My American neighbour mentioned she had a friend visiting. I met this friend briefly one afternoon and I gathered that Cali was just one of many stops on her Colombian tour. It was a few days later, over sushi up the street, that I learned Bebe Singleton was a “design hunter” for Ppl Plz Thgs (People, Places, Things). She was travelling Colombia looking for designers who were creating interesting, inspiring fashion. Que chevere.
So, how, exactly, does one become a design hunter? This is what I set out to discover when I sat down to chat with Bebe some weeks later via Skype, during her last week in Bogota.
Clara Baldovino of Taller de Vestaurio in Mola jacket
What do you do? How would you describe your job?
The easiest way is to say that I work with designers around the world, and source beautiful and unique items to expand their brands to other countries and into different markets. That’s the short simple way but it’s really a whole lot more.
Tell me more.
It’s sourcing, looking for designers, researching those designers. It’s seeing if those designers are a good fit for a product line and will they work in an e-commerce setting or in a pop-up setting. Will they be able to do well in a global market. It’s being in the field and nurturing relationships. It’s talking with designers to also let them get a feel of who I am and what I do to see if it’s something that they even want to do.
So it’s a dream job, but at the same time, we do everything. The fun part of it is I get to tell beautiful stories and try out unique and beautiful items.
It does sound like a dream job, even with all the work involved. How did this get started?
I’ve always been a creative person but I’ve also often been steered away from doing creative things.
Alexis Cook in Liza Echeverry
About five years ago I discovered that I wanted to do something that involves traveling because I didn’t like sitting behind a desk. I wanted to do something that involved bringing people together. So I had all these ideas and I thought about doing a world tour — going to different countries, spending three months in each, providing services and then moving on. I kept playing around with all of these different ideas and then one day I said, I want to be able to go around and tell stories and document, but I also want to show the beauty that’s in other countries. And so I asked myself, how could I possibly show people the beauty in other countries besides just documenting? Everybody’s documenting. So maybe we should start bringing some things back.
So I started playing around with the idea but I still didn’t do anything with it. Then I started performing in a storytelling improv group. One of the ladies that I met there, who ended up being my business partner, had the same ideas twirling around her head, so we decided to come together and make it happen.
In 2016 we started off with Cuba — we did one jewellery collection with one designer. Then I was going to go to Peru but I ended up going back home and something told me to go to Colombia. I went to Colombia, and we started with the five designers we currently work with.
It feels like it’s all coming together. I went out on a limb and found someone who wanted to do the same thing so that’s how it all got started.
How do you find the designers that you end up meeting?
There are a few different ways. Instagram and social media in general is a big component of how we find designers. Sometimes you find concept shops and you go in, and it’s multi brand and you see designers that you haven’t seen before. So it has been between social media, different shops, and just exploring Colombia.That’s one of the reasons I decided to be here for 2 1/2 months — so I could immerse myself and take my time. And go to markets. That’s another thing — sometimes we find people at markets. And then it’s about reaching out.
I was going to ask you to describe a day in your life but I realize that your days must vary greatly. So tell me what a month might look like.
In the field –like I’ve been for 2 1/2 months in Colombia — it’s waking up to emails, responding to emails, and having designer meetings. It would also include getting photos, getting designer bios, blogging, checking in with the base office, doing website edits, social media, going to events. Travelling — in just a month’s time I’ve been on flights from Cali to Medellin, to Choco, to Nuqui, then back to Medellin to Bogota. Sometimes we have to build out a collection. It’s a small team right now so it’s a lot.
What has been your most memorable moment so far?
These past 2 1/2 months in Colombia have been very memorable, but within these 2 1/2 months? I’m going to say the designer meetings. Having the opportunity to meet with the designers that I’ve been thinking of, that I have a list of. Them actually giving me their time is something I will always carry with me.
When I think about these months spent in Colombia, I will think about all these people that helped me. I
Mola hat by Lina Osorio
think of the hat designer — I saw her when I was here in February 2017 and I’ve been thinking about that lady since then. I’ve been stalking her Instagram. She was one of the first designers I sat down with when I got here to Bogotá and I had a moment, because I have been thinking about her for like six months and there I was sitting beside her. She liked what I had going on and I loved what she had going on, and now we’re about to start building what I hope will be a lasting relationship. And that was all because I went into a store and I put on a hat and felt really beautiful in it.
So I think sitting down with the designers and realizing that they didn’t have to take time to hear me out is what’s going to be the most memorable. At some point I’m going to look back and say we got our start in Colombia; these designers were our foundation.
What advice do you have for someone considering unconventional work?
Take risks. Do it, even if you don’t have the plan all worked out. Sometimes you may feel like you’re putting the cart before the horse but it’s okay, the pieces will fall together. But in order for you to do anything that you really love, anything that feels worth doing, your days are going to be uneasy until you get comfortable within yourself, not worrying about what everybody else is saying.
Do make plans but don’t wait until the plan is seemingly all together before you start. Just start. Even if you start and you have to stop, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily failed, it just means that it may be on pause. And so what if you do fail? You still have the opportunity to do something different, to take the lessons that you learned from whatever it was that you were trying to do. The money will come, the people will come, the support will come. And sometimes you’ll feel like those things aren’t coming, but nonetheless, you’ll be doing something you love to do and that is very satisfying.
Liza Echeverry and Bebe Singleton in Medellin
I can say that I lived in the states and I was making decent money for someone under 30 and I’m now as satisfied as I’ve been at a job making a ton of money, and it’s from the experiences that I’ve been able to have. You’ll find that when you start taking risks to do what you love, the Universe and God will look out for you and place you in the right situations with the right timing. I definitely have experienced that.
Is there anything else you wanted to add?
We have some great Colombian designers that we are going to start working with over the next few months. We are excited about the talent of women here, the level of creativity that is here. I’d also say that if anyone is thinking about coming to Colombia but they are unsure about it, they should come. And if you are looking for one-of-a-kind unique fashion, whether you go to our site or anybody else’s site, Colombia has fashion and accessories on lock right now. Colombia has a lot to offer.