Chë: sustainability, creativity, & craft

When a pandemic hobby becomes a lasting business

Bronte Chë Simon has turned her passion into potential.

Isolation can foster creativity; it can push one to try things they may not have before. 

The stringent lockdown days of the pandemic fostered an exploration of hobbies for many of us who were left with little to do at home. Some turned to cooking, others to painting, but Brontë Che Simon, ArtSci ’22 discovered sewing. 

Simon grew up fascinated by the fashion world and what it had to offer. The stay-at-home orders during COVID-19 gave her the opportunity to turn to her sewing machine to see what she could do. She created Chë, on online Instagram shop, to sell her creations.

In an interview with The Journal, Simon talked up-cycling, sustainability, and the challenges of being a small business owner. 

“I started playing around with making whole pieces and posting them on Instagram. The positive response from that, as I was making my own things, pushed me to do more,” Simon said. 

Simon experienced the realities of production firsthand, causing her to become critical of the fast fashion brands that price their items unnervingly low. 

“I started to realize how long everything took and how difficult it was;, how much fabric was used, and, if not careful, how much was wasted,” she said.

“The more I did it, the more I cared about it. There’s no way there’s something [being sold] for $5 without someone being exploited and the materials being toxic.”

Simon started making clothes because she enjoyed it and people liked them, but as time went on, she wanted to help others understand how much work goes into production while diverting waste to the best of her small-scale abilities. 

The fabric Simon uses is always dead stock or second hand; finding ways to put scraps to use is a puzzle she enjoys. 

“I didn’t want to add anymore waste to the textile industry than already exists,” she said.

Now that she’s been running her business for over a year and a half, she’s working through the kinks of figuring out her style identity.

“Now I definitely focus on ‘will I wear this?’, ‘do I feel good in this, shape-wise and colour-wise?’” she explained. 

Simon wants to continue dipping her toes into the funk of fashion. 

Colour has always been something she’s experimented with, and she’s been drawn to unique fabrics time and time again. Figuring out how to work with them interestingly while streamlining her production process is her next challenge.  

“I always try to find second-hand materials, often in fabric sections of the thrift stores rather than just individual pieces so I can make multiples of certain pieces. It also lets me waste a little less.” 

Simon, who currently works at Velvet Underground in Whistler, BC, told The Journal that being so close to her boss has allowed her to be mentored in the logistics of running a small business, especially as it pertains to balancing cost and value. 

“Seeing her run her business from basically nothing to where it is now lets me see how she does things and think about how I could incorporate that,” Simon said. 

“I’m still learning […] when I first started, I was just thinking of cost of fabric and time to make a piece but it’s so much more than that: there’s trial and error, marketing, designing, etc.” 

Using up-cycled and dead stock fabric was essential to Simon when starting her business.

Simon runs her shop on Instagram—it’s definitely worth checking out. 

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