Dominika and Katarina Bucar – Bellabeat

Inspirational Women interview with Dominika & Katarina Bučar

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Dominika and Katarina Bucar are the sisters behind a new, up and coming fashion brand called BOOPACKS. BOO’s collections include modern backpacks, bags, apparel and accessories for the active and urban woman. The brand, with their clean aesthetics, is all about making style simple and sustainable.

Being an architect by trade, Dominika is in charge of product design, branding and marketing. Just a small fragment of her skill can be observed in the artistic photos she captured for this article. Katarina, who graduated from Faculty of Sports, is the one that takes care of the other side of the business: operations, manufacturing and business development. Naturally, she knows her way with words, and did a wonderful job answering our questions, and satisfying our curiosity. Their complementary sets of skills seem to make up the secret sauce that made BOO grow from a “garage gig” to a recognized brand that sells their products through major fashion platforms like Asos and TopShop.

We sat down with Dominika and Katarina at their beautiful showroom in the city centre of Ljubljana, Slovenia. They were excited to tell us about their preparations for a new collection and future projects; we spoke about sisterhood, the new fashion season, achieving sustainability in the fashion industry, and shared some advice on all the work that goes into taking care of yourself -- body, mind, and soul.

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INTERVIEW

1. You’re both, sisters and co-founders. One could say that BOO Packs is a family business. Could you tell us a bit more about BOO and yourself? What’s the vision behind the brand? You’re very different from each other, how does the team work dynamics work at BOO?

Yes, you could definitely say that BOO is a family company. We’re sisters, but our characters are very different which usually contributes positively to our business, since it's also what makes us complementary in different areas. Dominika has the soul of an artist. She is a perfectionist; she likes to take more time in order to do something perfectly. I’m the exact opposite, I think. I want to do things quickly, speed up the processes and even simplify them a little. When these two characters come together, the result is often perfectionism with a hint of speed.

2. You started your brand in Slovenia, which is a pretty small country and therefore a small market. But in the last couple of years you’ve succeeded to expand your reach substantially. In a short amount of time you were able to expand way beyond the local market and we can now find your products in TopShop or on Asos. It seems like in the digital age, things like this are not only possible, but necessary. There is no local market anymore. That makes it easier and harder at the same time for founders. What would be your main take away from the first couple of years of starting your own brand? What were some of the most valuable things you’ve learned?

Above all, we learned that everything seems easy at the beginning. As you navigate the course of your business, you encounter numerous new challenges that really teach you an awful lot, making you grow both as a person and as a business owner. Most of all, though, I think that we realized just how persistent we were – or, actually, just how persistent one must be. I think that the most important quality is to be persistent and have a positive attitude. You must also constantly and persistently maintain relationships with your business partners, and work on acquiring new business opportunities. There’s no room for complacency.

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3. What I’ve been noticing lately is that fashion brands are becoming more and more aware of the negative impact fast fashion has on the environment and are doing their best (or so we hope) to become more sustainable. Be it in the materials they use or where they decide to manufacture. Even though BOO is not manufacturing in Slovenia at the moment, we could say that your products are made locally - in the wider Balkan region. None of your products are also made of real leather. Why did you decide for that? How much do you consider issues like sustainability when deciding where and how to manufacture?

Our chief decision was not to manufacture products made of real leather. Currently, this is the main focus of the BOO brand. By eliminating leather, we've already done a lot for the environment and for animals. We don’t want to be complicit in the cruel exploitation of animals in the name of fashion accessories. We are aware that fast fashion, as well as the mass production of clothes and other fashion products, is a huge problem for the environment and our lives alike.

We try to use environmentally-friendly materials, eliminate the use of plastic bags, and offer quality, well-considered and durable products. But I do think that generally, people are appreciating such behaviour more and more and are increasingly aware of it. Our products are manufactured in a high-level facility that is very big on having employees who are happy, are paid decently, and like their work. We're constantly in touch with designers and seamstresses in order to build a genuinely good relationship with the facility that manufactures our products.

4. Even though even my mom loves your products, your brand seems to mainly cater to young, cool girls and women (not that my mom is not young... or not cool... sorry Mom!:)). And although you mostly focus on fashion accessories, you do have a strong media presence just like any other fashion brand of the digital age. Sadly, both fashion and social media are often blamed for setting unhealthy standards for women. How much do you think about the power your brand influence has and the message you want to convey to your younger audience through your products and communication? What are some of the things fashion brands can do to improve the reputation of the industry?

