Jul 06, 2017 | By Yvonne Kostiak
In the first of a new series, WGSN’s Chief Content Officer, Carla Buzasi interviews the founders of Girlfriend Collective to discover what makes them tick and how they’re creating a 21st-century brand with a real difference.
I first came across Girlfriend Collective when a friend tagged me in a Facebook update she’d shared on the brand. A fellow fitness fanatic, and one of a trio of us who get hot and sweaty to ‘Dance Cardio’ at London’s Frame studios every Saturday morning, she’d spotted the brand offering ethical, sustainable leggings for free and figured that was news too good not to share.
Free leggings? There’s got to be a catch, right? As an Internet cynic, I prepared to delete and move on, but my interest had been piqued and over the next few weeks I entered into an email exchange with the founders, Quang and Ellie, and was won over on this fledgling brand before even getting my hands on any of their wares.
Girlfriend Collective certainly couldn’t be more current if they tried. Young, female entrepreneurs? Check. Athleisure offering? Check. Innovative marketing launch? Check. Spot-on ethical credentials. Check. Check. Check. And I’m a sucker for clever women out to disrupt the status quo. Here’s what they told me…
How do you describe what do you do for a living?
Quang: Trying to make the world a better place by making products that encourage people to care about not just what they buy, but how it’s made.
What’s behind the success of your business?
Ellie: An amazing product. You can do everything right, but if your product isn’t high-quality, and doesn’t hold up, people won’t come back. I’d also like to believe it’s because we really do care about people first and foremost, from our employees and our customers.
Quang: I think our success comes from delivering exactly what we promised we would. Often companies will promise products on the internet that are too good to be true, and it turns out to be disappointing. We are proud that we delivered a product that people can respect and actually love.
Tell me about a failure, and what you learnt from it…
Ellie: Our factory and fabric delays were probably the most stressful and heartbreaking failure I’ve faced so far. It was something that was ultimately out of our control, and I learned quickly you have to focus on the solution versus getting bent out of shape over the problem.
Do you believe in light-bulb moments?
Ellie: Absolutely. I don’t believe that they are the only source of inspiration, but they definitely exist.
Quang: When I allow my mind to wander, that’s when I get the most light bulb moments, even if the majority are the incandescent kind that has about a 10-hour shelf life. But the ones that stick and are executed on are definitely exciting and provide the motivation to continue forward.
Where do you do your best thinking?
Ellie: Driving, or at home in sweatpants, in bed.
Quang: Exercising. I like to think when my body is doing monotonous tasks.
When you get creative block, where do you turn for inspiration?
Ellie: If I had the time and money, I would fly to New York City every time I had creative block. If that’s not an option, I usually find myself getting lost on the Instagram rabbit trail for hours, looking at what people are talking about, wearing, creating, etc.
How do you celebrate?
Ellie: Good food and friends!
Quang: Pho and beer.
Who or what makes you most happy?
Ellie: My husband, my cats, being with my friends and family, and pho.
Quang: My wife, my cats, and the Seahawks winning.
Quang: Failing my family and friends, not being able to keep my word on something because I’m ‘too busy’ or I just simply forgot.
What would be your best advice for today’s 16-year-olds?
Ellie: Don’t be afraid to fail. Embrace it, learn from it, and move forward a more confident person.
Quang: The crap you care about now is not going to matter when you’re older. So start making good habits that will help you be impactful for yourself and those around you.
Can creativity be taught?
Ellie: I think you can learn to tap into your creative side, and exercise that muscle, but there’s no recipe or formula for it.
Quang: I think everyone has a creative side, and creativity isn’t necessarily visual. I think creativity can come from problem solving and understanding and creatively navigate through and solve issues.
And what about business nous?
Ellie: I’m a perfect example that it can. I have zero background in business, so starting Girlfriend Collective felt like I was stumbling around in the dark for the first year. It takes time, but I’ve learned, and am still learning, a lot through trial and error.
What constantly surprises you about the world at large?
Quang: The pace of growth overseas. Every time I fly to Asia for production, it’s incredible to see the growth and crazy jumps towards modernisation.
What is the biggest change we’ll see in business in the next 5 to 10 years?
Quang: Hopefully the biggest change is the way consumers spend their money, especially Millennials. As the culture of conscious consumerism grows, we hope people will start questioning where and how things are made before they spend their hard earned dollars.
Follow the Girlfriend Collective brand on Instagram here.
Like this? Follow the author Carla on Twitter here.
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