This week we set down with Ani, founder of AYANI clothing, to discuss her professional journey, why and how she started the company, the importance of the female network and what confidence means to her.
Niharika: Tell us a little about what were you doing before AYANI? Your professional journey?
Ani: I obtained a degree in Social Psychology and with a strong focus on Marketing and Business Administration. I did my internship at Nivea (Beiersdorf AG) in Hamburg after which I realized the corporate field was not for me and I joined an ecommerce startup in Berlin. The startup was offering various advertising services for large multinational companies like Ebay, Zalando, Asos, etc. At first being in charge of project management, I soon joined the management team and became Head of Online marketing, leading a team of 18 people, creating and executing international campaigns across our platforms.
Niharika: How and why did you come up with the idea of starting AYANI?
Ani: It all started some years ago when I was still working in a company and I was struggling to find professional looking dresses. Over the years I've accumulated a wardrobe full of clothes that either don't stand more than 3 washes or aren't comfortable to wear in everyday life. So having so many clothes yet struggling to find what to wear every morning, I wanted to create a 5-minute workwear fix, to remove the morning stress and allow to have more time for myself.
Back in 2016, I started to read a lot of books that awakened me on the impact of consumerism on our society and the environment. They also made me realize that every time I buy something, I support the organization behind it, making me more conscious about companies I buy goods from. I started to believe in the purchasing power of every one of us and found myself more and more committed to a mindful way of living. Realizing that I could create a business that is a force for good.
So I quit my job, which gave me more time to travel and visit Armenia, the homeland of my parents. Unfortunately, due to its geolocation Armenia has for centuries, & up to now, been in an unstable political and economical situation. Struggling to find a job, many young people are leaving the country to build their professional life elsewhere. Seeing this, I wanted to create an opportunity for people to fulfill their professional needs and provide them with adequate living conditions.
That's how the idea was born. All three elements are essential to me in describing the concept behind AYANI.
Niharika: You don't come from a designing background professionally, were there any challenges you faced because of that?
Ani: Yes, it was tricky in the beginning as I did not know where to start. I always try to educate myself before asking others for help or advice. So I watched many Skillshare videos and others tutorials on what the process is like, how to source fabrics, what to pay attention when talking to the pattern maker, etc. Afterwards I was meeting with people who are working in the fashion industry and asking them questions with the goal to understand if I am on the right track. Everyone has their way of doing things, and I believe that you should not copy someone else. Instead I prefer to check if I am going in the right direction, and do it the way I find most efficient and effective.
Niharika: Tell us a bit about slow fashion. Do you think consumers are more aware of it now?
Ani: You can definitely see more people being aware of the negative impact of fast fashion and searching for more sustainable slow fashion options. A number of documentaries and publications have been made in the past few years educating and opening the eyes of the public. People learn the terrible impact and unsustainable business approach of fast fashion brands, the amount of waste they generate, the horrible working conditions of the sewers and unacceptably little wages they get. I strongly support the fashion revolution movement and glad to see many people joining it and demanding a change in the way fashion companies operate.
Niharika: AYANI's known for being the "5 min workwear fix for women", what are the top three things you prioritise while conceptualising and producing the dresses?
Ani: First of all, its comfort. Being tired of tightly sitting dresses not allowing for any movement, I wanted to create professional-looking dresses in which you feel free, instead of feeling constrained by them. Comfort is also the reason we specialize only on making dresses as nothing can ease your morning stress of selecting an outfit more than simply taking the dress of the hanger, slipping into it and you are ready to go. No need to think how to correctly match your shirt to the blouse.
Second comes functionality. By this I mean that every dress must have roomy pockets large enough to fit the mobile and be comfortable to bicycle in. We also pay close attention to ensure that the designs allow our women to wear our dresses on various occasions and be styled their unique way. For example, the shirt dress can be worn as it is or as a light coat over a pair of jeans and a top. We use belts a lot as it is a genius little element which adds a variety to a woman's outfit and allows her to wear what she finds suiting her figure best.
The third most important element is confidence. In every design we strive to give that confident look to our women. To me this feeling comes from looking at yourself in the mirror, seeing how great you look and feeling comfort within you. Our dresses give you exactly that feeling.
Niharika: Do you have a support system of other talented, like-minded women that you turn to for advice? If so, how important is it to your success?
Ani: Yes and without the advice it would be difficult to achieve what I have now. So many wonderful women gave me advice on the way and the network is growing larger day by day. The women in my circle share the supporting mentality rather than seeing each other as a competition. By being transparent and sharing our contacts and how we work, we help each other to grow personally and professionally, as well as help to see new opportunities. I am always happy to share my network and gladly provide contacts to friends who need advice in specific fields where I am not a pro in.
Niharika: What has been your favourite community/customer response since the launch?
Ani: Hard to choose the favourite… But if I had to select one, I would say the one from our lovely customer Rebekka who wrote a personal message to us not only complimenting the design and fabric, but also described in detail how the dress is perfect for her to accomplish all her daily tasks and run from one meeting to another. I think this message struck me most as it is exactly this element of comfort in everyday life and confidence to achieve more that I wanted to give women through my clothes.
Niharika: A quote that describes or motivates you currently?
Ani: "Make life a daring adventure" - that's my motto I live by.
Niharika: Lastly, what is confidence for you?
Ani: For me confidence is believing in yourself and your power to achieve anything you set your mind on. Letting go of self-doubt and believing that you are small compared to others. Loving yourself the way you are and always striving to grow as a person.
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