Designer Aviva Falk shares how she went from being a Midwestern girl to selling her clothing alongside of the world's biggest names in fashion.
A Blog By Cosmopolitan.
When you speak with Aviva Falk, you can see pretty quickly why her clothing line is called, "Viva Aviva." The girl not only lives for fashion, but she has a genuine enthusiasm that makes you feel like she always has something to celebrate. And she does. After moving to New York to pursue her dream of starting her own label, Aviva landed a prestigious internship, gained accolades from some of the industry's most influential bloggers, and has sold her clothing line alongside some of the biggest designers.
Here Aviva shares her tips to making a name for yourself in the fashion world:
1. Don't be afraid to stand out.
"I'm one of eight kids and when I was little my parents forgot me at a restaurant," says Aviva, who learned early on that she had to stand out in order to succeed--and survive. "I ran outside and saw their car pulling out of the parking lot. As I was standing there I thought, Man I have to stand out more than this!"
But that honest mistake (they swear!) was nothing compared to the fear of spending her whole life in the Midwest town she was raised in.
"A lot of people there didn't have an eclectic style and I always loved clothes and I always loved to dress really crazy," says Aviva, who used her unique style as a way to express her personality. "My dream was to move to New York and be a fashion designer. I told everyone in high school I'm getting out of this town!"
So with two suitcases and a Singer sewing machine Aviva made the move to New York. Even among her couture-obsessed classmates at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Aviva stood out thanks to her creative designs and ambitious nature, enough so that she landed herself a coveted internship with Diane von Furstenberg.
2. Maintain good relationships.
Sure, some internships might be all coffee runs and photocopying—especially at bigger companies, where the hands-on work and practical experience might be minimal—but they still provide an opportunity to network, which Aviva says is incredibly valuable.
"It's really important to meet people," says Aviva. "I have friends and contacts that I met interning six, seven years ago that I still use to this day." For example, when she got her first big order, she called an old friend who worked in production at one of her internships to ask for a factory recommendation. Same thing when she needed a pattern grader.
"I'm the first one to say that I've had so many people be so tremendously kind and really just champion the brand," she says. "It's okay to accept that help."
3. Focus your energy on achieving your own goals, not someone else's.
When the recession hit 2008, Aviva was scrambling to find a job, so she accepted a position working for a jewelry company on the production team, even though she didn't see it has a stepping stone for one day creating her own clothing line. Aviva found that she was putting her energy into creating jewelry for this designer, when instead she could be putting that same effort into developing her own brand. "I lasted one week," Aviva says. "I just thought, if I'm going to spend so many hours making someone else's dream happen, I would rather work extra hard and make my dream happen."
4. Expect to make sacrifices.
Money, a social life, and her own bed were just a few luxuries Aviva had to forgo when she was starting out.
"I put every dollar I made into my business," Aviva says. "I liken it to having a child. When you're the mother of a child you give up everything for yourself so you can give your child the best of everything,that's how I feel about having a business."
She knew it would be a struggle to make it in New York, but she never anticipated just how hard she would have to work. To pay for her Alphabet City bunk bed she waitressed and bartended full-time. She sacrificed sleep and a social life could work on her designs between shifts.
"My parents taught me if you work hard enough and you want something bad enough,you will find a way to make it happen," Aviva says.
"It may not happen as quickly as you want it to. I think a lot of people think, well it's not happening for me and it's been a year, I should just give up."
5. Do one thing everyday that brings you closer to your goal.
Having a respected fashion blogger deem a dress a "must-have" piece or selling your brand alongside the likes of Zac Posen and Alexander Wang can seem like unattainable goals, so Aviva suggests breaking things down into manageable steps.
"Do one thing every day that gets you closer to your goal,"Aviva suggests. "Then eventually you'll do two, and then five, and then ten and then a hundred and it just kind of snowballs." They don't need to be big tasks. Her suggestions include reaching out to a blogger, buying new fabric, spending an hour sketching, visiting a museum for inspiration, writing a tweet, or taking an Instagram pic. It can be anything, just as long as it's something.
To stay motivated she says it's just as important to look back and see how far you've come, and not just look at how far you still have to go. Before you know it you too might have address featured on Man Repeller and clothes sold on Moda Operandi and Shopbop like Aviva.
6. Celebrate your achievements.
With champagne and a nap.
7. Success is a numbers game.
For every design that becomes a garment Aviva is proud to sew her "Viva Aviva" tag on, thirty others end up on the cutting room floor, literally.
"At first it really made me upset because I was wasting lots of fabric--we recycle all our fabrics at the textile recycling so it's not environmentally wasteful, but to me it was money," says Aviva. "I was like oh my god I earned that money now I've cut it up and it's on the floor!"
However, she quickly learned that she couldn't focus on the discarded designs because they were a necessary part of the process. Aviva creates all of her own samples and explains that a lot of the design process actually happens during the production phase.
"I'll cut it and I'll sew it and then say, I don't like the way the sleeve is so I'll cut it off and put a different sleeve on or I'll say, I don't like the way that this drapes so I'll cut it," she says. "It's always scary if you say, I don't like this long and I'm going to make it short and then you cut the dress you just made and you're like, Did I just make a huge mistake?"