Yana Barankin and Eric Dales are co-founders of TAMGA designs, a sustainable and conscious clothing brand born in Bangladesh and raised in Canada. Yana is the creative director and Eric is the operations director, and TAMGA designs is the result of a travel journey where the Founders saw first-hand how Western brands were being manufactured in South-East Asia. TAMGA is driven to prove that socially and environmentally clothing is not too expensive to produce.
Do you know where you got your drive from?
Yana: My mom, for sure. She showed me by example that anything is possible. We lived in three different countries when I was growing up, and she always found a way to land on her feet.
Eric: I’m not really sure about what gives a person “drive”. I’ve always been very curious, and it’s led me into some pretty interesting jobs so far. Growing up, I never had a sliver of doubt that I could do anything or go anywhere, I think my parents did a good job of instilling that belief.
How do you stay self-motivated?
Yana: By having big goals! The bigger the better – it makes me work harder each day with the hopes of achieving them.
Eric: By reminding myself that anything is possible. The perfect antidote to feeling stuck is having big dreams.
What would you say is your preferred way to network?
Yana: Keep it casual over coffee or a beer.
Eric: Over the years we’ve met some pretty amazing people by just staying open to new connections. It’s been 5 months since we launched TAMGA, and in that time period we’ve met so many helpful people in Toronto. An open mind, and the willingness to have coffee or hop on Skype with a stranger is probably the most important thing.
How would you describe your process for deepening relationships?
Yana: To have deep, long-lasting and meaningful relationships I invest a lot of time getting to know the person. Their passions, dreams, beliefs and even favorite pizza toppings is how deep relationships form.
Eric: I think the best way to deepen relationships in your career is to be honest about what you’re trying to achieve. It can take time to figure out, but once you know what incentivizes people – whether it’s your colleague, boss, employee or supplier – then you have a shared foundation.
What are your preferred tools for keeping organized?
Yana: Lists! I keep a lot of them in my head but writing things down on paper and crossing them out helps me stay on top of tasks.
Eric: I have the momentum extension on chrome, it has a built-in to-do list and a different inspirational photo and quote every day. It’s such a simple tool, but it’s the first screen I see when I log into my computer so it’s a great home base. Other than that, google calendar is getting used more and more as we get busier.
What is your favourite way to market your product or services?
Yana: I do all the photography for our website so doing photoshoots is by far my favorite way to market! I always feel so inspired and creative when shooting for TAMGA and I love the post-production editing process.
Eric: In-person. There’s only so much you can say about your company online, and the rest is up to the user’s perception. Clothing is something that everyone can relate to, but most people have a pretty shallow relationship with the materials. It’s amazing to connect people to our clothing and see their reaction first-hand.
Who has been your mentor in helping you find success?
Yana: Before launching, TAMGA received a loan from Futurpreneur, an Ontario organization that supports start-ups with pre-revenue capital. Through this program we were also hooked up with a mentor – he’s an executive at Indigo and has been an incredible adviser. In a start-up your team is kind of operating in a bubble, having someone with experience and an outside perspective is so valuable.
What social issue does your organization raise funds and/or awareness for?
Eric: Garment manufacturing is the second most polluting industry in the world, and a huge employer of child and forced labour. We were living and working in Bangladesh for a few years, and we saw a lot of brands look the other way when they could have been confronting the problem. We basically just said “enough is enough”.
All TAMGA clothing is made in a supply chain that we set up ourselves and share on our website, no middlemen or shady factories. Every piece is made using eco-friendly materials, by people who benefit from good jobs and social security for themselves and their families. Our goal is to make sustainable fashion as accessible as organic food – so that consumers always have an option that suits their values.
How and where do you continue to learn?
Yana: I feel like the best way to learn is through going for it and more than often, making mistakes. Learning from our mistakes has led a huge learning curve not just in business but in life.
Eric: Agreed. We’re learning every day. Being a start-up, we have to wear a lot of hats – we can be accountants, advertisers, programmers, photographers and event planners all on the same day.
Do you have a fitness ritual that you live by?
Yana: Bikram yoga is my jam. 90 minutes of pure torture and I feel like a million bucks afterwards.
Eric: Running is the closest thing to a ritual when I’m inland – anything in the ocean when I’m on the coast.
How do you feed your soul?
Yana: Through travel, photography and meeting people from all walks of life.
Eric: Being outdoors!
How would you describe the eating ritual that makes you feel most powerful?
Yana: I am big on salads and seafood. I usually try to get as many fruit and veggies as I can each day. Also, coffee gives me life.
Eric: You can’t really beat eating local food in season. Other than that, any food involving peanut butter.
What type of content do you find most compelling on Instagram?
Yana: The content I find most compelling on Instagram involves travel, culture, color and textiles.
Eric: I’m following some great outdoor photographers right now, it’s strange admiring the outdoors from a screen but that’s probably the content I enjoy the most.
What lifestyle brand would you say shares your values most?
Yana: Patagonia is a huge inspiration for TAMGA – I find that our values and ethos align with Patagonia’s and our long-term mission to see environmental and social change in the fashion industry is an important one. I truly believe that transparency, accountability to people and the planet and scalability is what makes a business successful.
Who is your favourite artist?
Yana: Salvador Dali. His work is wacky but it’s been my favorite since I was a teen.
Eric: Tom Thomson from the Group of Seven. His paintings always bring me straight back to our amazing Ontario landscapes.
What is your favourite meal?
Yana: Kale salad with baked salmon.
Eric: I love cooking and eating wood fired pizza.