…I don’t have a favorite quote, however I try to live by my own personal philosophy to not be afraid to be yourself, because you never know who YOU may inspire. It’s easier said than done, but I do try. With all of the obstacles I’ve overcome in my life, even now I am seek the courage daily to live authenticity as myself.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making a social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elle B. Mambetov.
Elle is currently being filmed for the new PBS series “American Portrait” and previously featured in Vogue, ELLE, and Harper’s Bazaar. Elle aims to change the perception of modest fashion into something truly unique and sophisticated with the virtual presentation of her luxury womenswear brand, Elle B. Zhou on May 22nd. This virtual fashion line debut will replace her planned runway show and benefits Vogue’s A Common Thread and Doctors Without Borders to raise funds for those who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Elle is also launching her own store at Southern California’s quintessential fashion destination, the iconic Beverly Center (Opening Summer 2020).
Born and raised in the Southern United States to a single mother, Mambetov’s creative and personal identity as an African American, Muslim woman has been inspired by her travels — which have taken her all over the world and back. A London Fashion Week designer at the age of 26, she has built brands in foreign lands, done business deals with former British Prime Minister David Cameron, and secured partnership deals with Toni & Guy and Evian.
Thank you for joining us Elle. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up as a little girl I was always fascinated by homemade crafts and fashion. I was the child that asked for a sewing machine for my 7th birthday; a gift my mother gave me accompanied with sewing lessons! I grew up next to a professional seamstress. She had the most magnificent thread wall of every color imaginable. Living right next door to such a wonderland what choice did I have but to fall in love with fashion?
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
My fashion career came to a screeching halt a few years ago when I was held captive in a foreign prison for nearly two years. It impacted not only my career, but my mindset and my ability to lead. Overcoming such a tragic and heartbreaking experience has, well at least I hope made me a better and stronger person with a more careful eye towards the social impact foreign policy can have on American citizens and how we can support prison reform for the safety and well-being of people unjustly trapped abroad.
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 can’t say that I’ve evolved enough to laugh at my mistakes yet. In business mistakes typically cost you money, time, opportunity, or in some cases like mine your freedom. What I can attest to is the tremendous amount of growth gained from mistakes. Although they might be painful at the time, most mistakes teach you invaluable lessons you couldn’t learn otherwise.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Fashion being my wheelhouse, we’ve created several initiatives through my luxury brand Elle B Zhou to help offer support during the COVID-19 crisis. Our Buy One Give One masks are a way to help us all stay connected, as we donate a free Elle B Zhou mask to any service worker in any industry with every purchase. Additionally, the Elle B Zhou 2020 benefit fashion presentation will be completely digital, turning real models into 3D versions of themselves as we raise money for Vogue/ CFDA A Common Thread and Doctors Without Borders.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Because Covid-19 has had a global impact, we are trying to create initiatives through our company to help create jobs, while reinforcing the idea of one world and community through charitable initiatives.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
My goal is to create a true platform for inclusivity where groups of people aren’t being left out of the conversation. For example, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the types of US government aid given to small business and individuals in fact completely excluded Muslims and Muslim owed businesses, who by their religion cannot take on loans attached to interest. It’s left many people vulnerable without help during these trying times. That’s why my next move is to set up partnerships with organizations like Kiva who offer 0% interest for companies and individuals during the Covid-19 crisis. It would be great to have the support of the community and politicians in this effort.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I define leadership as one’s resilient ability to optimistically proceed in a direction regardless of the obstacles they incur. What separates leaders from followers is a leader often has to continuously endure set backs and find solutions to continue towards and achieve the main goal. The leader must carve out the path in front of them, whereas the follower must merely follow instructions.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- I wish someone had told me that instant success is possible, but not guaranteed. It’s ok if you lose opportunities, or if what seems like an important deal falls through. It’s ok to fail as an entrepreneur. Success is in persistence. I once developed a jewelry line and had received an order from one of the largest retailers in the UK with an opportunity to help sell my collection on TV. In the end I lost the opportunity and that felt like the end of the world. But here I am, years later, opening my own store in the Beverly Center in Beverly Hills. In Silicon Valley for example, your failures are valued higher than your successes. It’s a place where people are constantly trying to push boundaries and integrate new ideas. They love people who are resilient in the midst of failure. I wish this notion was taught across every industry. Many of us give up too soon.
- Beware of being used. I’ve wasted a lot of money in my career when I didn’t need to, and have been used by the people closest to me. To be successful you sometimes that means exercising scrutiny.
- Brand and market research will only take you so far. In the end what you build has to be a reflection of you.
- Sometimes it seems like someone appears out of no where and has become instantaneously successful, but it’s often the case they have been working at their craft for many years, maybe even decades… undetected.
- A true support system is crucial to help you enjoy the good times and endure the bad. You are a person of enormous influence.
If you could inspire 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. 🙂
I have currently begun my own personal campaign called Finding My Islam where my own personal focus is to learn how to live authenticity as myself amidst my own personal beliefs. The focus behind the Finding My social campaign is to encourage people to find strength in living authenticity as themselves; bravely overcoming societal obstacles in their path.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t have a favorite quote, however I try to live by my own personal philosophy to not be afraid to be yourself, because you never know who YOU may inspire. It’s easier said than done, but I do try. With all of the obstacles I’ve overcome in my life, even now I am seek the courage daily to live authenticity as myself.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Hmm, I’d probably have to say the Queen of England or Michelle Obama. Two tremendously influential people who’s courage during the history of their nations will forever leave a lasting impact because of their leadership.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I have an Instagram account where I often post stories and other tidbits regarding my life and upcoming events in my career! My Instagram is @ellebzhou
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!