Rivet’s Denim Minds Under 30 column shines a spotlight on young professionals committed to pushing the denim industry forward, paying special attention to the planet and its people.
Elena Bonvicini is the mastermind behind EB Denim, the Los Angeles-based brand known for its upcycled jeans and an A-list fanbase including Bella Hadid, Megan Fox and Hailey Bieber. The brand stepped into new territory last fall when it launched its first jean made with new instead of reclaimed fabric. The Unraveled Two, a high-rise straight-leg jean is modeled after the brand’s bestselling Vintage Unraveled style.
Rivet caught up with Bonvicini to learn about her fascination with vintage and what’s next for the sustainable brand.
What drew you to the denim industry?
Elena Bonvicini: I always say that denim chose me. My business grew from the principle of supply and demand. I used to go thrift shopping in Minnesota when I would visit family. I would buy all of the vintage pieces that inspired me. That’s when I discovered a gap in the vintage denim market—there’s a huge supply of men’s jeans and a finite and expensive supply of women’s jeans. I decided to bridge this gap by reworking vintage jeans for women. After issues with consistency and supply limitations, I decided I needed to make my very own pair of jeans if I wanted to scale my business.
What is your first denim memory?
EB: The first thing that comes to mind is a photograph of me outside of my house when I was about six years old. I was wearing a Canadian tuxedo pouting next to a little pink Barbie roller suitcase. For whatever reason, I decided I was going to leave home and take on the world alone. I believe this photograph foreshadowed my career and personality—Mrs. Independent since day one.
Since working in denim, has anything surprised you about the industry?
EB: Designing denim is far more technical than I ever imagined. The fabrics, the trims, the wash process, the dry process, the finishing—there’s a lot to learn. I came into this industry blind.
What are your short- and long-term goals for the industry?
EB: My short-term goals are to launch my next season and get picked up by some of my dream retailers. Looking long-term, I’d like to set the standard for sustainability in the industry. It may sound far-fetched, but I think that this issue stems from brands. Brands have to demand this from their manufacturers and suppliers in order to see changes in the industry, regardless of whether or not the consumer agrees. As a previously uninformed consumer, I will tell you, the majority of people do not know or care about what sustainable processes are used to make jeans. But, after learning about the technical innovations and emerging as an upcycling zero waste brand, I felt that it was my responsibility to continue this mission of sustainability.
Which brands or supply chain partners do you look up to, and why?
EB: I look up to all of my competitors, because they probably sell more jeans than I do, so they must be doing something right. Love you, Re/Done!
What do you think the denim industry will learn from the pandemic?
EB: I’m not entirely sure, because I didn’t really consider myself a part of the industry pre-pandemic. At that time, I was only upcycling. Therefore, I’m not entirely sure of the changes or struggles the pandemic caused, besides of course the freight and supply chain issues, but I’m hoping that’s temporary.
What advice do you have for other young people in the industry?
EB: I have four pieces of advice: First, test the strength of your denim and trims; second, educate yourself and surround yourself with knowledgeable people; third, don’t let anyone intimidate you. And finally, have fun!
What will be the biggest impact that young people will have on the denim industry in the future?
EB: Young people are more environmentally conscious and crave individuality. They’re essential to the industry.