How did you get your start in the fashion industry? What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I’ve always had a passion for fashion. My grandmother was a tailor and I used to spend my afternoons after school with her while she was on the sewing machine making clothes.
At that same time, I used to love to go to my mothers office to help her with “office stuff” she used to work at my grandparents’ furniture company, so since I was a child, I had the opportunity to experience the real life of a company—that definitely built me as a person and the professional I am today.
My first fashion/entrepreneurial experience was when I was 15 at school and a friend and I had the idea of building a fashion label for youngsters like us.
At that time, my parents couldn’t support me with money to build the business so after building everything we couldn’t complete the collection. That was quite disappointing, but gave me a lot of experience in the industry.
“AwaytoMars was born with the main objective of making sure good and innovative ideas for fashion products got the support they need to go to the market.”
For almost a year, I lived for that brand, doing market research, meeting fashion professionals, visiting retail spaces. I went to university to study economics and international relations, but at every single break I used to run to the arts and fashion department to use the workshops and get some of that amazing energy.
So in my last two years of my graduation, I started to go to fashion school at night, after work. I had two great crazy years of waking up at 5 a.m. and going to bed at 2 a.m. to make sure I could do everything.
What inspired the industry-disruptive business model behind AwaytoMars?
I’m a big fan of consumer behavior and, for the past 10 years, I’ve worked for one of the most important branding consultancy for luxury brands in Latin America.
During my time there, I’ve specialized in social media and how people share information online. This was my research theme during my master’s degree two years ago, when I started realize that a lot of people already shared very interesting ideas for fashion products online but all this information got lost.
So with the help with my business partner, Carlo Valentino, we built an online tool where people could share all this information, best feedback, improve the ideas, produce and sell in the same place.
AwaytoMars was born with the main objective of making sure good and innovative ideas for fashion products got the support they need to go to the market.
Where does the name AwaytoMars come from?
When I started building the brand concept and the business model, I wanted a name that could explain our idea in a fun way.
Everything we do with AwaytoMars is new and quite disruptive. Mars for us is distant but is something that we have very close to us. AwaytoMars is a new direction for the fashion industry, a place where every single person can create.
Is the collection available only online or do you also sell wholesale to brick-and-mortar stores, as well?
We strongly believe in the power of the crowdfunding and online shopping, and our main focus is to get normal people to access the product at wholesale prices through our crowdfunding campaigns.
That’s exactly what happens in our industry with wholesalers: When brands close the order book they produce, they go to trade fairs and showrooms to sell the collection. What doesn’t reach the minimum is not produced.
“We want normal people to experience all the process behind a real fashion brand, so we try to involve every single person.
We’re bringing people to be part of this process. They’ll have the chance to access the products at the same time that a wholesaler and with the same benefits.
AwaytoMars sources ideas from all kinds of people, even those with zero fashion experience. What benefits or challenges does this strategy bring to the creative process?
I can describe all the qualities it brings to the process. Every time we open a co-creation is a happy surprise.
There’s so many great and innovative ideas out there, and we have access to many of them.
The process is a big challenge because we are working with different people, different cultures, backgrounds and experience levels, so it’s a daily challenge to guide all these people on the designing process and give the best experience.
We care about what this people will take out of this whole experience. We want normal people to experience all the process behind a real fashion brand, so we try to involve every single person in the creation, production, and sales aspects.
Are there other benefits to co-creation beyond fashion forecasting?
That’s a lot of benefits on co-creation—not just for the fashion industry, but for any kind of activity that seeks for innovation.
When you mix different people, with different backgrounds and life experience, you have exciting results.
Now we have an unlimited source of ideas ready to collaborate with each other.
“When you mix different people, with different backgrounds and life experience, you have exciting results.”
Your brand definitely has a strong customer-producer relationship. What is it like with your suppliers?
We are very close to our manufacturers and with the people that work for us.
Before we agree on any production, we make sure the factories reach our standards of production and personal treatment.
At the moment, we produce our clothes in Portugal, Italy, and in the United Kingdom. All of the suppliers we work with, from the thread-makers to the delivery companies, share the same values of respect for their employees.
What do you look for when choosing designers/pieces for a cohesive co-created collection?
We look for innovative ideas. It doesn’t matter the drawing skills or technical knowledge. Our job here is, with the help of the crowd, to point what can bring something new to the industry.
Do you think that co-creative and crowdfunding models are the future of fashion?
The fashion industry has spent the last 50 years concentrating on bring aesthetic innovation every six months to its creations [but is otherwise stagnant with] its business model.
If you compare it to other industries, fashion haven’t experienced a true industry innovation since the Industrial Revolution.
Some people say that the Zara model was a revolution, but apart from being a non-sustainable and not very ethical model, what Zara did was speed up the chain.
“Co-creation brings new people and new stories to the creative process everyday. What we’re doing is very simple: giving the power to people.
The fashion industry hasn’t yet experienced the advances of the technology. We’re still very small compared to other industries like automotive, transportation, and communications.
I believe that it’s time for the industry to experience something new. People want new things all the time. Fifteen years ago, I could count in one hand the fashion brands I knew. Now, there are so many that is hard to keep the track. That’s because people want new stories, new passions, and exclusive items.
Big fashion houses are struggling to keep the same growth they had 10 to 15 years ago, because people are bored.
Co-creation brings new people and new stories to the creative process everyday. What we’re doing is very simple: giving the power to people.