Farah Ragheb of BUENA ONDA: “I trust you, trust yourself”

“I trust you, trust yourself” — Growing up, my father frequently shared these words, though at a younger age I didn’t quite understand what it meant, over time I found relevance in these words across several instances. When prompted to take an important decision, when taking on a new initiative, or coming into a new opportunity; these […]

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“I trust you, trust yourself” — Growing up, my father frequently shared these words, though at a younger age I didn’t quite understand what it meant, over time I found relevance in these words across several instances. When prompted to take an important decision, when taking on a new initiative, or coming into a new opportunity; these words became a bridge to inner confidence. Deep down we always know what we need to do when we trust ourselves.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Farah Ragheb.

Farah Ragheb is the Founder and Creative Director of BUENA ONDA, a premium fashion and lifestyle brand born from her desire to offer the retail industry an alternative solution to the current fast-consuming model. Following her career as a marketing strategist for brands such as Topshop and Topman in Europe and the Middle East, as well as Lladro’ in Asia, Farah craved a life far from the excessive consumerism of the big fashion role players. She decided to focus on sustainable and ethical practices that encouraged a slow approach to shopping and creativity and in 2016 launched her own company. BUENA ONDA translates her ethos by producing only 3 premium-quality items per year, released every summer and connected one another season after season. Her Simplified Retail Model invites creatives to follow their inspiration rather than tight commercial deadlines and encourages consumers to take it slow, consume less and enjoy timeless quality pieces.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I was born to Palestinian parents in Los Angeles, California, in 1985. We later moved to Canada, where I grew up. I took my post-grad studies in Barcelona and since then I have worked with leading fashion and lifestyle brands around the world. I established, back in its glory days Topshop Topman across the Middle East; I also led marketing operations for the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London’s global design workshops and led marketing for luxury and lifestyle brands in Hong Kong before landing in my current base in Denmark.

Through the length of my career, I found myself between two worlds — one based on fast, high consumerism models in the fashion industry and another based on slow, premium craftsmanship in the lifestyle and design industries. It became evident to me that I desired the fashion industry to be more than what it was, to incorporate the slower, model of quality craftsmanship.

The vision for BUENA ONDA appeared 3 years before its first debut. At that time, brands were no longer building themselves like they used to; global demand was strengthening and so began the world of mass production. I found myself craving more substance, quality, and thoughtful craft within my material investments. I was intrigued by niche brands that were unknown to the masses and yet served a global community.

The dream arose to create a brand that operated on its own terms, a brand that encapsulated a sense of substance, truth, and authenticity. A fresh way of doing things, an approach that celebrated people and gave back full circle. These were the foundational elements that gave BUENA ONDA its first breath.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

BUENA ONDA is the first fashion and lifestyle brand in the world to release only 3 clothing items a year. Our release occurs every summer, on a full-circle business model, taking slow to ultra-slow, and sustainability to new heights. Most think of sustainability in terms of the fabrics we use or the volumes we reduce in our packaging; though those avenues are a great start, true sustainability arises from how we choose to do things in the long run. If our business models don’t change and we continue to produce the same volumes only now with recycled plastic, it won’t be long until we find ourselves at a crossroads yet again. BUENA ONDA is leading by example, building an apparel and lifestyle brand on a business model that creates positive impact at every level of the business, both in the short and long run.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In June 2016, while I sat ready to press the ‘Send’ button that would disseminate BUENA ONDA’s launch newsletter out to the world I was very nervous; my nervousness arose from a concern of not having sufficient stock to accommodate the influx of high-volume orders that would follow this action. As with most early starters, it wasn’t the case. If a dream you are building is going to be something good or great it needs time, sometimes, more time than you would like. Therefore, the key lesson is that the time in between is essential. The time in between is where the magic happens toward the evolution and refinement of the dream, in preparation for its destined potential.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Through my journey, my mentors have come in the form of family, friends, industry leaders, and historical figures. When you own a business, it’s natural for those around you to reflect on your initiative and feel the desire to express their views, suggestions, and thoughts. In the little bits of information that come from a diversity of sources, I’ve found valuable perspectives, ideas, or suggestions worth considering towards the evolution of the brand. Industry leaders such as Emily Weiss, founder of Glossier, are an inspiration when it comes to illustrating the power of D2C for an intimate brand experience. If you create a strong bond with your community, you don’t need hundreds of products to become a million-dollar company. Quality versus quantity can also win. Another role model is Muhammad Ali. He didn’t enjoy training, but he knew it was conducive to his success. This reminds me that the not-so-inspiring tasks in business are essential parts of the game. Also, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) inspires me that no matter the situation, no matter the challenge and the perceived defeat, patience, good character, and kindness in all circumstances will invite clarity onto the journey.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disrupting the industry is positive when we can bring about a positive change on a higher, collective level. A key example would be the transformation of the Fast Fashion industry into one that is civil on all accounts towards people, nature and soul. Usually, when we speak of the negative impacts of the Fast Fashion industry the focus shines on impacts on the environment and labor workers, however, the negative impacts run much deeper than that. What about the people behind the brands? Overruled by their packed calendars and over-worked, while on the other side, consumers are on the receiving end of this chaos, investing their earned capital into low quality, disposable clothing made by oppressed communities; clothing which, over time, has become the world’s 2nd largest polluter after oil. This model has failed the test of time.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“I trust you, trust yourself” — Growing up, my father frequently shared these words, though at a younger age I didn’t quite understand what it meant, over time I found relevance in these words across several instances. When prompted to take an important decision, when taking on a new initiative, or coming into a new opportunity; these words became a bridge to inner confidence. Deep down we always know what we need to do when we trust ourselves.

