In commemoration of Koua Mexico new campaign ‘Life is a Journey’ and the recent launch of the online business club ‘Enterprise League’, between laughs and talk, while enjoying breakfast at Allbright in Mayfair. We were reunited with the 4 entrepreneurial women on a table discussing different kind of topics regarding the concept of ‘SUSTAINABILITY’ and the way it is taking place within the fashion industry.
‘TO PURSUE THE DREAM’
Sabinna is a trained designer. Her journey started early on with her having 2 sisters and along with her mother they would create clothes for all sisters. Her deal was to either go 100% into something or not do it at all. Studied Slavic languages because she didn’t get accepted into her university of choice at first. Then she started working
for a designer in Vienna and after a while decided to apply to Central Saint Martins School of Design and got accepted (without any training but she worked in fashion/retail since age 14). While studying she continued working, her brand is a conscious fashion brand with all garments made in Europe. She also lectures at the University of Arts London, London College of Fashion – Commercial course. She does public speaking about empowerment, sustainability and business modelling.
She describes the last 5years of her life were the best though it had its challenges of being exhausting and sad, it was the most rewarding.
’It’s all a journey and we come up with our learnings and evolutions’.
Even though Sabinna thinks is not possible to be 100% sustainable business because the whole concept of fashion is not sustainable. She thinks that people are not ready to let go of the comfort that comes from exploiting people.
It’ s comfort to buy from mainstream high street brands’
Life is a journey and we need to: ‘Cherish every moment while making change happen today, not tomorrow.’
Gold Advice for business owner: Keep going, keep trying, keep innovating.
Fabric for Freedom
After working as a buyer for many years in the fast fashion industry. She realised about the sad side of it and wanted to make a change so she decided to start her own contemporary fashion label with recycled and organic fabrics as an expression of change and freedom ‘Fabric For Freedom’. She worked at Vivian Westwood brand where she got focused
on the environment impact in fashion. In her experience as a fashion buyer, Esther thinks that if you don’t have a buyer in your company the company would fail because this is where they are striving to make their profits (by having 70% margins) but at the same time as a buyer you are responsible for the whole supplies materials, designs etc.
People in the buyer industry are responsible for everything and sometimes they act unethically. Buyers are trained to be aggressive to get the lowest possible price for materials and they continue with the same approach upon climbing the ladder with the attitude to show the newcomers in the industry how tough it can be.
If you are a bit different you can progress quickly. It is important that you live and breathe what you preach.
Finding her journey difficult coming from the north of England to London to pursue her dream, Esther has faced some challenges in her business.
She is quoted as saying “certificates cost a lot of money so a small business is always losing because they cannot afford the certificates”, as one of the challenges faced
This is the biggest issue for Esther, not being able to afford the certificate for her supply chain although she has been working on making her supply chain sustainable.
Life is a journey and we need to: Be prepared for the high & lows, in the lows remain confident, strong and determined; Remember your vision.
Gold Advice for business owner: Work together, share knowledge, support each other.
CEO & Founder
Born and raised in Italy.
She worked in Finance for 15 years before going for fashion technology in London.
With a dissertation based on successful models for selling luxury online she launched Flair Atelier a platform that produces on demand within 2 weeks allowing women to customise online garments that reflect their style.
Flair Atelier’s main concept is the supply chain. Fashion produces too much and then tries to sell, hence predicting what trends will be. If you produce after you sell, your cash flow will be very stable.
At the moment they do B2B for other brands to customise. They are doing consulting in digital customisation and sustainability: they came up with a model with 8 verticals (fairness of labor, CO2 pollution, equality, plastic pollution, transparency etc.).
They create a web chart where they analyse the company’s current standing, how much they pollute etc.
One of their clients work in swimwear and their priority is to care about water and then once this is achieved they can continue on the next one. A good process to learn about what you need to work on and improve.
Can you be sustainable and fashionable at the same time?
‘Fashion and sustainability is a complicated balance’
‘It’s not possible to be 100% sustainable business. The whole concept of fashion is not sustainable.’ Sabinna
We need to change the way we consume fashion. At the moment there is a huge desire to buy the novelty a soon as possible. Conscious brands are suffering in profits especially when due to sustainability they are missing out on sales like BF etc.
‘Small or big we all have the same difficulties. Even if you’re a small business you still have to have a great packaging/presentation, no-one will excuse you.’
Life is a journey and we need to: Build resilience and trust ourselves.
