A successful business owner, fortune 500 executive, marketing enthusiast, a mentor, a single mother, a visionary and a strategist – Vera V Wang calls herself a geeky fashionista. She talks about her two passions – fashion and technology; how she built a million dollar fashion business with no background in fashion. She will give you incredible tips on how to follow your dreams, become an entrepreneur in these challenging times.
We catch Vera at a quiet moment, in between trips and meetings and manage to bombard her with questions.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I am a single working mother from Texas, who had to learn the art of survival early on. I have a Masters degree in Computer Science and a Bachelor’s in English Language and Literature. This is why I have a huge interest in the digital side of the business like marketing, SEO, email marketing and eCommerce.
My second passion is fashion, obviously. I launched Viviona in 2007 under the umbrella of F8 Ventures, of which F8 Marketing lab is another arm. Viviona focuses on fashion manufacturing and sourcing brand for several small and big firms.
As of today, I spend a significant amount of my waking moment living the dream by coaching, mentoring and inspiring young and startup businesses with strategies.
What made you get into fashion manufacturing?
I have a Master in Computer Science, but life throws you things randomly. When life throws you lemons, we have to make some lemonade. I got into fashion in 2007 by chance and have never looked back. Fashion has always been my passion. We manufacture out of China which has been the most efficient and mature market for fashion manufacturing.
No matter what industry you are in, you have to embrace the technology and what it brings to your business.
What is your business philosophy?
We believe and work towards the 4 Bs. Better quality, better pricing, better delivery and better quality control.
One of our main goals is to help our clients to get their products onto the market as successfully as possible, as fast as possible and as efficiently as possible. We and our clients serve one customer together. The better-off they serve their customers, the better-off we are as a manufacturer.
In order to serve our clients to serve their customers well, these 4Bs are a must. And we take pride in what we do and our services.
Who is your typical customer?
We serve a wide range of clienteles from startup and mid-sized to fortune 500 companies.
What services do you provide to designers and brands?
Viviona offers elite A to Z fashion manufacturing and branding services. We act as a production department to companies, where we take care of fabric sourcing, accessories and trim sourcing, pattern making, prototypes, grading (we offer free grading always), pre-production samples, sewing labels, hang-tags, packaging, quality control and shipping. We are passionate about providing value to the people around us. When our clients thrive, we thrive.
What is your area of specialization in terms of manufacturing services?
We have a huge capacity for different fashion categories but we focus on swimwear and activewear (including yoga wear).
What is the biggest challenge to run a factory right now versus when you first started?
The challenge is the same, people are always the key. We make sure we always have a serving heart and think win-win.
You operate out of the USA, from your manufacturing plant is in China. How do you ensure great outcome despite cultural and language barriers?
The key to our success is to ensure that communication happens here in the United States, which greatly increases the level of communications everywhere. We don’t face problems otherwise.
How has the industry changed since you started the business? How has your business evolved with it?
Over the years since I launched my business, the industry has changed a lot. No matter what industry you are in, you have to embrace the technology and what it brings to your business. Our company has been taking advantage of technology and utilizing SEO, SMO, email marketing for lead generations, etc. Fashion Insiders is a great platform as well. We are thankful that Fashion Insiders has brought us a lot of businesses.
Given the current political nature of running a business, what according to you, is the biggest problem in the fashion manufacturing industry?
The biggest challenge for Viviona currently is, the trend of ‘Made in USA’. The infrastructure, in my opinion, is not ready here in the US. We have to really hustle to get all the pieces in place to have a finished garment.
For instance, there are not enough skilled labour and pattern makers. Fabric sourcing and shipping of components from all over the country or overseas drives the cost up, and lastly, there are not enough resources for digital printing of large rolls of fabrics.
While in China, the fashion manufacturing industry is really mature and all vendors are literally next door, which saves lead time and costs.
What impact do the current economic scenario and consumer behaviour have on your business? How are you overcoming them?
We are definitely impacted by the price hikes of raw materials and labour. But we keep focusing on providing high-quality products, which helps us to compete.
We see more and more clients requesting sustainable fabrics which they use as a marketing tool for their branding and investment. I’m very glad to see that trend and hoping it will become more and more mainstream.
We don’t want to associate Viviona with fast fashion. Of course, as a manufacturer, we do mass production, but we only require 300pcs per design per colour to begin with.
What is it like to work with startups and mid-sized brands?
Startups are fun to work with. They make decisions quickly and are fast-paced. But normally, they lack funding.
Mid-sized businesses are great to work with. The challenge is their decision process. It is a lot slower and has more people involved in the whole process.
How easy or difficult is it to collaborate with numerous vendors that have a different niche, profile, and requests?
I wouldn’t say it’s difficult. It makes the industry fun and challenging. Also, as manufacturing experts, we can direct our clients towards the most efficient way of doing things, which will save lead time and investment.
What was the craziest product you ever had a request for?
It is not exactly crazy in terms of product, but perhaps funny. One of our clients is SugarSports. They have created a new type of sports bra for women with larger breasts called SugarShock to reduce bounce and to increase comfort while running and jogging.
Alongside working with fashion brands you also manufacture corporate promotional gifting departments? How dies managing this type of work differs from working with brands?
For corporate merchandising, the industry has not changed much. It’s less complicated in the designs versus the other clothing categories, but more complicated in the decision-making process, since normally the companies are bigger in size. The decision-making process takes longer and there are more details and testing requirements to adhere to.
What would you advise budding fashion entrepreneurs?
Number one and key is to know your Perfect Customer Profile really well. Know their gender, how old they are, household income, where they shop, where they hang out. Your avatar should be the driving force behind all your decision-making including pricing, designs and marketing languages.
As long as you know your strength, combine your strengths with things you are passionate about and wealth will follow.
What does “success” mean to you?
Good question! A lot of people say to me, ‘You are so successful’. I guess that’s one way to define success which is when people recognize you and what you have provided for the society.
Here is how I look at it personally.
We need to define success from different angles: Spirituality, health, wealth, love and happiness. Life is incomplete when either of the element is missing. Spirituality is the beginning of everything. Health is the leading ‘1’ of all the zeros following it. Without the leading ‘1’, it doesn’t matter how many zeros you have. They will just be zeros. So, live a balanced life. Workout on regular basis.
For love, either romantic love or family love, they are a key component of our lives. Love conquers all. I have two beautiful children who are the world to me and I have many close friends surrounding me whom I care deeply about. I feel successful in that sense.
I’m passionate about creating wealth. But as long as you know your strength, combine your strengths with things you are passionate about, wealth will follow.
On happiness front, no success is a success if you are not happy. I totally believe we all have a purpose on this planet. Once we figure out the ‘why’, it’s easy to figure out the ‘how’. And only when we live a life larger than us, we can achieve true happiness. Once you made up your mind to be happy, you can live a more mindful life and be more aware of now and live life with more joy.
If I can inspire even one or two people, then I can say ‘I am successful’.
Miss Fashion Week is fruition out of my purpose for self-love. #YouAreEnough is a campaign inspired by Miss Fashion Week to inspire women of all ages to embrace themselves for who they are.
I personally suffered from self-confidence and self-esteem for years. I would scold myself so bad whenever I made a mistake – big or small. I told myself I was fat and ugly even though I was skinny and beautiful in my own ways. Only when I transformed my self-language and started to embrace myself for who I am, I started to feel confident which completely transformed my life. I’m passionate about inspiring women of all ages to join me on this journey.