Name: Valentina Karellas
Business: Valentina Karellas – Made of London (Womens Knitwear Clothing brand)
Website link: http://valentinakarellas.com
Valentina (a truely hidden and shy figure in business) created a sustainable approach to urban chic. London’s antidote to fast fashion. Where every piece of knitwear is one-of-a-kind. That’s because we use surplus yarn from large factories that would otherwise have gone to waste. Seeing the impact of fashion waste first hand, Valentina has made the main goal and ethos to be sustainable. The collection is made to order, zero waste, this means no overstocking, no discounting, just buying consciously, great quality pieces that look stylish and chic.
Valentina, what is the inspiration behind Valentina Karellas the brand? My original focus was to bring back manufacturing to the UK. I felt the industry was yearning for good quality knitwear that the UK could have pride in. However, I then found that finding factories to make my designs were few and far between, therefore, I took the plunge and created my own mini production. I found by default, (through having the machines and know how), that I was led to observe all the waste produced. This made me ask myself; if I as one small brand was creating all this very expensive waste, what was the impact globally from the waste the rest of the fashion houses produce? What responsibility do we have as producers in keeping fashion chic, beautiful, yet sustainable?
What are the key foundations of your business? Essentially, chic, sustainability and quality are my foundations of my business. Keeping the designs and ideas fresh, yet creating long lasting, timeless pieces – meaning you don’t need to follow trends or buy items that will only last a few months.
How has your business grown since you first launched? My business is only 6 months old, still in its early stages, however, since the launch in August 2016, I have had my own solo pop-up store in Clerkenwell, which has gained a whole new clientele for the brand, there has been steady organic brand awareness through referrals and social platforms. I have also been selected by the Department of International Trade (DIT) to showcase my work and brand in Hong Kong to encourage British Brands to export internationally, this is very exciting, as my brand will be seen on the opposite side of the world where they appreciate quality and style from the UK.
What have been your biggest struggles since launching? Being seen and heard, I am definitely plankton in a sea of whales, even though my message is clear and admired, there are far more brands out there with big budgets for marketing to demonstrate their uniqueness, however, this has just meant I have had to work harder and learnt a great deal, which only comes with having your own business.
What have been your greatest achievements? Soon after launching I was selected to be in the directory of Not Just a Label, it may have been small for a lot of brands, but I like the idea that I am up there with all these amazingly talented Designers – my peers, and I am proud to be alongside them. As well as being selected by DIT to showcase my work in Asia, there was a lot of applicants, therefore, I am very pleased they took the risk on me, as it allows the fashion industry insiders to see my work in a Hong Kong, an amazing fashion hub.
What differentiates you from your competitors? The main difference is I don’t think there are many luxury Knitwear brands that also produce in London, there are a couple knitwear companies that produce outside of London. I also feel my designs are not completely traditional in terms of knitwear, I like to play with lines and colours. I also don’t see other brands as my competitors, I see them as my peers where we can learn from each other.
How would you encourage someone who wants to use your service? The bottom line is money. Will someone spend a significant amount more for a piece of clothing? Well, when people understand the true cost of buying ‘disposable’ clothing, they will think twice about buying a £3 top, but expressing the long lasting look and design, for a piece that can be worn for 30 years and passed down generations, that I would say is a huge saving.
What are your goals for your business over the next few years? To continue as I am going, spreading the word on sustainable fashion and the effects of fast fashion on the environment. I would like to build brand synergies with tech companies, mixing fashion with tech, as well as build international stockists. The end goal is to fundamentally go back to my original idea which is bringing back manufacturing to the UK and hopefully London, train already talented people to make great quality, long lasting clothing.
What is your message to the reader? Don’t be afraid to start your journey, don’t be afraid to be different, step away from the norm and be brave. Think about what you buy, what you wear and the quality it brings to your life and the people around you.
Valentina, your story is perfect for my blog and this series. You exemplify the true meaning of an emerging, sustainable brand, in my eyes. As you grow and blossom, I wish you so much success and hope you grow from strength the strength.
I love your ethos and what you stand for!
Keep up the good work.
My name is Nicola and this is my blog!