At Nüshu Network, we celebrate and support the spirit of entrepreneurship in women across the world. 'WE did it' is our effort to bring you stories of excellence in entrepreneurship by women leaders in different fields. Greg Perez, the founder of Armore Collective, tells us what motivated her to start her own conscious fashion brand and shares tips for other women entrepreneurs to be successful.
I love dressing up and I love that clothes are able to help a woman express herself and feel confident. I didn’t always know what worked for me so when I was younger I experimented with clothes that spoke to me (including red velvet trousers while I was in college!). Over the years, I’ve come to know what I like and what looks best on me – hints of the preppy look combined with inspiration from menswear. And so I was building my wardrobe with timeless pieces, mostly from fast fashion brands. Even if I had heard about the negative impact of fast fashion, it wasn’t until 2017 when I saw a shell necklace from one of my favorite brands that I knew it was time to break up with fast fashion. In looking for alternatives, I started down this rabbit hole of learning more about the multi-billion dollar fashion industry and its unsustainable practices in its supply chain, production, and marketing. On this journey, I learned about sustainable fashion, which is another rabbit hole in itself. To cut a long story short, I saw an opportunity to create ethically made pieces for work and weekends, for other women just like me who want to start building a sustainable fashion wardrobe.
That was in 2018. The last four years certainly haven’t been easy – we’ve had to change sewing partners three times, we’ve had to find sustainable fabric suppliers abroad because there aren’t enough in the Philippines, and we’ve gone through long product development processes to bring our designs to life. Along the way, we’ve had to reflect on how we will be sustainable, where we want to take the brand, and where the brand could go. Now that we are in the pre-launch stage we have to learn about this beast called social media marketing, find collaborators for our photo shoot, and build the infrastructure for sales, payment, and fulfilment.
It’s a lot and it can be overwhelming. What kept me going despite the challenges is the conviction that what we are creating is something that will empower women – it’s not just about making clothes but making clothes to love and cherish because it gives women confidence and helps them pursue success on their own terms. It’s a whole philosophy built around sustainable living, beauty, women empowerment, self-care, and making a difference. As importantly, I am doing something I love – it brings out my creativity, it makes me giddy to see the pieces look good on someone, and it excites me to build something that matters. This brings me to one of the biggest internal challenges I had – does this really matter or is it frivolous? I am forever grateful for this post in the StartUp Fashion Facebook group that said: “’Art and creativity are part of what makes life worth living.’ Meaning it’s no more frivolous to work at enriching lives than it is to work at saving them. Beauty is one of the only things that lasts, Be it in music, architecture, paintings, fashion, etc. Beauty transcends culture, location, and time. And if something speaks to your heart and sense of beauty and wonder, it will speak to someone else’s sometime somewhere, too.”
Indeed, we need beauty in our lives and with that, I felt renewed.
To all budding women entrepreneurs - If you feel so called to create, to put something out into the world, to solve a problem that no one is solving yet, do it. Get started. Don’t wait for the perfect time because there never will be one.
Here are a few things that I hope will help you on this messy, challenging, but ultimately fulfilling journey of entrepreneurship.
When times get tough, as they will, it’s important to keep the big picture in front of you. Where are you going and why? Entrepreneurship is about helping someone address something that is missing or annoying or disappointing in their lives. Know who you are doing this for and what you are trying to help with. Empathy is key.
While you have to see how far you still have to go, it’s also important to celebrate wins big and small and to see how far you have come and what you have had to do to overcome the challenges. As they say, the journey is just as important because of the things you learn, the people you meet, and the inner transformation that is happening within you.
Know who to take advice from and when to take advice but never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Surround yourself with people who will support your journey, collaborators who share your vision, and teammates who share your dream. We don’t only need entrepreneurs, we need mentors, partners at home, and champions across the value chain. We need incubation programs and networks for women. We need women angel investors and fund managers.
Now, more than ever, is the time for women entrepreneurs. We need to come together and support each other. We need to bring our perspectives, our mindsets, and our hearts into the world to help make it more inclusive and sustainable and build a better future.
Greg Perez is the founder of Armore Collective. Armore is building the solution to prevent fashion waste fuelled by fashion’s erratic sizing. Follow Armore on IG and FB @armorecollective and sign up for the newsletter at armorecollective.com