Vancouver-based womenswear brand A Bronze Age is reinventing notions of classic femininity through a sustainable, made-to-order framework. Founder Renee Power’s expertise in marketing and brand strategy has allowed her to understand the importance of creating a meaningful social media footprint, utilizing her brand’s online following to drive sales and help foster a greener sense of awareness from her consumers. In her Vancouver-based workshop, Power has enlisted the help of three generations of women from her family to drive production, adding an intergenerational touch to each garment, while also highlighting the importance of sisterhood as one of the brand’s core values. Through a made-to-order style of production, the brand is eliminating the need for excess stock, mass production, and waste, championing greener practices for others to follow suit. We spoke with Power about the democratizing power of e-commerce, rapidly changing habits of consumption, and how the pandemic has positively effected A Bronze Age’s offerings.
What are the overall aesthetic inspirations of the brand? And how do these designers impact your approach to design?
“I’ve always been obsessed with vintage clothes since I can remember. I’m so inspired by the silhouettes and textures: full sleeves, ruffles, and tiers are details we can’t resist incorporating in our designs, elevating our everyday pieces into something special and memorable. During the winter months, Vancouver can be very grey and desolate, so we love to use pops of colour and fun prints reminiscent of the ’70s and ’80s to add some vibrancy to our every day.”
What inspired you to start manufacturing clothing in a made-to-order fashion?
“Having worked in retail and for other brands in the past, I had seen first hand how the impact of waste is not only harmful to the environment, but can also make it challenging for small businesses to survive if they want to manufacture their pieces ethically. The fashion industry creates an incredible amount of pollution and waste per year, so I decided early on that I wanted to minimize our impact as much as possible. By using a made-to-order model, we only produce the items that we need, which cuts down on waste significantly, and are able to see what’s resonating with our customers. This model allows us to grow at a mindful pace, and keeps us connected to our community so we can create unique and special pieces that will last longer than a season, and hopefully for years to come.”
What do you think fashion will look like post-pandemic, and how will this play into A Bronze Age’s Story?
“In the midst of the pandemic, life felt so unpredictable. Fashion sought comfort over anything else through elevated sweats and loungewear. A lot of us have grown accustomed to this feeling and are no longer willing to compromise for an outfit! With every piece we produce, comfort is key, and we intend to carry this into our design strategy for the future. One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received was when someone wore her dress for a night out of partying and ended up sleeping in it because it felt like a nightgown! Now that life has settled and we’re developing a new sense of ‘normalcy,’ I think fashion and dressing are back in a totally redefined way. Before the pandemic a lot of us took getting dressed for granted, so we’re being more thoughtful about our outfits and how we wear them. I think consumers are shifting away from fast fashion to an awareness of who made their clothing and the significance they can make with their purchases.”
How has working with your family and strengthening this bond amongst the women in your family impacted your career and overall brand identity?
“I come from a huge, close-knit family. My mom is from Hong Kong and has eight sisters—they all have amazing and unique styles that have influenced me since I was a kid. Two of my aunts help develop and produce all of our accessories in-house, and their daughters (my cousins) help with a myriad of tasks from sewing, graphic design, and order fulfillment. When things get chaotic, everyone lends a hand—even my uncles will help cut fabric or pack orders! With the help of my family and the small in-house studio team, A Bronze Age has grown beyond what I could have ever expected during this unpredictable time. I can truly say the brand wouldn’t be what it is without each and every one of them!”
Reimagining classic feminine styles for the contemporary woman is a pinnacle of the Bronze Age’s approach. What does the contemporary woman look like, and how does the brand highlight her individual strength?
“I see the contemporary woman as someone who embraces her individuality and strives to be her best self without compromising. We make garments that can be versatile because we want the Bronze Age girl to infuse each look with her own style and maximize the return on whatever her clothing budget may be. We love mixing classic feminine shapes with masculine accessories, like a delicate puff sleeve dress paired with combat boots, or an airy blouse together with structured denim. Ultimately we want to make pieces for every person to feel the most themselves and their best in!”
How does social media impact your brand identity? And do you find that it is a vital tool for businesses to reach their consumers?
“Creatively, I love that platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok have become a new medium to express one’s vision and message. I’m deeply inspired by our customers and the digital family we’ve had the opportunity to cultivate. It’s truly more of a community than a consumer base! Social media has allowed us a direct line of communication with our retailers/customers which is paramount when trying to serve their needs to the best of our ability. We can make adjustments, develop new styles, and pivot as needed in all areas of the business simply by connecting with our following on social media.”
In the wake of the pandemic, how do you think e-commerce is reinventing the landscape of traditional retail?
“A Bronze Age has been e-commerce based since its inception, allowing us to scale naturally and have a global reach that just feels unreal sometimes. It still blows my mind to see our products being sent to Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and everywhere else around the globe! Now someone living in a rural area can curate their life in an authentic way without being forced to shop at a big-box retailer or their local mall. It might be overly optimistic of me, but I see e-commerce as putting more power in our wallets and slowly democratizing the industries that were otherwise dominated by corporations. Online retail supports the cultural shift from consuming less cheap/low-quality goods to more sustainable products that have a real connection to the humans that make them.”