“I don't like when people put me in a box,” says founder of knitwear brand, Jona Bednjanec. “So I’m creating my own.”
Meet Jona. This young Slovenian designer has forged her own (very colorful) path in the fashion world. She designs her brand much as she lives her life: unafraid to shake up the status quo. We were eager to learn Jona’s story as her vibrant designs quickly caught our attention.
Her pieces are plain… cool. Not the ‘cool’ that’s trending, but the kind that comes from someplace deeper: the inner trust of an original vision. Jona tunes out the noise to tap into her creativity. And creative is just one word to describe her garments. Think bright, bold, blocky. Neon retro meets elevated hygge. Her designs speak for themselves, but her story adds a textured layer that imbues every stitch with meaning.
So Jona, tell us about your product.
Jona: Yes, so everything is made in my local area of Slovenia - all within a 30 kilometer radius from my home. I work with a small, family-owned production network and my two machines. I'm a self-taught knitter, although I completed a BA and MA in fashion and textile design. People have called me a ‘unicorn brand’ as I'm the only young designer that works in this field here in Slovenia. I also make knitwear from deadstock yarn, so my designs and color combinations are quite unique. Aside from designing, I also really like the knitting and the technology components of this work. So I guess I’m not a typical designer - I like the making process as well.
Amazing - and let’s go back to the beginning. How did you get started?
Jona: Well, I started knitting when I was 10 years old and fell in love with it. But it’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mom would make Barbie clothes for my friends and I, and my grandparents’ neighbor was also a knitter. She had the same machine I have now, actually. I would sit there and watch her in awe. Like I said, I’m self-taught though. Because I’m left handed, everything was a little bit harder for me. The first time I actually studied knitting was in high school. In Slovenia, we have special departments for fashion and design, so I started here and then went to university. I first used machines when I was working on my graduate collection… and this is where everything really began. It was then that I decided to start my own brand. And that’s it! I’ve loved doing this since forever.
And what inspired you to build your business? Or rather to turn your passion into a business?
Jona: I don't really know. I think simply because it gives purpose to my life. It means so much that people love to wear my clothes. When clients tell me they love the unique and colorful pieces or how comfortable they feel wearing them, it reminds me why I love doing this. I also had lots of emotional support from my family. It's really hard to go out on your own from the beginning, so I feel very lucky I had them cheering me on. I really didn’t have any other job before starting my brand. I had a few internships but they were unpaid, of course. So I took the leap and started my business in 2018. And I’m so happy that it's continued to evolve year after year.
Looking at the first four years of your journey, what's been the biggest challenge that you've overcome?
Jona: Probably the business side of things. I don’t think you can really be taught how to do business - you learn by doing. It was tough to become a ‘business woman’ and develop confidence with production companies etc. I had to learn how to have a firm voice and trust my instincts. But I'm really proud of how it’s all going. Now I’m much more confident… but sometimes it's still really hard. Because I’m so young, people sometimes don’t take me seriously. Especially here in Slovenia, business people can be tough. I’ve learned to put my foot down when needed and say things like “no, it's time to pay me now.”
So what makes you get up every morning and go to work?
Jona: I think it’s the whole process of evolving as a human and as a designer. My goal is to be a better person and creator everyday. The future is unknown, but I think it's going to be a great one. I’m excited to keep growing.
And what do you think the future of fashion will look like in 10 years?
Jona: I know it doesn’t look great currently, because the world is kind of a mess right now. But I do hope that people will buy more clothes from local designers instead of big companies. And I also hope that the bigger companies will lower their production, because we simply don't need this many clothes. This is my dream for the future… but it may be a little too optimistic.
So what advice would you give to readers on how to live a more sustainable life? It can be related to fashion or not.
Jona: If you have the option, it's good to buy from local stores. In the past, we didn’t need so many things - everything was locally produced. Today, it’s more important than ever to support small businesses as the larger companies are taking over. Buy a pair of shoes from shoemakers in your hometown, for example. Here in Slovenia, we still live a bit like this. I don’t know what it’s like in the big cities, but here you can easily get local and seasonal food etc. And you don’t need to buy five new pairs of jeans every year… one good pair could last you 20 - 30 years. I would say generally, to try and live in a more humble manner. You don’t need more and more and more…
And what aspect of your business are you most proud of?
Jona: Probably the sustainability part. I really like the fact that everything can be made locally here. I know that some brands don't have this kind of opportunity, so this is the aspect I'm really proud of.
Is there anything else you want people to know about your brand? Or about you as a designer or person?
Jona: I would just like to add that I always try to be 100% myself. I'm very sincere, and I don't care what other people think. I don't like when people put me in a box… so I’m creating my own. I’m designing my personal unique shape. I think my best piece of advice is to just be yourself. It’s really corny, but it's true. And I think my brand reflects that.