I interview the woman behind the Parisian bespoke, couture tailors, Vigo Paris, who details what it took to create a niche of her own in the fashion industry along with the help of her business partner and husband.
Company: Vigo Paris
“Created with women in mind, Vigo Paris is a luxury bespoke couture brand created for the classic, yet modern woman. Suitable for any mode of life, the foundation of every piece is based upon providing women maximum comfort and durability, infused with timeless style.
Using researched methods of technical bespoke tailoring, the French Maison thrives in the rich ambience of handmade artisan and craftsmanship. With only one atelier in Paris, the experience of obtaining a Vigo Paris piece is intimate and exhilarating as each client is invited to take part in the process of witnessing their piece come to life.
Known as the anti-fashion, anti-mass-production brand, everything facet of Vigo Paris celebrates individualism and cultivates personality into every couture piece, ensuring that no two pieces produced by the atelier are ever the same. Our strict policy and view on fashion provide a solid foundation that stays true to the founder’s main vision of delivering the utmost quality of luxury in fashion. “
What inspired you to become self-employed?
I was raised in an environment where my family was supportive of any ambition I had, which fostered a mentality of, “I can do anything”. I am also an extremely hard worker and I knew that creating my own business with my husband would be hard, but also extremely rewarding.
How did you come up with your idea or concept for the business?
My husband was a menswear tailor in Paris and I was simply fascinated with his work. Everything was so precise and made only to the measurements and the morphology of the client. I wondered, “Why doesn’t something like this exist for women?” I began to do some research and found out that it did exist, but I was not truly sold on the styles. Everything was/is very masculine and I felt that women needed bespoke attire not only for suits but for skirts, dresses, coats, etc. So one while in London with my husband, we gave birth to the idea of Vigo on a cafe on “Vigo Street”.
What was your mission on the outset?
I wanted to provide women with the opportunity to understand their bodies. You see, we as women are lead into a sartorial world filled with misconception and deception. It isn’t normal that you shop at one store and you’re a size 2 and at another, you’re a size 6. I wanted to guide women into a self-discovery of their own body and learn to appreciate it. Our bespoke process also allows women to develop their own unique style, which is rarely seen elsewhere.
What services do you offer?
Vigo offered bespoke couture/haute-couture services exclusively for women. We create anything and everything found in a women’s wardrobe (I.E. skirts, trousers, blazers, coats, dresses, etc). I design each piece exclusively for each client, and the client then has the liberty to choose the fabric and colour of her choice. After that, we begin making patterns to ensure a perfect fit. Although it is a lengthy process, we promise that each piece fits your body like a glove. This process is used for each and every Vigo piece, with no shortcuts.
How do you advertise your business? What networking or advertising advice would you give to other start-ups?
We were fortunate because our business had much success due to word-of-mouth. However, we started by creating brand awareness by our site and social media channels. We were then contacted by different magazines and bloggers asking if they could write web articles and print stories featuring the brand. I would recommend that start-ups should be clear on the explanation of their product and what differentiates their company from others. By communicating on their website, social media, etc, it shows people why they should care and believe in your business.
To what do you owe your success to?
I would say my hard work ethic and no bullshit attitude. I was clear on my vision my determination to offer this opportunity to other women is what pushed me to work hard and with no limit.
Do you have any employees/team members you recruited?
Vigo is mainly made by the brand’s sole tailor. He assists the client from start to finish, from design to execution. However, if we have certain details that take a longer amount of time or go into a different sector (i.e. embroidery) we have some numbers on hand of very talented individuals that can fulfil the position. We have these numbers because these jobs are so particular, there are very few known to truly execute the job correctly and with precision.
What are the goals of your company?
Our goal is to educate women on their personal morphology. I cannot express to you how many times women come in and ever. If they love their body, come to find it “bothersome” because they cannot find many brands that fit hem exactly right. We want women to embrace their individuality and learn that it isn’t a burden.
What do you love about your business and what did you least enjoy?
