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How to start a fashion brand as a fresh young talent

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Why can’t emerging fashion designers run their businesses? They can. And they do. And most notably, they do this successfully. IM alumna Sofia Bianchi’s entrepreneurial journey began immediately after graduating from Istituto Marangoni. In 2020, she launched her Soubi Studios, an eco-friendly brand and studio that creates elevated skinwear. We could say “the rest is history,” plus well-trained talent, a business plan and an incubator pushing Sofia Bianchi out of her comfort zone and into the new heights of her abilities.

Istituto Marangoni alumna Sofia Bianchi’s entrepreneurial journey began when she launched her Soubi Studios back in 2020

Istituto Marangoni alumna Sofia Bianchi’s entrepreneurial journey began when she launched her Soubi Studios back in 2020

Like she said when she introduced herself when sitting down with Istituto Marangoni London students for one of their Alumni Panels, Sofia Bianchi was born and raised in Buenos Aires. Then she moved to Italy in 2017 to study fashion design at the IM school in Milan before relocating to London, where she started her company.

After establishing Soubi Studios, this emerging young creative was ready to hit a broader market; the biggest challenge was to continue being innovative while growing both product range and customer base. She applied twice for the Istituto Marangoni London Incubator Programme, winning the 2021 edition.  

Sofia Bianchi's Soubi Studios is an eco-friendly brand and studio that creates elevated skinwear

Sofia Bianchi's Soubi Studios is an eco-friendly brand and studio that creates elevated skinwear

In a nutshell, Istituto Marangoni London has been developing entrepreneurial programmes and incubation projects since 2019, focusing on assisting students further with their start-up ideas by providing a safe space to work on their business plans. This resulted in the IML Incubator Programme, an essential tool for emerging brands, graduates or alumni looking to launch their companies. Over the past four years, more than 90 of them have participated in masterclasses conducted by over 30 industry specialists. Start-ups such as JU-NNA, Mahi and The Archive Closet are some of the labels participating across the years, whit Sofia Bianchi as one of the latest winners of the programme.

Models wearing Soubi Studios pieces

Models wearing Soubi Studios pieces

So, what about Bianchi’s main goals when she decided to join the IML Incubator Programme? First, she wanted to expand her network; then, she aspired to grow the wholesale side of the business and craft a well-defined strategy. She successfully achieved all three objectives through her mentorship with Adam King, Head of Marketing, Lucy Warne, Client Success at Zedonk, and Paul Alger, MBE, Director of International Business at UKFT. To crown her path, Sofia Bianchi enjoyed a chat with one of her mentors, Adam King, from the specialist business ERP software for the fashion industry, Zedonk. Want to know how to break into fashion as Soubi Studios is doing? We’ve got you covered.

Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Sofia Bianchi moved to Italy in 2017 to study Fashion Design at the IM school in Milan before relocating to London, where she started her Soubi Studios

Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Sofia Bianchi moved to Italy in 2017 to study Fashion Design at the IM school in Milan before relocating to London, where she started her Soubi Studios

Adam King: Can you tell us about yourself and Soubi Studios?
Sofia Bianchi: I moved to Italy in 2017 to study Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni, and that’s when my journey in fashion started. I continued my studies in Paris and finally in London, where I graduated in 2020 and started my fashion label. Soubi Studios is a Made-to-Move Womenswear brand specialising in bodywear, leisurewear and swimwear. The innovation comes from a blend of high-performance features and fashion trends. 

Soubi Studios designs by Istituto Marangoni alumna Sofia Bianchi

Soubi Studios designs by Istituto Marangoni alumna Sofia Bianchi

A.K.: When did you launch the brand? Why?
S.B.: Soubi Studios started during my last year of university, when I was doing a lot of activities that helped me create a deeper connection with my body, practising yoga, dancing, doing callisthenics and meditating daily. I was getting a lot of inspiration while practising these activities and feeling the incredible connection between my body and each garment I used. I constantly felt there was something off that could be improved. From these feelings, I shaped Soubi’s objective. I wanted to revolutionise first-skin garments, creating trendy, eco-friendly hybrid pieces to wear day and night; I knew there was an opportunity to cater to a large audience of people that felt the same.

