Five Minutes with the Designer & Founder of Willique
Luxury leather goods brand Willique has evolved its range to include eco products created from pineapple fibres. Anya Willique is the designer and founder of the growing brand, here she talks to FashionCapital about her business, adapting during Covid-19 and her passion for craftsmanship, longevity and sustainability…
FC: What’s a typical day like for you?
Anya: I tend to start each day with three main tools:
- Communication – the first thing I do is of course check my e-mails. I reply immediately to suppliers, stockists, customers and my team. I then check my social media accounts, schedule posts and reply to DM’s.
- Plan! – I’m always planning for the future with regards to the brand. From future collections, influencers to collaborate with, events to be planned – to name a few! Fail to plan and you plan to fail.
- A good To-Do List – is essential for me to get through the day. There’s nothing better than ticking off tasks!
FC: Tell us about your career route, where did it all start for you?
Anya: I’ve always loved the idea to create my own brand and I was able to make my dream a reality in 2016. I think that being your own boss brings so many positive aspects to your life. I’ve been able to meet the most amazing people and connect with them. It’s also been absolutely incredible realising that I’m contributing to the world through my brand and my designs.
The first step was to sketch ideas and inspiration on the floor of my apartment. Courage and consistency were the next steps that was taken to establish the brand. An awful lot of research and development in the field was exceptionally important. My conscious collection is a reflection of our commitments to an eco-conscious and animal friendly footprint. I’m constantly looking for ways to champion the ethical industry through my designs and productions.
FC: Your brand is ethical, eco-friendly and sustainable, how difficult was it to source materials and set up?
Anya: I source from all over the world. Some pieces are one-offs when I find them on my travels. Sometimes it’s a local or international supplier, such as Batchelors in London. I recognised that it can be very difficult to find luxury leather goods that are both bespoke and cruelty free, so I forged links with an innovative alternative leather company; Pinatex. Pinatex is a natural textile made from waste pineapple leaf fibre. The leaves are the by-product of existing agriculture and their use creates an additional income stream for farming communities.
FC: What about the costs involved? Many start-up brands struggle to find the right eco-friendly materials at a fair price.
Anya: I’ve found working with eco-friendly suppliers incredibly smooth. Things tend to take a little longer to source, produce, receive of course – that’s the nature of the slower fashion industry that I want to champion for the world. Of course, the cost tends to be higher than any other fast fashion brands but this is the price you pay to be ethical and sustainable.
FC: What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own brand?
Anya: There’s nothing more important that being true to yourself. This is certainly something that I didn’t always remember when I was young so that would absolutely have to be the one piece of advice, I would continue to repeat to myself and others!
FC: How have you managed to keep the business going during these tough retail’s times / the COVID-19 crisis?
Anya: The experience of COVID-19 has taught us to scale back and focus on the necessity of our products. By keeping in contact with our customers, I’m able to keep them informed and up-to-date on the progress of their orders. I’m still receiving orders online which I’m incredibly grateful for and of course it’ll be a while until face-to-face appointments can begin again – but I’m very anxious to connect to our customers once more.
FC: What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
Anya: Follow your dreams with passion and always love what you do.
FC: Is there anyone in the fashion sector that you think is inspirational?
Anya: Without question. I most certainly wouldn’t have been able to build a business without the support and help of a community of inspiring women surrounding me. A wonderful woman by the name of Karen Whitt has recently come on board to Willique. Karen is the Vice-President Marketing and Brand Development for the Harling Group and has been able to help me in areas I haven’t yet had experience with. I’m able to learn so much from her and taking her advice on board is worth so much to myself and the business.
I also absolutely admire the trailblazers in the sustainable industry, especially the local artists here in Turks and Caicos.
FC: What next for Willique?
Anya: I’m currently working on a minimal collection which focuses on pieces made to be worn every day. We’ll also be releasing a limited-edition piece for Christmas, which I’m very much looking forward to sharing with the world.
To view Anya’s designs visit: https://willique.com/