Leslie Sanga builds womenswear brand Gacha slowly, purposefully
BY: TAMAR CELIS
Although her women's wear brand Gacha has yet to launch, Guam-grown Leslie Sanga is already committed to creating a long-lasting and purpose-driven business.
Sanga’s business takes its name from the CHamoru word gacha’, meaning to reach or to grasp. The local entrepreneur has her eyes set on the horizon, pursuing success through sustainable business choices and sound, faith-based ethics.
“You can't survive without profit, but that’s not my driving force,” Sanga says. “I was reading a book … about how to make a business last for decades. All of those businesses, they were very profitable businesses, but their driving force was always something more. I want Gacha to be like that to where it’s really the most meaningful purposes like sustainability, ethics, and of course our mission, to educate people.”
With the way she talks about style and clothing design, you would think that Sanga spent much of her adult life in the fashion industry.
On the contrary, the Gacha entrepreneur is a registered nurse who works at a clinic one to two days out of the week. She's also the mother of a toddler and a recreational photographer.
"I would say I'm a professional fashion observer," she chuckled. "I digest a lot of photos in fashion."
Photo by: Rick Cruz/Guam PDN
Sanga, who doesn't listen to her husband's requests to discard her fashion magazine collection, has appreciated style her whole life, although her career choices mostly orbited around her clinical background.
Her friends noticed the disparity. When she and her husband were living in California several years ago, Sanga's friend and the owner of the Guam brand Roots and Development asked her if she wanted to collaborate to do women's wear on Guam.
At the time, however, Sanga "just wasn't ready," she said.
It would take another one to two years and Sanga moving back to Guam for her to bring Gacha to life independently.
'Needed a purpose'
At Gacha, success is more intricate than supply and demand, overhead and profit.
"When I was doing my research ... about the idea of me opening up a brand, I was like, 'Why would I be worthy to even open up a brand?' I needed a purpose," she said.
To create purpose, and ultimately value, for Gacha, Sanga turned to brands and movements that she admired and looked at how they translated their principles into their products. Some of her inspirations include:
- Good American, Khloe Kardashian's denim and activewear brand that manufactures clothes from sizes 00 to 24;
- Fashion Revolution, a global network of consumers and businesspeople pushing for more transparency about the fashion industry's most pressing issues, such as unethical working conditions;
- Get Redressed, a Hong Kong-based organization encouraging less textile waste in clothing production; and
- The R Collective, a fashion brand affiliated with Get Redressed that upcycles waste materials into clothes.
For Sanga, creating value for her brand is less about numbers than it is about respectable actions and healthy business relationships.
"I would say if other businesses can respect us and like what we’re doing, what are our actions, are our actions respectable. To me, that’s how I personally would measure the success of the brand," Sanga said.
As a proponent of “slow fashion,” part of the marketing campaign for Gacha involves quite a bit of education about the fashion industry and consumer habits.
Slow fashion is the industry’s response to the cycle of overproduction and waste, or “fast fashion,” utilized by many larger clothing brands, she said.
Photo by: Rick Cruz/Guam PDN
“(Fast fashion companies) just produce and produce and produce, and sometimes you really question about the amount that they're producing. They sell clothes for really cheap because they're just trying to make as much as they can from the overproduction that they made instead of just throwing it away,” Sanga said. “We’re trying to be the exact opposite of that.”
Although Gacha is not completely environmentally sustainable — “yet,” Sanga said — she's already developed business habits based on the principles of slow fashion and other ethical movements.
One recent drawback served as a test of her commitment to her ideals.
In mid-March, Sanga announced her brand would launch March 30. Several days after her announcement, her manufacturing partner in the Philippines informed her it wouldn't be able to ship the clothes in time for the event.
On the official Gacha website, she wrote that the incident reminded her how crucial it is to build genuine relationships with business partners. Sanga explained that the unexpected news also was an opportunity for her to practice transparency for Gacha.
Gacha’s launch date has not yet been announced. Sanga, however, continues to keep her potential customers in the loop about the process of bringing the women's wear brand to life.
On the web
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