“Take a step back and ask yourself, do you feel challenged? Do you feel valued? Are you happy? Nothing is worth burning out for… I’ve made that mistake one to many times and are now paying the consequences with physical pain in overworked areas and working constantly to bring wellness and balance into my life after a long time of sleepless nights and an overworked body. Slow and steady wins the race.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Aimee Kestenberg, Co-Ceo and Creative Director of The Affordable Luxury Group. Aimee is an entrepreneur to the core and a disruptor in the world of fashion and design.The Aussie handbag designer founded her company in 2014 with her husband, business partner & now CEO Sean Elan and currently oversees her very own fashion empire. She and her team have grown the company in just under 4 years to design, manufacture and sell small leather goods, along with collaborations, licensed brands, and private label designs in addition to her namesake Aimee Kestenberg brand.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up sewing clothes and beading jewelry on the floor of my grandmother’s home. She had fled war in Iraq and taken salvage in Melbourne, Australia. Since she didn’t speak a lot of English but knew how to sew she become the local seamstress for the community. She made all her own garments and since I was a very young girl I always watched in awe of her since both my parents worked very hard. She taught me to sew, bead and knit. Her influence combined with my father’s entrepreneurial drive and business acumen inspired me to pursue a career in the fashion industry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?
After launching my namesake brand in 2014, I was so blessed to have explosive organic growth with the brand and was even featured on Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 List. While I was working my butt of and super excited by all the energy around the brand, I was blind to the fact that the financial partner I had taken on was bankrupting the company from beneath me. I was trusting and inexperienced when I signed an agreement and ultimately, he tried to fight for the right to own my name, brand and everything I had worked by whole life to achieve. He filed bankruptcy on my brand the morning of my wedding and spent months in court trying to bully me out of owning my name. Luckily, the universe was on my side. I got ownership of my name and was back to starting again from the beginning. That’s the short version!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I didn’t realize that people could see what I saved them as in my email contact list. Needless to say I had saved colleagues etc. for example as “Sean, sexy guy from production.” I was in a meeting one time and the person mentioned their “code” name as I call it and I was mortified. I spent HOURS trying to update my address book after that.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I always worked for companies whose culture I did not align with. I never felt like I fit in places that demanded conformity. As a creative mind, self-expression is so key to happiness and being true to yourself in living a fulfilling healthy life. I promised myself I would create a place that creative minds were given the space to flourish, people can dress however they feel best expresses their individuality and ultimately, we believe in working hard, having fun and having work life balance. We care about our team and thrive off each other’s energy and drive. We are an entrepreneurial based powerhouse that is millennial owned and run to think outside the box.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Take a step back and ask yourself, do you feel challenged? Do you feel valued? Are you happy? Nothing is worth burning out for… I’ve made that mistake one to many times and are now paying the consequences with physical pain in overworked areas and working constantly to bring wellness and balance into my life after a long time of sleepless nights and an overworked body. Slow and steady wins the race.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My company donates thousands of dollars to charities all over the world that are close to the heart. We don’t talk about or advertise it, we do it because we care. Having the ability to help people in need and bring more light and love into this world is extremely important to both myself, our team and company as a whole.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Sleep deprivation is not a badge of honor” — Arianna Huffington mentioned this in a speech she gave to my class at the Integrated Institute for Nutrition. (I’m studying to specialize in wellness and nutrition at night at the moment, it’s a passion of mine). I think this quote is so key because we live in a culture where not sleeping is seen as some sort of achievement? What are we really achieving? We are damaging our bodies, minds, less productive, miserable and exhausted. What am I missing? The system is broken and it’s our job as the next generation of millennial companies to change it.
Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
Yes, I’d say he influx of wellness and cause. I am obsessed with this because it is close to my heart and something I’m passionate about. I am currently working on incorporating a focus of mind, body and soul into all I do with the Aimee Kestenberg brand. Stay tuned with me on social to see how this topic is expressed through my brand for 2019.
What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry. Please share a story or example for each.
- Passion (If, you don’t love what you do, it will be felt and no-one is going to want to be around someone that doesn’t make them feel motivated).
- Be open minded (Closed minds lead to closed companies!)
- Understand your craft (If you are a designer, understand not only how to sketch something and cad it, but how to actually make it. Understanding the entire process and learning this is key to growth and success if this field.)
- Be kind (There’s no room for drama. Be a nice human, accept people for who they are)
- Make sure you feel challenged in all you do and are working for a boss that you can learn and grow with.
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
The fashion industry is vastly changing, those who evolve will remain afloat and those who don’t will close. The industry needs to pay more attention to independent designers, what each company stands for and believes in. Defining who you are and who you are designing for is key. People now more than ever want to align their personal beliefs with who they are shopping.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are two things that pull at my heart strings. One, is wellness in this country and the lack of government focus around preventative medicine and mental illness. So many people struggle and become ill from things that could so easily be avoided with health and wellness education and the banning of toxins in our food industry. I’ve seen way too many sick children and it has definitely ignited my fire to act on this path sometime soon.
The second would be bullying. As someone who was always bullied as a kid for not “fitting in”, I have a 0 tolerance for bullying of any kind to anyone. Working on stopping cyber bulling through technology I think is very cool.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Originally published at medium.com