Mary Vallarta is a former fashion retail executive for major companies like Macy’s, BCBG, Metropark and Bebe. In 2012 she launched FAB (Fashion and Business) Counsel with the mission of helping entrepreneurs create profitable and mindful fashion companies. Mary and her company remain dedicated to sharing insights, tools, and resources that empower fashion entrepreneurs and businesses all over the world. Mary took some time to discuss with us the keys to her immense success.
How is social media influencing fashion? Do you believe it to be positive or negative?
Social media is influencing fashion in many ways, from consumption, to production, to presentation to marketing. Social media has exposed people to trends and the latest fashion. It has pushed and encouraged manufacturers to produce merchandise at a faster rate to respond to what is currently in style. It has enabled consumers to directly communicate with their favorite brands and fashion personalities. It has magnified the unethical practices that factories and brands have kept secret. It has offered retailers another channel to promote their merchandise. These can be considered positive and negative impacts, depending on the lens you’re looking through.
As a successful woman, business owner and mother what tips can you provide for other young women who are struggling to rise to that level of success in a male dominated industry?
The first tip I can give is to be conscious that male, and to take it a step further, white male privilege, exists. Knowing that will allow you to understand how to better communicate with people and maneuver through the industry. But don’t let that change who you are as a person. Stay authentic to yourself and believe in your own capabilities as the woman you are. That will give you the intuition and awareness to know, “what’s the next decision I need to make.” As a mother, there’s no greater accomplishment I have achieved than becoming a mom. It’s made me into a more compassionate, loving, and thoughtful person. Having a child inspired me to get to know myself, so that I am better equipped to guide my daughter to be proud of who she is.
Has teaching had an impact on your approach to business?
Definitely! It has taught me to be more patient and it has opened my eyes to some of the challenges that many aspiring fashion entrepreneurs face.
Who are some of your favorite brands to work with?
That is a hard question. I have made a conscious effort to only work with brands that I adore and believe in. Some of my favorite projects have been working with struggling fashion businesses to empower them to get on the right track. I love dissecting businesses to figure out what strategies or practices need to be changed, added or removed to make a company thrive. It stems from my love of problem solving and being involved in many aspects of the fashion business such as merchandising, marketing, sales, customer service, etc.
Fast fashion has provided us with rapid access to clothes that are cheap and readily available, but has come at an ethical cost. How can the general public be more aware of this/find out more about where their clothes come from?
It starts by caring and asking. If sales associates at a store have no clue whether they sell ethically sourced merchandise, that typically means they don’t. Then, you as a consumer, have empowered yourself to decide whether you want to support that store. I think the most effective way to see change is by consciously choosing where we put our dollars. If we want our favorite brands to care about our environment, then only support environmentally sustainable brands.
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion means a lot of things to me. It’s a way to express myself. It’s a way for me to provide for my family. But most of all, it’s a way for me to give value to the world. I was blessed to know what I know about the fashion business and I’ve chosen to use that knowledge to empower other fashion entrepreneurs all over the world.
The digital influencer lab is a phenomenal conference, what gave you the idea to create it and how did you get started?
I actually hosted a talk on how digital influencers affect consumer behavior a year before I launched the Digital Influencer Lab. It had an amazing turnout and people were asking for more. So, I decided to turn it into a full-day experience to get influencers and brands to connect and create meaningful relationships. It was a success and I had the pleasure of working with companies like Honest, Wix, Physician’s Formula, and more.
What is your advice for future fashion entrepreneurs and fashion bloggers?
Have a reason why you do what you do besides, “I need to make money.” Having a WHY will give you the intuition and knowledge to make the right decisions for your business.
What are the next steps for you after this venture?
I plan to continue growing FAB Counsel, specifically our online education platform called, FAB School. The goal is to offer courses online that individuals from all over the world can take. That will allow me to empower more entrepreneurs and businesses. I’m also working on a fashion, food, and travel conference called The Collective, which will be taking place on October 21 here in Los Angeles, CA. Then I plan to launch the FAB Counsel collection, which is a line of products designed for the mindful fashion entrepreneur. Finally, I plan to create a conference designed to teach moms how to use entrepreneurship to create personal fulfillment and financial freedom for themselves and their families.
What is the ultimate key factor to be successful in fashion?
I think that depends on how you define success. Our society, in my perspective, puts a lot of emphasis on financial success. But not every fashion entrepreneur wants to be as big as Ralph Lauren or Donna Karan. Many people just want a way to make a comfortable living for their family. So I think it’s important to know what you want to get out of fashion and what it will take to make that happen. If you want to be as big as Ralph Lauren, know that you’ll have to spend a lot of time working away from your family. Know that you may have to kiss ass to celebrities and retailers to make that money and get that press.