Gold Advice for business owner: Surround yourself with knowledgeable people
Grew up around fragrance as her father is in the industry. She is a nature freak, she went to university and did an Environmental Science Degree and few modules in Environmental Law. Her first job was in a sustainability agency dealing with carbon offsetting. This is where she had
some clients that were asking how much they could pay to say they are doing the right thing. She did an internship at the market place ‘fashion compassion’ and worked with a couple of fashion companies where she got that interest for the fashion industry.
Her brand, Conscious House produces Eco-friendly skincare and homemade accessories striving for zero waste and plastic free alternatives. Conscious House supports a sustainable charity called SEED Madagascar.
You have to pick your battles in terms of sustainability. Small businesses feel alone, with limited financials/budget and building connections is very important for collaborating and growing.
Life is a journey and we need to: Savour it, leave our own little bit of positive for those who come next.
Gold Advice for business owner: Keep going if it’s a passion it will work. And keep track of your financials.
Grew up in a very entrepreneurial environment as her father founded and is running several companies. She is a creative and practical mind always seeking solutions. She went to university in the UK and completed a Bachelor’s degree in business and management and followed it with a Master’s in Service Economy.
Her first job was in a business analyst role at a telecom company. This is where she worked on some business development project and run into several obstacles when seeking for new specific business partners. The specifications were asking for very particular requirements it proved an extremely challenging task to find a tool that would accept all your filter criteria and provide you with potential companies matching your needs.
She identified a need for such an end to end solution that would enable companies to easily find each other. Upon working in the digital marketing sector and encountering the same issue time and time again, Irina decided to make it her mission to facilitate this service.
Her business, Club Enterprise League brings companies around the world in one place where you can find whatever you’re looking for with the simple yet extensive search engine. Enterprise League’s mission is to give small businesses the tools they need to become more independent and achieve faster growth. As a female entrepreneur and a passionate advocate about the social and environmental impact we have on our planet, Irina collaborates with other entrepreneurs whose goal is to make a positive impact in the world.
She supports women in business as well as companies that are on a social and environmental mission with the mindset that: “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Life is a journey and we need to: Keep learning and take action today, not tomorrow.
Gold Advice for business owner: Be resourceful, collaborate and share knowledge. Together we can go further than just trying alone.
Born and raised in Mexico City. After working in a telecommunications company for 5 years developing new business ideas, Erika moved to London to do a master’s degree in Fashion Marketing. She started her own label one year after with the purpose of sharing her Mexican culture through fashion and supporting indigenous communities in Mexico.
After many ups and downs, Erika recently launched her new collection called ‘Life is a Journey’ which enhances the Mexican tradition ‘Day of the Dead’.
Erika’s brand goal is to support Mexican indigenous people from local towns and to provide a hand-mad, long-lasting item to her customers.
She states “There is a story behind every item I produce, I want to offer a piece of Mexico through my products”.
Even though her biggest challenge has been to keep a healthy supply chain in terms of time and costs, she believes that the secret is in the transparency and the unique branding.
Her belief is stated when she says “We should join forces with other brands that are trying to make a positive impact instead of competing, if you are unique, you don’t have competition”.
With her last campaign, she wants to make people conscious about the journey of life. She believes that we all came to this life to teach and learn from others and you are learning the lessons you didn’t achieve in previous lives.
What fuels you to keep going in business?
My social responsibility. Only 1% of people in Mexico have the opportunity to study abroad and I belong to that 1%. We face a lot of social problems in Mexico, it is a luxury to afford education in my country. My mission is to give back opportunities to the indigenous people. Despite having a difficult financial year, I realised that I still have the knowledge, experience and passion to keep going.
Life is a journey and we need to: Live it fully, we are here to teach and learn, we are just spirits.
Gold Advice for business owner: Learn from your mistakes, have a clear objectives and vision of your business.
After a debate while enjoying the last cup of tea, they concluded that ‘Fashion and sustainability’ is a complicated balance. It’s not possible to be 100% sustainable business. The whole concept of fashion is not sustainable.
We need to change the way we consume fashion. At the moment there is a huge desire to buy the novelty a soon as possible. Conscious brands are suffering in profits especially when due to sustainability they are missing out on sales because their can cover their costs.
As consumers we still don’t understand what is recyclable and what isn’t. A sign that says it’s recyclable doesn’t mean that it is completely recycled but rather that it had been recycled at some point in the lifecycle of this plastic.
At the end they didn’t want to use the term ‘SUSTAINABLE’ because they all think that concept is everywhere. Nowadays we don’t know if it’s a buzzword or there is actually a real positive impact behind something.
They wanted to called it ‘Positive social impact’.