Through our social media platforms we want to tell our story. Our goal isn’t to directly target one specific type of girl or woman, or directly promote our products, but rather represent our entire brand and what it stands for through artistic photography. We have a unique style, but we’re also very diverse and believe many people can themselves in our products. I think that’s a positive impact on girls and women, or in general, as promoting non-violence through our products improves the reputation of social media. The market is very large and so naturally, it’s also filled with products of lower quality, that are also lacking visual appeal. We’re trying to improve that...

The mass production of clothes and other fashion products, is a huge problem for the environment and our lives. We try to use environmentally-friendly materials, eliminate the use of plastic bags, and offer quality, well-considered and durable products.

The mass production of clothes and other fashion products, is a huge problem for the environment and our lives. We try to use environmentally-friendly materials, eliminate the use of plastic bags, and offer quality, well-considered and durable products.

5. Fashion is a big part of our personal expression. What does style mean to you?

I think that style means everything to Dominika. She transfers her style to all her products and, more importantly, to the overall image of the trademark, expressing her own creativity in the process. This design authenticity distinguishes the style of the BOO trademark very clearly. It’s true that you cannot always design everything the way you imagine, but we're working on having as many ideas and wishes as possible come to life.

6. Sisterhood is something so special. I have a sister myself and there is nothing more precious than having a sister you can share some quality girl time with or rely on for a good piece of sisterly advice. What was the most valuable thing you’ve learned from each other?

Above all, we’re still learning how to balance our personal and professional relationships. When you have a company together the lines between the two become blurred. We must definitely work on keeping our sisterly bond intact as well, and not talk about only BOO-related subjects. But we do learn a lot from each other, we know how to take criticism and listen to advice when necessary. In the face of difficult challenges when you need support the most, one of us is always ready to push the other one forward. Of course, we also sometimes disagree, but in the end, we always find a compromise.

7. Since you’re family that also works together, you must spend a lot of time with each other. How important is work life balance for you two, how do you make sure you cut the work out of your relationship when necessary and also each get enough time just for yourself?

I almost answered that one in the previous question. We spend an enormous amount of time together, and most of that time is dedicated to BOO. It’s not always easy, but we definitely do try and remain just – sisters. We should probably find some time in our schedule to plan a little vacation just like sisters, too.

8. You each seem to have a completely different skill set and like focusing on different things in business than the other. Is it the same in personal life? Do your individual lifestyles differ?

We’re actually quite different in general, especially when it comes to our characters. In certain situations, and from a certain point of view, however, we’re also really alike. I think that in the end, we always find a common balance when it comes to everything. It’s not always all easy-peasy, but we do adapt to each other. We have learned how to find a common interest and compromise.

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9. What are some of the wellness and beauty routines you each swear by?

In the last six months or so, Dominika has changed her lifestyle by changing her diet. She no longer eats animal products; most of all, she is careful about eating healthy. It all contributes to feeling and, naturally, looking healthier. I’m more of an athlete at heart, so I try to take the time to engage in some sports activities.

Even if it only means finding some time to go cross-country skiing or running during the weekend. It helps me clear my head and fills me up with new energy. I’m also someone who cannot function properly if I don’t get enough sleep, so I can’t work at night, for example. In addition to sports, my beauty and wellness routines also include enough sleep.

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10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years and how much do you both think about your health when you’re planning for the future?

Our goals are pretty ambitious: we would like for BOO to become a famous and successful brand, which obviously means considerable effort and many sacrifices, as well as countless hours spent in the office. But we do try to constantly remind ourselves to think about incorporating our well-being and private life into this adventure, and perceive some situations as less stressful. Dominika is working incredibly hard on this, I think, and has clear goals in terms of living a healthy life, especially when it comes to food and well-being. She is also trying to carve out some me-time whenever she can.

As far as I’m concerned, I would like to get to a point in my professional life where I can take some time to exercise, spend time with my loved ones, and have a normal, healthy meal every day. I don’t want to remember, in the evening, that I haven't had lunch yet.

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