Fashion is big business. The global apparel market is growing year on year and is expected to reach an extravagant USD$1.5 trillion in 2020. But what does it take to be successful in such a competitive industry that is already bursting at the seams? From fast fashion to luxury jewellery, let’s take a look at some of the brains behind the beauty, iconic founders changing the face of fashion as we know it.
Founder: Monica Vinader | Company: Monica Vinader
Monica Vinader, the iconic founder of the multi-million pound brand of the same name began with the intention to create luxury jewellery for the everyday. A mid-way point between fine and fashion jewellery. Monica, together with her sister Gabriela, ex-Amazon employee, now COO, founded the company in 2008. Hailing from a converted forge behind Monica’s house, quality control took place in a shed (not unlike Amazon), but the pair struggled to raise funds during the economic downturn. Taking out a loan and starting by selling online and in boutiques, her business began to sparkle and the world-renowned Fiji friendship bracelet, one of Monica Vinader’s signature items, arrived in stores the following year. The success of the company despite beginning amidst a global financial crisis is a testament to the value of their jewellery. Fast forward to 2020, where Monica’s iconic pieces can be found around the globe; London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Seoul, Singapore, New York and California; worn by Emma Watson, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and The Duchess of Cambridge. You can find bracelets, earrings, necklaces, rings and pendant charms, beautifully designed and reasonably priced. How did Monica achieve this? By utilising vermeil - silver or bronze which has been gilded with gold - the look of luxury at a fraction of the cost. Each item comes with a 5 year warranty and lifetime repairs thereafter. Luxury pieces you will wear everyday and love for life.
Monica Vinader wearing Monica Vinader, naturally…
Founder: Stella McCartney | Company: Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney pioneered sustainability within the notoriously unsustainable fashion industry and served as an inspiration to many others to follow. A life-long vegetarian, born into a family of animal rights activists and entrepreneurs, with her parents founding Linda McCartney vegetarian food products, Stella continued the family tradition of business with a purpose. Stella was a natural to the world of fashion after designing her first jacket at just 13 years old, and two years after graduating from Central St Martins she was appointed Creative Director of Chloe in Paris.
The Stella McCartney brand was initially launched in 2001 as a joint venture with French luxury goods company Kering (formerly Gucci Group). True to her values, Stella never used leather or fur in her designs. Successfully becoming the face of fashion sustainability, Stella utilises her platform to raise awareness on issues of water consumption, chemicals and waste in the fashion industry. A catalyst for positive change, her company continuously innovates, seeking new ways to create silk, sourcing vegetarian leather and utilising recycled sources for synthetic materials, as well as partnering with Italian denim brand Candiani to launch a line utilising biodegradable denim.
You can now find men, women, children’s clothing in over 50 stores around the world including well-loved locations from Milan to Manhattan and London to LA, as well as Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing. In 2018 Stella McCartney bought out Kering’s 50% stake, and now fully owns the company bearing her name. Stella’s net worth is $75 million, showcasing that sustainable style sells.
What do football and fashion fans have in common? We both love Stella.
Founder: Mahmud Kamani | Company: Boohoo.com
Founders: Umar and Adam Kamani | Company: Prettylittlething.com
Boohoo.com and Pretty Little Thing have become somewhat the faces of fast fashion in the UK. Mahmud Kamani, founder of Boohoo.com began life in England selling handbags on Manchester’s market before capitalising on his connections in India and the UK to create a textile distribution network. Mahmud was selling textiles and cheap clothing to high street stores including Primark and New Look, before the family realised that anything these shops could do, the Kamani’s could do better. And so, Boohoo.com was born. Cutting out the middleman in 2006, Boohoo retailed cheap clothing directly to customers online. In the midst of the online shopping boom, people could access affordable clothing and accessories, day or night. They are now the fastest growing fast fashion retailer, cutting out fixed costs of stores by selling exclusively online. The Boohoo Group now values at more than $3.8 billion!
After working for Boohoo, Mahmud Kamani’s sons, Umar and Adam Kamani, founded Pretty Little Thing in 2012, initially focusing on accessories. Umar has quickly become the face of Pretty Little Thing, and a poster boy for the notion that significant success is not dependent upon academic success. Umar quite literally went from rags to riches; sharing a house with 17 others, being expelled from school and failing a business degree, on to the CEO of the multi-million pound company and securing a place on Drapers’ 30 Under 30 list of rising stars and Tatler magazine’s most eligible bachelors. His clothes can be seen on the likes of Miley Cyrus and Jessie J and is often seen jet-setting to exotic places. It appears the education he gained through his family and experiences have taken him further than a business degree ever could have.
The man behind the brand
Founder: Connie Nam | Company: Astrid & Miyu
While attending London Business School, Connie Nam and Jenny Orlova founded Astrid & Miyu as a solution to a key problem. The problem? lack of individual expression permitted by suits and black dress uniforms of investment banking. The answer? Astrid & Miyu. Jewellery that enables individual personalities to sparkle. Earrings, earcuffs, necklaces, bracelets, hair accessories, piercings and even tattoos! Connie’s initial inspiration stemmed from her mother, and hailing from a background of investment banking and luxury branding industries, Connie enjoys experience as both buyer and seller. Astrid & Miyu is coming up to a decade in business, growing at more than 200% year-on-year and notable celebrity customers include Pippa Middleton. The company utilises a multi-channel strategy, primarily via e-commerce but also in stores internationally, from Selfridges in London to Le Bon Marche in Paris. Magnifique!
Inspired to start your own company? Connie Nam has some advice! When asked in an interview for advice to give anyone looking to start their own business, Connie answered “test your product/idea as soon as possible (even with a full-time job) as your initial concept will never be the one you end up with, and you will have loads of waiting period. Also do your best in whatever job you're in, as you never know which one of the skills you learned from your job (even the most tedious stuff) will be useful in starting your own company” - there you have it!
Pop into their gorgeous Covent Garden shop – you won’t be disappointed!
So what does it take to be successful? Aside from finding a gap, even as small as the eye of a needle, in the market, it takes vision and a dedication to the dream. Whether creating affordable luxury-style jewellery for the everyday, embracing digitalisation to bring accessible fashion to the masses, showcasing the success of slower fashion or designing elegant jewellery to dress up even the dullest of business outfits; these fashion founders built their empires from extremely different starting points, but they all share these common traits. They should serve as inspiration to us all.