I love meeting other women. It is so empowering to communicate with other women and create a positive environment of honesty and mutual respect. This is something I did not consider when I made the brand, but having a relationship with each and every client that comes in really means the world to me. I least enjoy the images that the industry portrays at times. It isn’t as glamorous as everyone makes it out to be and I think there’s a long road ahead.
What has been the biggest lesson?
When I was younger I️ used to believe the label and “category” put me in. That was the biggest mistake because it caused me to underestimate myself and damaged my confidence. When I was 18 I️ kinda said to myself, “Screw them” and discovered the woman I️ wanted to embody, to show other people. I️ wanted to give people the energy I️ wished I️ had when I️ was younger. I’m s figuring out who I️ am as a woman, but I️ know what I️ want to be.
What made you choose this industry?
I️ have always been interested in fashion and were always interested in making women elegant. There was something about the 50s that I️ always wanted to replicate and my husband was really that push I️ needed to continue to express my ideas and bring them to life.
I have always been interested in design and wanted to revive a very feminine and clean-cut style. I’m not sure if necessarily chose this industry per-say, but perhaps there was a certain allure I was drawn to and wanted to produce.
Does your company or do you personally help the community or any charities?
We don’t do so yet because everything is made to measure, but we are in the process of creating a program for women who have job interviews and nothing to wear.
Have you ever turned down a client?
Luckily to this day, we have not turned anyone down. Everyone that has come into the atelier has been very open to learning more about Vigo and we have been able to adapt our vision of fashion to their desire.
If you have a piece of advice for someone starting a business, even a business similar to yours, what would you tell them?
Never give up. So many
What has been the biggest discovery you have made whilst owning a business?
That most women have a negative body image of themselves. I️ can’t tell you the number of clients I’ve had that are afraid of a measuring tape, and honestly, it’s so sad. Why should we be ashamed of who we are? I️ want to, and feel a duty, to change this.
How did creating this company change your life?
It gave me freedom. I️ feel completely free because I️ get to do what I️ love with the person I️ love. And I️ learn so much about women, I️ learn more about myself, and I️ learn about the direction I️ want my company to pursue in the future.
What were you most afraid of before and during the company start-up?
I️ know many startups that had financial help or had committed clients even before it launched. We started with literally no budget, no help, nothing. This was nerve-wracking because of course, it’s logic that you need something to start with. But we were lucky that onlooking strangers believed in our concept and design and gave us the opportunity to bring our creations and visions to life.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew before you started your business? How would this have impacted your business?
I️ think it’s all a learning process and I️ learn new things every day. Certain, it would have been much easier to have this information beforehand but you fall and get back up. Everything I’ve learned and the mistakes that I️’ve made make the brand what it is today.
What compromises did you have to make before launching your company?
I️ was 20 when I️ launched the brand, so many people did not understand that I️ quickly gave up going out, regular dinners and outings. I️ no longer had the time for it because I️ pit all of my energy and time into this company. I️ was also in university at the time, so I️ had to find time to study. It wasn’t easy and I️ lost “friends” along the way because they felt that I was putting too much time into my business, but the process allowed me to discover myself and the people I️ wanted to be around.
What do you believe, gave you the tools and skills to become successful?
I️ think the fact that I grew up in a military household. It plays so much upon my character and my strong determination. I️ never take “no” for an answer and I️ truly believe nothing is impossible. By creating goals and personal deadlines, I️ am able to focalize on the things most important for my business.
Do you have a mentor or help from any friends or family?
I️ know I️ mention him a lot, but my husband had to be my mentor. He has more experience in the fashion industry as he is 8 years older than me, but he’s truly the one person I️ seek advice from. He gets my creativity and can describe adequately my ideas.
What was your dream job as a child?
I️ wanted to be a model…But I’m 5’1 so that dream came to a quick end!
What inspires you personally and why?
My impact on other people. This doesn’t necessarily mean in fashion, but I️ love helping or even just listening to people. I️ think humans are the greatest tool of knowledge, and if we sit down and listen just a little more, we could learn great things.
What was your biggest challenge in setting up your couture business?
Once again, I️ believe the financial part was the most challenging. Building a brand with a little budget can make or break will-power.
What was the worst decision you ever made?
