It’s hard to answer, “What do I do?” The easier question to answer would be “What don’t I do?”
I am Angela, the owner and designer of Anjé, which is a women’s lifestyle ready to wear line for the modern woman. Owning and operating Anjé is really two fold. The side most people know about is all of the women’s wear we design and produce. But there is also a studio side, which is all about creative assets. We love finding and connecting with other creative people who may need work done like a logo or a tee shirt or displays to help with their branding.
I think the main thing that makes us different is our focus on real everyday women. So often you find yourself seeing beautiful things on the runway – they are artistic, creative, groundbreaking and yet we pause and say “but where would I ever wear that?” I wanted to solve that problem and give people another option to not just see fashion but to finally wear and embrace it. So much of our feedback with the line was that our customers love how wearable everything was and that’s exactly what I was going for. I design to wear.
When I first went into business I wanted create this wearable lifestyle brand because I found myself being the customer that needed it the most. Every time I went into work, usually pulling 12-16 hour long days, I wouldn’t have time to go back home and get another outfit to attend meetings or even to be able to grab a few cocktails with friends. So I was your typical bag lady lugging around outfits that represented who I really was versus work “me”. I kept thinking to myself “there has to be a better way, why can’t I just wear an outfit that would carry me through both my professional and personal life?” I mean I wasn’t living two separate lifestyles, I’m not two different people - why can’t my clothes represent that?
So I thought why not get into fashion and fix that. I first got into the fashion industry with VS Pink & Limited Brands. It was very much a corporate environment. There I started as an executive assistant to the SVP and soaked up as much as I could from all those around me since I was only there for a 6 month contract. There were people so willing to help me with anything I needed and I took advantage of that. It ended up leading me to receiving 3 different offers within the company. I ended up going the route of the Design Studio where I got to work with the VP of Design and the VP of Product Development. Those exposures alone as well as volunteering to sit in on as many corporate big wig meetings as possible really gave me a deep understanding of the fashion industry and what it really took to have your own brand.
After a couple of years I decided to move on to another company on the manufacturing side, one that had less of a corporate feel. So I went from being the brand to now dealing with brands as their domestic production partner. I can’t explain how valuable it was for me seeing both sides of the industry at such an early stage in my career.
But when you’re in those non-corporate settings there are some things you need to get used to dealing with. There is a lack of structure that can sometimes make or break someone depending on your personality. There was an older worker in that company that really didn’t like how fast I was rising in the company with success. Because of that she ended up doing some really shady things like move my orders off of the production line in order to get her own work done sooner when I was out of the office. At times this was just for her to catch up with workload, which I can understand. It really hit me when the other times seemed to be for no reason at all other than to be devious. It was this ego trip where you can tell she may have just wanted some sort of power over me…to hold me down. There were many other things that just weren’t acceptable that I had to push through during my time there. I ended up staying for about 4-5 years and then moved onto another non-corporate licensed apparel company. There I also saw a lot of practices I also didn’t always agree with. Nonetheless I used the experiences as learning opportunities. It made me realize just how important it would be to treat your people and I knew I was going to make that a focal point of a company if I ever made one.
There were also times where I felt really discouraged about pursuing fashion. It seemed like I kept reading news about deep-rooted corruption with fashion companies on the backend. I think back to those garment factory fires in Bangladesh and how devastating that was but also how frequent these types of things happened. On the positive side, it seemed to spark an awakening with the general public about fast fashion retailers. Though fast fashion will never go away, I wanted to be a part of the solution by taking the domestic manufacturing route. I wanted to be an entrepreneur who could control all the vital parts of the organization, which includes keeping an eye on the factories and ensuring everyone gets treated as best as possible. It’s exciting to be a part of such positive change and I love being able to say our garments our made right here in NYC.
Before getting to that point there was a lot of fear. I think that’s what hold most potential entrepreneur’s back. I want everyone reading to know that it’s normal. Almost necessary…Whenever I was at work I used to ask myself “ok if this was my company, how would I tackle x,y and z?” There were so many things I just wasn’t able to answer – whether it is about marketing or merchandising – it was all so overwhelming. I felt pretty defeated at times. Then one day I realized – I don’t always know all the answers when I’m doing my own job but I still would end up figuring it out. I never stopped before so why would I stop now? If you cared enough about something, you would fight to figure it out as you go. I changed my mentality and finally accepted that I did not HAVE to have all the answers right this second. I always believed in my heart I was supposed to be an entrepreneur. It was time to let it happen.
Since then, Anjé has been in business now for two years. We were able to have our first trade show last year and actually make sales, which isn’t too common when you’re starting out. To me, that was validation that we were on the right track. After that we were also able to secure our first big venture capital deal. I knew exactly what we needed from the capital – marketing and advertising. Soon after we had our first official runway show, which really set us on another level. We were officially listed on the CFDA calendar that shows you are in the fashion world. We made it, but…there is only so much a brand can do in a saturated market. That said, there are so many brands looking to do exactly what you are doing so it’s about how you do it, how differently you do it and how well you do it. Every accomplishment thus far as been awesome and a great part of the journey but it’s just that…a part. You have to never settle and keep pushing for more.
Next for us would be expansion. I want to take Anjé to as many people as possible and there are markets ripe for our brand. Again I am not looking to just build a clothing line, Anjé is a lifestyle brand. Menswear and kids are on the horizon. I’d also love to find a way to integrate technology. I want to be the pioneer who helps bridge the gap with retail and modern consumers. Brick and mortar isn’t necessary with the success of online. I want our stores to be an experience, an interactive space with curated items that really represent our lifestyle.
It’s still unbelievable thinking that this is all real. I grew up from a small town in upstate New York being super sheltered and introverted. I was fortunate to have an uncle who really changed my life with how outgoing he was. He was the type that would spin a globe, stop it with one finger and say that is where we are going to be traveling. It was things like spontaneous travel that really cultured me and opened my eyes up to all the possibilities in life. Growing up I thought I wanted to be a teacher because part of me always wanted to help people find within themselves, what I was able to find. Beneath all of those layers, lies untapped inspiration. I feel like there were times I was growing up in a world that was written for me and I needed to just change the chapter and start writing my own story. I believe I am finally doing that with Anjé and I’m excited to see how the rest of the story unfolds.