GEN-ZiNE: For those of us who are not lucky enough to own anything EB Denim, tell us about what you make!

Elena Bonvicini of EB Denim: We upcycle vintage Levi's 501s and make sustainable denim ready to wear.

GZ:How did you start EB Denim?

EBD: In high school, I would visit my family in the midwest, and my grandma and I would make it a tradition to go thrift shopping together. My grandma would be on the hunt for casserole dishes and I would buy all the clothes I thought had reworking potential. I brought home some cut-off shorts and eventually, it turned into a little hustle at school, and I would host weekly locker room short sales. When shorts went out of season, I started reworking jeans. Inspired by Vetements and Off-White at the time, I would rework the jeans by adding seams down the front and back of the legs, making them smaller. I discovered that there was a huge supply of oversized men's jeans and a finite supply of small women’s, so reworking was the perfect solution to bridge that gap in a unique way. 

I'm proud to say that before the term “influencer” was coined, my main marketing initiative was to contact all of the girls who I thought were cool on the internet and offer them a gifted product.  Within a week, two of the biggest fashion bloggers at the time had worn and promoted the product, Danielle Bernstein and Chiara Ferragni. This gave me the validation I needed to take my brand seriously and continue through college. 

I continued the method of growing the brand through social media and slowly offering a wider product assortment. Once we had huge names wearing the brand, retailers including Selfridges and Revolve came knocking on the door. At this point, we couldn't keep up with our demand given the limitations of vintage Levi’s, so we decided to replicate our best-seller, the Unraveled jean, in new materials. Thus the Unraveled Two was born. 

This single piece validated the brand beyond the association with Levi’s and reworked denim and allowed us to scale tremendously. Despite moving away from vintage, our core value of sustainability still remains a priority. The brand is still evolving, and it's difficult to say when we even started because it's been such a gradual beginning and has really taken off in the past year and a half.

GZ: What were your intentions when you started EB Denim?

EBD: I had no intentions but to evolve.  It was a creative and entrepreneurial outlet for me. I just wanted to see how far I could take it. I always knew I wanted to be in the business of fashion.  But creating my own brand has been a dream come true!

GZ: Since then, can you speak to some of your biggest obstacles and successes? 

EBD: I got hate for it in high school and had to persist despite negative comments and posts on social media. Learning the technicalities of being a business owner and having employees has been a challenge. My greatest success has been seeing people wear the product, whether it's Hailey Bieber or someone on the street — both make me equally happy. Growing wholesale accounts has also been awesome, learning how to partner and push P (product).  

GZ: Has there been any overlap between the USC community and EB Denim? 

Absolutely! I minored in Entrepreneurship and majored in PR, so every class project I had revolved around my company. I've done lots of decks and research that I otherwise wouldn't have done, which really made me realize my business and motivated me to grow. 

GZ:Have you found yourself more interested in the creative components of the brand or the business side? 

EBD: It's really 50/50, my favorite aspects are analyzing wholesale reports and selling to buyers, merchandising, and developing new products.  

GZ:For anyone who is interested in some form of entrepreneurial creative pursuit but is not sure where to start, where would you suggest they look? 

EBD:Look to movies, your community, books, and museums for inspiration. And then once you have something, go to social media to grow a platform of target customers. There's no better way to share your art with the world than through social media.

GZ: What would you suggest for anyone who has a passion project that they want to turn into a business?

EBD: Run with it. Start small. Do something different that will make you stand out.

GZ:Where can we find you?

EBD: Revolve, FWRD, Aritzia, Bergdorf Goodman, Fred Segal, Holt Renfrew and Selfridges!

Check us out on Instagram @EBDenim