We call her the Queen of Eco Fashion, but her close friend’s lovingly call her “Tush.” Meet Trisha Rampersad, Creative Director and founder of Bhana Design Company.

Trisha Rampersad Bhana Design Eco Fashion Vancouver

Story by Manjot Bains

When we hear the words “eco fashion,” we expect a group of Mother Earth-loving, Om Shanti-chanting people dressed in strange, drapey clothing and eating Kale chips with nutritional yeast sprinkled on top. But sustainable style has changed for the better over the past couple of years, with H&M’s Conscious Collection and even designers like Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani and Gucci creating pieces using eco fabrics.

In Vancouver, Eco Fashion Week has been at the helm of this shift to elevated design, and Trisha Rampersad’s Bhana Design Company, who has showed at Eco Fashion Week twice, is a vocal advocate for more responsible production.

In 2013, she re-launched her clothing company, Bhana Design, as a sustainable, eco-fashion venture. The clothing has always been designed and produced in Vancouver, but now everything from the thread to the fabrics are sustainably sourced. It’s good design with a conscience, but not in the way that we’re used to. These are well-crafted, often hand made garments that use fibres favoured by international designers like Chanel.

Despite a failed tryst with veganism (“I’m vegetarian. I went through a vegan phase, but recently I realized I needed some cheese”), Trisha isn’t your stereotypical eco fashion designer. During a recent chat about food and clothing, we learned about her weaknesses (éclairs) and inspirations, and why she is so passionate about responsible, sustainable fashion.

Trisha Rampersad Designer Bhana Design Eco FashionTell us where your nickname, Tush, came from. 

Oh god. Ok, this is something that happened in high school. We were just sitting around and we all came up with silly names for each other, but mine seems to be the only one that actually stuck. A few of the girls still call me that and, in fact, if they called me Trisha, it would be because I was in trouble or something.

Your favourite thing in the closet right now?

For some reason I’m into long skirts. They’re high-waisted long skirts and I wear them all the time. I have a grey one, a green one and this floral patterned one and I’m constantly going into the closet for them. I had clothes that I was going to give away but I liked the fabric, so I took the garments apart and made skirts out of them.

3 Must Have pieces for your fall wardrobe:

The contemporary style kimono dress. It’s quite linear. Long hemlines. A tempered version of the high waist is good, and a full-length wool coat.

Your secret indulgence…

This is really bad, I try to eat healthy, but once in a while, I love chocolate éclairs. I loooove chocolate éclairs. The traditional pastry, cream-filled on the inside and chocolate on the outside…oh, it’s so good.

What are you drinking?

I came up with this in the heat of the moment last week, and I think it’s become my signature drink. I’ve been having it everyday since. It’s a Rooibos tea hot chocolate. Find out how to make Trisha’s decadent Rooibos hot chocolate (Jugni Style tried, tested and approved).

Song you have on repeat now?

Not really anything in particular, but I listen to a lot of Mozart and Beethoven when I’m creating. There’s this once piece, it’s in D Minor, and for some reason, whenever I’m listening to it, the most beautiful things happen. I have these visions of beautiful silhouettes. I think it’s the rhythm, it somehow relates well into my brain, I don’t know.

On your work table right now:

I’ve got these crystal hearts. They were given to me by my mom several years ago because she felt bad that I was never in a relationship, so she got me a Valentine’s Day gift. Three crystal hearts. I think they’re beautiful. They sparkle. So they sit on my work table and I use them as paper weights to hold down the fabric and different pieces and all that, and it’s just beautiful because this new [Spring 2014] collection is all about love and the title is “Embracing your inner goddess” so it’s all about that innate beauty. [The crystals] have inspired me with all the different colours from the crystal, and they’re hearts, and it’s all kind of cheesy but they go together.

Trisha Rampersad eco fashion designer bhana design

You’re Fall 2013 collection was quite dark. Can we expect a lot more colour in your Spring 2014 collection?

Yes. I think what you can expect is light and bright. Each time I do a collection, each one is more brand defining than the last. So this time things are coming even closer to what Bhana is. It’s evolving, and this is true to who I am as a designer right now and Bhana is a reflection of that.

On learning the craft of sewing and the art of design sitting at her grandmother’s side:

I was never a trained [seamstress] in any way. I just used to watch my grandma and that was it. So I used to draw things and it got to this point where I was drawing these sketches but I didn’t know how to make them. So I thought I’ll just take a sewing class so I can learn how to make my clothes, and the next thing I know I’m enrolling in a full on design program.

Do you design Indian clothing?

I’ve always looked at clothes as clothes. I understand why we use labels like Indian clothes and western clothes, but as a designer, I just see clothes. I will design whatever inspires me as long as it fits within the brand. I’ve always seen Bhana as a global brand, even though last season I used wool that I got from Scotland, this season I’m using Ahinsa silk, which comes from India. There are some specific pieces that you will see in the Spring collection that you may be like, hmm, is that Indian. Oh yeah, I think it is. I just design what inspires me. You know I’m Indian, brought up in Canada, born in South Africa, so there are a mix of inspirations from all over.

On why sustainable, eco fashion is so important right now:

I know Tom Ford uses eco fabrics for some of his stuff. I think that there are some eco and sustainable fibres that are really quite beautiful. Like there’s this beautiful fabric that I’m using for this collection and it’s a mixture of hemp and flock. And it’s just beautiful, it has this incredible luster and it wears well, it washes well. It’s actually a very high end fabric that’s sustainable. There are high end designers like Chanel who are using this fibre because it’s such a beautiful and luxurious fabric.

In terms of production, the fashion industry is still doing the old ways of mass production and I would prefer to see less production. It’s okay if you sell out of your brand, it’s a great thing. We shouldn’t have excess clothes and through away production because it ends up in a junkyard in Africa. It ends up in a huge, football field-sized junkyard. Even when we donate clothes to charity, it doesn’t all end up at the thrift shop. It usually ends up in these dump yards. When it comes to mass production, I think, produce less, even 10,000 less, because that will make an impact globally.


Story By: Manjot Bains  |  Photography: Bhana Design Company