Packaging for Soubi Studios

Packaging for Soubi Studios

“With my brand, I want to revolutionise first-skin garments, creating trendy, eco-friendly hybrid pieces to wear day and night” – Istituto Marangoni alumna Sofia Bianchi, founder of Soubi Studios and winner of the 2021 Istituto Marangoni London Incubator Programme

 A.K.: What about the challenges for a young brand and a designer doing everything themselves?
S.B.: So many! Initially, I approached my brand in a very artistic way, hoping things would eventually work out. I felt that the outcome of my designs was beautiful, but that would not guarantee a successful business. If a garment doesn’t sell, it’s not fashion – it’s art, and that was my biggest learning after the first few months of studying. My biggest challenge is to continue being innovative while creating things that can become popular and people want to buy. There is so much competition out there, and the industry is going fast. Zara designs a collection in 2 days – it’s a huge pressure. I love the challenge of learning how to operate a successful business, working to complement my design background with knowledge about accounting, finance, supply chain and marketing. To help speed up the process, I am also working as a sales consultant and a designer for other brands, surrounding myself with people with more expertise in the areas I am working to improve.

Soubi Studios participated on the Flying Soho New York Fashion Week 2021 with a Resort Collection that featured very fresh, colorful and energetic pieces

Soubi Studios participated on the Flying Soho New York Fashion Week 2021 with a Resort Collection that featured very fresh, colorful and energetic pieces

“If a garment doesn’t sell, it’s not fashion – it’s art. My biggest challenge is to continue being innovative while creating things that can become popular and people want to buy” – Sofia Bianchi

A.K.: Why did you apply for the IML Incubator Programme?
S.B.: I first learned about the Istituto Marangoni London Incubator Programme in 2020 while working on my university final project. I knew I wanted to build my own brand and expand my knowledge beyond fashion design. Applying for the incubator was the perfect opportunity to leverage my work and achieve this goal. Despite not winning that year, the process was a great learning opportunity as I came up with the first concept for my brand and identified the things I had to work on to be successful. I came better prepared next year after working very hard on a detailed business plan and having already proved that my brand had a product-market fit with some traction on the sales side. This allowed me to win the competition in 2021, and I want to repeat that experience once more as I know that there is still a lot I need to learn and work on to get Soubi to the position I want it to be. 

Sofia Bianchi's graduate collection 'Anamorphosis'

Istituto Marangoni alumna Sofia Bianchi's graduate collection, titled Anamorphosis

A.K.: What were your expectations?
S.B.: To move from being just a fashion designer and broaden my knowledge to other aspects of the industry. I wanted to learn from professionals who have been in the industry for a long time, such as Hannah Middleton, Diana Kakkar and Sennait Ghebreab. During the IML Incubator Programme, I realised I have a solid business side and want to develop it further.

“During the IML Incubator Programme, I realised I have a solid business side and want to develop it further” – Sofia Bianchi

A.K.: How was that experience? What did you learn?
S.B.: Challenging and incredibly enriching. With a wide range of topics, all the workshops were very productive, and I used many resources, such as costing and range plan sheets for my brand. I still go back all the time to my notes and the presentations to look for information. I connected with other students and alumni I am still in touch with and from whom I have received much support. Being judged by industry panels gave me much more confidence to put myself out there and show what I do.

Soubi Studios participated on the Flying Soho New York Fashion Week 2021 with a Resort Collection that featured very fresh, colorful and energetic pieces

A.K.: What did you need the most help or assistance with?

S.B.: When I started Soubi Studios, I needed to develop a contacts network. The assistance and support of my mentors and industry professionals allowed me to connect with the right people.

A.K.: How was the mentoring from Zedonk and UKFT?
S.B.: As a young entrepreneur coming from a foreign country, it was hard for me to overcome the mental block of launching my brand in a country I did not know so well. My mentors really pushed me forward and connected me with the right people in the industry. They gave me the tools, connections and, most importantly, the support I needed to follow my passion and dream. Dear Adam (Adam King, Head of Marketing at Zedonk), you helped me a lot to understand how I should pitch my brand and also how to draw new ideas. While Lucy (Lucy Warne, Client Success at Zedonk) trained me on how to use the software I needed to improve the quality of my work and advised me on products. Last but not least, Paul (Paul Alger MBE, Director of International Business at UKFT) helped with public relations and export/import procedures. Soubi Studios is now part of the UKFT Association.

Soubi Studios, Estefania One Sleeve Bras Top

Estefania One Sleeve Bras Top by Soubi Studios

“As an Argentinian/Italian designer and entrepreneur, it was hard for me to overcome the mental block of launching my brand in the UK, a country I did not know so well. During the IML Incubator Programme, my mentors pushed me forward and connected me with the right people in the industry” – Sofia Bianchi

A.K.: Proudest moments?
S.B.: The first wholesale order and participating in an emerging brand fashion show hosted by Flying Solo during NYFW.

A.K.: What is next for Soubi?
I would love to start growing my team and bring people in who can help with the marketing, PR and sustainability sides of the business.

 

 

Ioanna Kefalogianni
Editorial team, London 
School
LONDON
Course
Programme
postgraduate-Master's Degrees • Master's Courses