The worst decision I️ ever made would have to be listening to other people’s opinions of me and letting it affect me. People are very quick to judge at times and it takes a certain amount of maturity to differentiate constructive criticism from just being mean.
How do you motivate yourself?
I️ always try to envision where I️ want to be in 10 years and retain that as a way to motivate me every day.
What was the most important business, or other discovery you have made thus far?
I️ have discovered that building yourself internally prepares you anything external. Getting to know who you are, what your wants and needs are, and being able to know what you deserve and ask for it the most important discovery I’ve made. So often we are afraid to ask for what we want because we don’t want to be demanding, but oftentimes we are demanding, it what we deserve and are entitled to.
The question if women can have it all is often thrown around, I personally struggle to answer this because in truth I feel that something always has to give; what are your thoughts on this?
I️ think women can have it all, but not always. The problem is, we are raised to think and behave in certain ways that limit of freedom as children. Oftentimes we are pushed into these “roles” society wants us to fill and by the time we learn that there are other opportunities that interest us, it’s “too late”. I️ feel that educating women from birth and letting them know that they are entitled to any opportunity in the world can help. However, for the moment, we comprise greatly what we can and cannot have due to instilled societal beliefs.
Did you read any particular books, study any programme, research anything such as youtube videos or blogs that you can share with us, that you found useful when starting or running a business?
I️ love psychology. “Man’s Search for Meaning” is perhaps my favourite. I️ find learning about people is key to learning on how to successfully run a business. Along the way, you learn about yourself.
Do you have any tips or advice you would like to give or any other information you would like people to know?
I️ think people should do a lot of research about their business and the industry they want to get in. Researching your target market and their behaviours and attitudes will help you greatly in learning how to connect.
What inspires your designs?
The 50s! Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Ava Gardner! Of course, much more but there are too many to remember.
How did you learn the skills of becoming a designer?
I️ kind of just picked up a piece a paper and put all of my ideas together. My husband helped me in along to make sure technically it worked, but it was very spontaneous.
What are the benefits of bespoke tailoring?
Bespoke means it is made just for you. So many women find that ready to wear sizes aren’t as “easy” as people make it seem. Bespoke tailoring uses a woman’s precise measurements for whatever garment she wants to be made. This makes the process unique and also teaches a woman of her true measurements and body shape.
How did you come up with the ideas for your packaging?
We wanted something customized, so all of the boxes are handmade in Paris. We also wanted to make sure that it looked elegant and like a huge present. I️ love opening up big boxes with ribbons, so I️ just knew that other women would love it too!
Your brand is anti-mass-production; what makes your brand unique and why do you personally design custom couture products over ‘off the rack’?
I️ truly don’t believe in “ready-to-wear” because when it’s made for everyone, it’s made for no one. I️ understand the concept but we have gone too far with it. We have altered sized and distorted a woman’s self-image. Women have the right to have something custom made just for them. I use “off the rack” as well, but I️ believe every woman should have staples in their closets made according to their measurements.
Do you abide by any rules in fashion and why?
I️ think it’s silly to make rules. I️ love bespoke and couture because women can be wild and free. And as the quote goes, “Well-behaved women seldom make history”.
Are there any other female couture tailors that inspired you to become apart of this niche market?
I️ think I️ was inspired by the fact that this was so “normal” in the 50s. I️ wanted to bring s certain elegance and demonstrate the craft that is handmade artisanship.
What is your favourite fabric to work with?
Cashmere! I️ absolutely love it.
All of your couture pieces are handmade in your Parisian atelier and you invite clients to come and participate in the process of their couture pieces. What inspired you to do this and how has it benefited both you and your clientele?
I️ wanted people to understand why we do what we do. We don’t just do it because it’s luxurious, but it’s beautiful. The entire handmade process and making nothing and simple idea into a complex idea is truly mesmerizing to watch. Everyone has the right to witness the birth of couture creation. And I️ believe all ateliers that claim to do couture and haute couture should do so.
I hope you enjoyed this interview, please share, like and comment where applicable, we would all love to hear your thoughts and questions on the topic.