DenimBlog Exclusive: Interview with Beija-Flor designer Emilie Whitaker


Here is an interview with Beija-Flor’s designer Emilie Whitaker.

DB – What inspired you the most when creating your brand?
As a child, my great aunt in Brazil, took me to the Santa Teresa hummingbird reserve in my father’s home state. The experience had a great effect on me, and was an inspiration for the “beija-flor,” (Portuguese for hummingbird) brand. Since starting the brand, my mother and I have discovered that hummingbirds are found only in the Americas which has a special significance since my mother is from North America and my father from South America.

When I was living in Washington, D.C. my friend Katherine and I went jeans shopping and neither of us could find jeans that fit us, much less flattered our bodies. The next weekend my mom came to visit and brought me a pair of jeans from Brazil. They fit me. They fit Katherine. They fit my sister. It was like the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” movie, and we realized there was something special about Brazilian denim. Within a year we were interviewing jeans factories all over Brazil, coming up with our own flattering fit, and a few months later the Beija-Flor brand was born.

DB – What has been your favourite memory/experience since your company was founded?
When we started the Beija-Flor brand we initially sold our jeans at private events, or “jeans parties” often in women’s homes, salons, or even workplaces. Each event was extremely different, and women were very honest with us on their feedback about the jeans and their issues with fashion in general. I used to tell people that in these scenarios women spoke with me almost as if I was their doctor, open and honest, which made for some very funny conversations. Since we started we’ve probably fit over a thousand women in our jeans, each with their own story, which has been invaluable in helping us develop and design our collection.

DB – Do you have a favourite cut you have designed?
The Jennifer will always be my favorite jean because the fit is based on my body. Most denim companies use a size 0, 2 or 4 for their fit model, and I’m a curvy 6-8. And I think that’s why it has become such a great seller because it isn’t designed for a models figure, but for a one of a real woman.

DB – How many pairs of jeans do you own? Over 40. I have the luxury of getting at least one of each of our styles, and my weight has definitely fluctuated so I have a variety of sizes!

DB – What cut has been the most popular overall? The Jennifer in the dark wash was our most popular, but recently the Jennifer Skinny has become our most popular jean.

DB – Are there any new trends coming out next season that we should be keeping an eye out for? We’re really excited about our Virginia Jean because we’ve mixed in leather elements into the design. There is so much you can do with a pair of jeans, its just a matter of finding small details that don’t take away from the versatility or simplicity of a good jean.

DB – The boyfriend jeans trend has been a huge hit this season, will we be seeing anymore of this trend from you?
Our designs are definitely influenced by trends, but more by fit and what is the most flattering to a woman’s body. You probably won’t ever see a bulky menswear inspired jean from us, because fit is our number one priority. We’re working on some very interesting new washes and distressing techniques that are heavily influenced by what Brazilian women are wearing that we think will be very inline with trends, without sacrificing a feminine fit.

DB – We all love denim, but what is it that makes denim so important to you?
Jeans are one of the few pieces of your wardrobe that can make you feel comfortable and sexy at the same time, especially Beija-Flor Jeans. We’ve found a way to make women look feminine and sexy without making her feel indecent or overexposed. Denim is kind of a world-wide uniform, especially in the US and Brazil. Being half-brazilian it was gratifying to learn the role Brazil plays in the denim industry, as they are the second largest producer of denim in the world, and they are always coming out with new technologies and different ways of finishing denim.

DB – Can you tell us a bit more about your brand?
Beija-Flor Jeans are sold only in specialty boutiques across the country. We’re sold in 42 states, and the US and Canada. Thousands of women across North America have become “beija-believers” after experiencing Beija-Flor’s unique fit that flatter their natural curves. Beija-believers cannot be defined by age or size, only by their common frustration in their search for a jean that fits their curves and a desire to look and feel good.

DB – What makes your brand so different from the others out there?
What sets Beija-Flor jeans apart from other Brazilian jeans is the ability to combine Brazil’s innovative design with a unique fit that appeals to the modern American woman. Our manufacturing facility prides itself on its socially and environmentally responsible production. One of the most unique aspects to our jeans is our stitch color variation and placement. The alternating stitch color draws your eye away from any body imperfections. Our contoured waist is outlined in different color stitching to allow for a higher waist without sacrificing the contemporary look. The inseam stitching offers a subtle design element that sets our jeans apart from a lot of denim lines that tend to all look the same.

DB – Lastly is there anything else you would like to add that we haven’t asked you? At the end of the day our goal is to provide products to women that make them feel good about themselves and their purchase. We’ve really been able to benefit from the fact that we’re a mother-daughter team representing different age groups, fashion tastes, and body shapes which has helped us create a collection of jeans that really flatters a multitude of shapes and speaks to a variety of fashion seekers.

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