When four inspiring females take the stage, college women everywhere land another victory.
This Monday, Oct.15, Montclair State University invited business journalist and host Meg Fry along with Eleanor Turner, Suuchi Ramesh, Fabiola Arias and Susan Hess as panelists for this year’s Focus on Fashion Entrepreneurship event.
The event, which was part of the fifth annual Women Entrepreneurship Week Conference, was held in the University Hall conference room. Attendees raced for free slices of pizza and complimentary drinks before the panelists sat down to start their open discussion.
Each panelist is well-known in the fashion industry, as all come from different sectors of the business.
Turner is the chief creative officer of Argent, a company dedicated to creating women’s work apparel. Ramesh holds a strong focus on sustainability and technology as the founder of Suuchi Inc. Arias designs evening and cocktail wear, and Hess produces golf apparel.
When asked what made people stand out in the fashion industry, the panelists expressed the importance of being different.
“Don’t copy other people,” Turner said.”Do the thing that you know and stand out.”
Being different is how many of the panelists got their first start in the fashion industry. One in particular was Arias, who struggled in college to make a name for herself and start her own company at the same time.
When Arias started her company, the United States had just entered a recession and many professors discouraged her from going forward with her dreams. They even questioned her intentions and asked her if she wanted to be known as a Hispanic designer in a world that was not ready for the immense diversity seen in fashion today.
“I was deaf to what they were saying. I really believed in what I wanted to do,” Arias said. “I was really stubborn, and I was going to do it anyway.”
Fast forward to today, Arias has had many collections sold at the department store Neiman Marcus. As well, her private client business is growing every day as she learns and flourishes with her designs.
Meanwhile, Ramesh is making strides on the manufacturing side of the industry. Her company, Suuchi Inc., is creating and shipping apparel throughout the United States while also making strides in the technological side of the business too.
“Tech is revolutionizing how we live today,” Ramesh said. “[So we asked ourselves], ‘How do we create a local supply chain that is sustainable and socially responsible?’”
Ramesh’s team developed a client-facing software that provides ease of communication and complete transparency.
Ramesh’s success isn’t just driven by technology but also diversity. Her office boasts of 27 different nationalities from all around the world. She proudly hires people in their 20s, but there are also people in their 60s and 70s with the majority being women.
As for Hess, she learned about what it takes to run a successful business the hard way. Her business, Golftini, came to exist when she could not find an attractive golf skirt to wear 14 years ago.
In the beginning, Hess spent hours calling businesses and attending trade shows in hopes that somebody would pick up one of her designs. Now, Golftini apparel is being sold in over 450 shops and resorts worldwide.
“I wouldn’t be in [this] business if I didn’t make a million mistakes,” Hess said. “We all face the same challenges when we first start out. We need people, we need money, we need time.”
Students, like fashion studies sophomore Tara Byrne, were pleased with all of the advice the panelists offered.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Bryne said. “I really like the companies and the panel was really relatable.”
Both students and guests were humbled and hungry for their entrepreneurial abilities to shine through like the panelists.
“I think you have to be audacious for what you want to go for,” Arias said. “Someone else is going to go for it, so why not you?”