work, opportunities to connect with amazing new people, some of which have become close friends in the process, a very steep learning curve on a surprisingly diverse range of topics and a personal realization for the pretty shy introvert that I am, of how much I like to get to know new people. There are so many cool, interesting and amazing people out there! Meeting and getting to know my customers along the way has really been a surprising highlight of this journey.

The pros and cons of having a pop-up shop?

In my case the only con I see to having a pop-up is that by moving around, you might lose some customers when you move. They might not get the memo of where you’re moving to or open up next, every time you relocate you kind of need to rebuild your customer base. The pro’s come in the form of freedom, variety, and the joy of creating something new. I don’t think the pop-up lifestyle is for everyone, but for me the process of getting to recreate the store again and again, and then having the freedom to take some time off off-the-grid in between each pop-up has given me a perfect balance, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say, the non-balance that I crave…

What does your normal work day look like?

There is no normal workday! I like to change it up depending on how I feel and what I feel like doing. The only thing certain is that I do work, every day. Which is something I’m actually trying to change at the moment, having been working in one way or another every day since I started this project over 3 years ago I’m realizing that I should probably learn to take some time off as well. I think that’s the curse of working on a passion project of your own, you never really manage to turn it off.

How would you describe your typical costumer?

Hmm… I can’t, my customers are so diverse! I guess the common factor described in one word would be; interesting!

What is your favorite brand among the ones you are selling? 

Oh, don’t make me pick! I love them all... All the brands I’m selling are hand-picked by me for having qualities that I love. I guess what I can say though is that the smaller brands tend to be more transparent, in the way of showing who’s behind it, where they produce and the values they stand for, and that is something I really value. I love to know the story behind the brand and products, getting a glimpse behind the scenes, and knowing that, like me, these are people that work hard for something they love whilst also caring about the impact they have, on the people that work for them and the environment. 

You also sell vintage clothing, how do you select them and where are they from?

This is truly a passion project! I love treasure hunting while I’m traveling, I’ve always loved travling vintage stores and always come across something that’s too special to walk past and leave behind. Belle & the Brave provided an opportunity for me to take this passion to the next level, so that I can take home more treasures without it taking up all the place in my wardrobe. 

Talk about the importance of community, and sustainability in the fashion industry.

Sustainability in the fashion industry is such a huge and important subject, it’s hard to know where to start. To just pick at the surface of it the topics of environmental issues, labour/garment workers, consumerism, awareness and transparency come to mind.

There is no doubt that the fashion industry has a huge impact on our environment, and in recent years more and more light has been shone on this and the issue of the often terrible conditions of garment workers all across the industry.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a quick fix to these issues, it’s such a huge industry and there’s so many areas of improvement. Realizing this I think it’s easy to feel helpless and that there’s nothing we as individuals can do. However, as consumer and a person working in the consumer-end of the industry I truly believe that we all can play our part in contributing to improving the industry in our own ways.

If you want to take part in making a difference where you can, I think these are a few good starting points.

Awareness: Educating oneself, being curious and asking questions concerning your consumer habits is super important. This way you will not only be able to make educated decisions concerning the things you are considering to buy and what impact that will have on the environment and in the bigger picture, you will also send a signal to whomever you are buying from that you care and that in turn can impact the availability of more sustainable products on the market.

Quality over quantity: In knowing more about what you buy you can chose to buy better over buying more. Chose quality products that last a long time, over cheap products that break or fast-fashion fads that won’t last in your wardrobe. This means you might have to initially spend a little more, but you’re more likely to end up buying things you really like and value, that will last a long time.

From a business stand point, running Belle & the Brave, I’m conscious of enquiring with our brands about where and how they produce, asking questions about their environmental practices and commitments, and encouraging transparency in their practices. I keep educated about our brands to be able to keep an honest and transparent communication with our customers so they can be sure to know where their clothes and fashion accessories come from.

Any tips for people who would like to start their own business?

If you really want it, go for it! 

Where you see yourself and Belle and the brave in the future?

Oh, I can’t answer that… I mean, I have a vison for what I want but I don’t make plans far ahead in the future that I push toward with force. I kind of like not knowing what will happen and just going with the flow, that’s the beauty of this way of doing things, I keep my options open until things kind of unfold by themselves. It’s what I’ve been doing until now and everything that’s felt right has come along this way. Let’s see what happens! 

*Do note that this is not a sponsored post. We love talking to gründers and all the unique and creative minds out there. Hopefully you felt inspired or have been introduced to some sustainable brands, that speaks to your style x