“Everything you need at this moment, you already have” — One night in Hong Kong, after a long day’s work, I had returned home to find my 80-year-old doorman sitting at his usual desk solving math problems (during the day he was a mathematics tutor). As I waited for the elevator he looked up at me, perhaps reading my energy, he simply said: “Everything you need in this moment, you already have”. Considering that my train of entrepreneurial thoughts leading up that moment circled “If I had this I could grow the brand like this, if I had more of that, I could drive the business like this…” — his words were a needed spark of wisdom, to remember that a dream doesn’t come empty-handed. At every moment we have the tools we need to go one step further. If we can’t see those tools, perhaps we aren’t looking in the right place. As my father also says: ‘There are many ways to scratch the back’.

“Remember to have fun” — At my first ‘real’ job, fresh out of university as a Financial News Reporter, I was positioned to meet with some important politicians and I was feeling quite nervous when a dear colleague of mine said: “Remember to have fun, the time will pass anyway and it will be over when it’s over”. As business owners we all strive for growth and success, however, the journey along the way is where all the treasures lie. It’s where we grow, learn, and evolve towards our goals.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

If you are somebody who is dreaming of building your brand or have an existing brand you would like to evolve towards true sustainability, then we have something that can shake things up for you in the right direction. In February 2021 BUENA ONDA will launch the Simplified Retail Model MasterClass, an academic platform that invites fellow brand builders, creatives, and game changers to build their dream based on a Simplified Retail Model. This initiative carries the vision to shift the tone of the retail industry towards full-circle sustainability; a vision where collective efforts matter and businesses are in a position to be catalysts for system-level change in the face of significant global issues. The MasterClass will include resources to ethical and sustainable partners across every level of the process to get their dream started. We are quite excited about this and the potential of evolving the industry into a world where simplicity reigns.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Through the length of my career, working across a multitude of regions with a diversity of ethnicities and cultures, from the Middle East, to Asia to Scandinavia –challenges based on gender did not cross my path. In all instances, whether it was running for the next role or project, it always presented itself as a fair game; you could say the battle of the fittest. Sometimes I got it, sometimes I didn’t, and when I didn’t against a male counterpart, I could see that it was a matter of compatibility versus gender. Throughout my career, I’ve come across more men that are genuinely supportive of women in business than the opposite.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is a good one –written by a great leader; it illustrates an elegant way of going about leadership and life. His pearls of wisdom around cultivating a peaceful mindset and consideration for others are a source of inspiration. The Quran is also a book I often spend time with; a book that illustrates in detail how to develop a valuable relationship with ourselves, with others, and with divine love.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Slow Down. The overarching vision behind both BUENA ONDA and the Simplified Retail Model is to slow the world down and revert to a lifestyle that is innate with our nature. Our nature is optimal at a steady pace. It is when we slow down that we see more clearly what matters around us, those who need us, and what calls us. When we slow down, we are reducing our stress, racing thoughts, and negative habits that come with constantly going at turbo speed. We can examine the driving forces within us that push us to go too fast and we can reflect on ways that cultivate more good to our wellbeing.

We all need more time and the secret to having more time is slowing down.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Beautiful patience” — a state of patience that’s without disquietude. This one’s my favorite.

When you’re building a business it’s easy at times to feel frustrated, impatient, or disoriented. In these instances, this term invites me to zoom out and reminds myself that this journey will ultimately find its way and will bring more pleasure and enjoyment along the way.

How can our readers follow you online?

On Instagram at @buena_onda and on https://www.buena–onda.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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