We design timeless womenswear that is beautifully crafted, honestly made and to cherish forever.
How did it all begin?
I’ve always used style and the clothes I wear as a way to express the creative side of my personality. I noticed whilst boutique high street shopping that the human connection to the garment or accessories I was interested in purchasing was absent. I wanted to know where the fabric had come from? Had it been produced in a planet friendly manner? Who had made my garment and were they paid fairly? At a similar time, I had undertaken a personal project to design, sew and create dresses for my two daughters, as we had some weddings to attend. Taking the positive response I had received on the girl’s dresses, together with what I had observed as missing in the womenswear market, the brand style and ideologies began to form.
What sets your business apart?
It is of utmost importance that not only do our clients feel great in their attire, but they are armed with the knowledge on how to style and care for their VAAI garment. Each purchase comes with a style board that suggests three ways to create different looks with the same item. If a client makes their purchase in-store we discuss this with them, whilst our online customers receive a personalised style and care guide email. We also offer a bespoke and made-to-measure service for those clients who want to have an immersive style and fit experience.
What is the concept behind your business or the problem you’re solving?
All our pieces are designed with the intention of defining our muse’s style, taking her from day to night in the same outfit seamlessly. With our garments we provide a human connection alongside a feel-beautiful factor. We want our muse to wear our pieces in the knowledge that the garment has been created with utmost respect for the planet and the artisans who produced it.
Where to next/What is your brand vision?
When I think of the future of VAAI, I think about what the next generation would want from a brand that they invest in. Our top priority is to make the brand as sustainably tight and supply chain transparent as possible. It’s currently a DTC business, but the vision is wholesale to Independent boutiques especially those that nurture client relations and provide a personalised styling service. I want our garments to be accessible to all, which is why we already have some of our pieces on a leading rental platform, with more to come. In the short-term, we will continue to nurture our existing clients and increase brand awareness through media and women’s networks.
What do you feel passionate about/what drives you?
Educating ourselves and future generations on living a lifestyle that is sustainable and ethical. I feel strongly that we should all be treated and treat others as equals whatever our race, religion, sex and/or background.
Share an example of early life that has shaped you?
The training I encountered during my PhD and years in academia have had a major influence on me as a person. This experience has armed me with a skill set that is transferable to many industries. It’s given me the ability to research, manage budgets, network, be analytical and strategise, communicate – all essential tools for being a business owner.
Highlights of your business journey so far?
My biggest highlight has been the past three years and setting up a business with minimal industry knowledge and formal business training! It’s been a steep yet amazing learning curve. Our successes include presenting a collection at India Fashion Week London 2017, presenting my collection in a Paris showroom that is run by an industry expert who was the first to spot Alexander McQueen, and dressing some well-known presenters and businesswomen.
Key lessons you have learned along the way?
Don’t hold back on reaching out to industry experts for advice. Mistakes will be made, it’s part of the learning curve and only strengthens the business.
Best piece of advice you have received?
Surround yourself with positive people, they will help you to thrive.
Advice to an aspiring entrepreneur or woman just starting her career?
Just go for it, you never want to look back and regret. And also have a sound business plan before you start (it’s ok for it to change along the way)!
What funding route have you chosen for your business and why?
So far, the business has been self-funded, with turnover being re-invested. For future growth the aim is to prove the concept is successful and then raise long-term investment.
Some of the challenges you have faced and how you overcame them?
My biggest challenge was coming into fashion from another industry. It’s been a steep learning curve and I’ve had to educate myself to understand the processes of running a fashion business.
Why is it important to support women-led business?
I’m an advocate of supporting other women-led business – it builds confidence, encourages equality in gender related work issues and is a great way to approach collaborative projects.
My inspiration is...
All around me – architecture, art, the world and its people.
My greatest fear is...
Is a spider!
The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is...
Leave academic research and change my career entirely!
Mantra you live by?
Stay healthy and fit.
Female role model?
Women-led brand you love?
Top productivity tool?
My Macbook and Google calendar!
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