In light of International Women's Day, we chatted with Fanny Moizant and Sophie Hersan, the female founders of Vestiaire Collective, a global resale site for authenticated pre-owned luxury and premium fashion, about how they built their fashion empire, how they handled challenges and triumphs, and what it really takes to get a business off the ground.
How did Vestiaire get from an idea to an actual business? FANNY MOIZANT: Through a lot of energy, work and drive. We literally invented a business model. It was scary and exciting at the same time because we lived in uncertainty for months, only our intuition provided the answers to our questions. Until the day we went live and received our first order. Things became real. Very fast.
SOPHIE HERSAN: The team was key. We were all so passionate, we had a strong entrepreneurial spirit with a variety of skills that complemented each other. This gave Vestiaire a real chance to exist. A simple idea combined with good partners made it happen. The Vestiaire community grew much quicker than we anticipated, we succeeded in convincing strong investors with a simple Powerpoint presentation who believed in the possibility of what we were building. Almost 10 years later we’ve managed to build a leading global resale site that allows our fashion community to share their love, style and passion.
What keeps you motivated when challenges feel impossible to overcome? FM: I guess it’s the entrepreneurial mind-set. It makes you feel like you’re living on a rollercoaster, some days are very high and some are very low. But in those moments there are two things that make me fight harder to overcome the challenges; my passion for the company and my team. I owe both of them the inspiration to crush whatever stone is in the way. Also, I am lucky enough to be able to share my concerns with Sophie so that she can cheer me up.
SH: Determination and love never leaves me. When you hire 350 people who believe in the company you’ve built and share its values, the only option is to fight to overcome challenges that lay in your way. With a global community of eight million members, Vestiaire has influenced the way people consume fashion—we have to stay motivated and keep innovating. Vestiaire was founded during a recession.
What advice would you give someone looking to start a business in the current financial uncertainty? FM: I do think these challenging times are truly inspiring moments. When you struggle you have to find new ways of doing things, so don’t try to replicate what already exists. Just work on your dissatisfactions, try to find answers to them. If you do, you might be sitting on a business idea.
SH: Never feel afraid to break the rules during periods of uncertainty. This is the perfect time to innovate, believe in your idea, break the rules, stay authentic, think global and the rest will follow.
What do you think makes a woman feel truly empowered? FM: I think it’s about accepting your own doubts. Women tend to doubt more than men, for me, it’s a strength. Trying to always balance things out is good, but sometimes you have to accept that you are wrong—100 percent of your decisions cannot always be good ones. Feeling empowered is about knowing yourself well and finding people that will complement your strengths and weaknesses.
SH: Always strive for success, keep yourself challenged and constantly question yourself. Accept self-doubt but don’t let it control your ambitions, always think positively and surround yourself with talented experts from all over the world.
Do you have a power wardrobe? FM: Yes, I do have several according to where I live. I have to adapt it to the weather. In Europe, it’s heels, denim and sweater. In Hong Kong, it’s much more a t-shirt, large pants and sneakers.
SH: I don’t have a power wardrobe as such, I prefer to be myself. A classic black suit with high heels or jeans with trainers are my wardrobe staples that make me feel empowered and dynamic.
What advice would you give your younger self? FM: Follow your intuition, don’t be afraid, always be a leading example and work more than anyone else.
SH: Trust yourself. Nothing is ever easy, you have to aim high and surround yourself with genuine people in order to achieve great things. Stay true to yourself, accept your failures and always be committed.
What is it like to work in a business often run by men? Do you feel that things are finally changing and do you feel that you are an active part of this change? FM: I have never experienced any power struggles with men. My parents raised my brother and I as equals. For me, it’s a mind-set. We are equals. I think sometimes as women, we need to break our own personal barriers. Yes, it’s difficult to be a mum, a woman and a professional. But it’s not impossible, and it’s not a given for men either. It’s never been a matter of gender for me. There are a lot of strong women at the top of the Vestiaire Collective organisation. I am proud of it.
SH: We are 70 percent women at Vestiaire and a large part of the senior responsibilities are handled by women, so we are a positive example of the changes that are happening in the industry right now. I feel that women can feel legitimate in positions of influence today, we have fought to be here and it’s rewarding to see the results