Our next #LadyBossInterview is with the talented designer, entrepreneur and founder of The Wild Mantle Co., Avi Loren Fox. A beautiful and fashionable luxury line of hooded scarves, which she names mantles, made by an amazing community of artisans and local artists. Each piece is designed by Avi with the mission to bring style and functionality to each and every hooded scarf made.
Avi Loren Fox
Can you tell us about yourself and background?
I am a 30 year old woman entrepreneur who grew up in Narberth, Pennsylvania (just outside of Philadelphia). I was home schooled from second to eighth grade, and then attended public high school and college. Growing up I always loved to sew and create new garments out of other garments...I had no idea that would one day be a part of my work and life in such a big way.
What’s the meaning of Wild Mantle?
People were always telling me how safe, confident and courageous they felt when they wore my hooded-scarves, and I thought they needed a really powerful name. I remembered the ancient word mantle which means a loose fitting hood or cloak, and one’s role or responsibility in the world. I loved that I could design something that would help support individuals, in a symbolic way, as they discovered and took up the mantles of their own lives. I’ve always loved the word wild - and helping to figure out how we can re-direct industry to be more environmentally respectful is one of the mantles I have decided to take up. So, I brought those two words together and that is how I got Wild Mantle.
Why did you decide to start Wild Mantle?
I first made a hooded-scarf a few years ago just because I wanted one. I had no intention of starting a brand! But when I wore it out into the world, people asked me “what is that? I want one!” and before I knew it I was making them for lots of other people.
Photo Credit: WildMantle.com
How did you come up with the idea to design hooded-scarfs?
I had seen 3 hooded-scarf designs over the course of my life in random places. Whenever I asked the person wearing it where they got it, it was always like “oh, my aunt’s friend made it” and I couldn’t find where to buy one in stores. So, I dreamed up what to me was the perfect design, even better than the ones I saw, and I made it for myself.
How involve are you in the day to day operations?
Very involved! I design all of our mantles, manage operations, sales, marketing, etc. out of my studio in Pennsylvania. I am really lucky to have an amazing team of artisans in Colorado and they make all of the mantles. They’ve also started helping with shipping to our customers. While we mostly communicate via telephone and email, I’m in touch with them on a daily basis and I love visiting whenever I can.
What are the fabrics used when it comes to create your products?
We use a variety of fabrics and materials - alpaca, merino wool, minky fleece, sustainable wood buttons, organic cotton tags, made in USA garment bags, upcycled sweaters, and more. The majority of our materials have some sustainability aspect to them. Those materials that don’t, I’m confident I can replace with a recycled version down the line once we have enough buying power to meet certain minimums required by the industry. Quality and durability is very important to me, as is softness.
Photo Credit: WildMantle.com
How did you become interested in sustainability?
While I grew up in a very eco-conscious family (we composted, had backyard chickens, etc.) I really discovered the importance of sustainability in college. I remember taking an International Relations class and learning about all of the environmental degradation and human inequality in our world. I thought about going into politics or the non-profit world (and dabbled in both for a little) but ultimately realized that business has an incredible power to redirect an industry. So when I started Wild Mantle, it was a no brainer to me to embed a sustainability ethic into the DNA of my business so that I could use the power of that business to create the change I wanted to see.
Is sustainable living a big part of your life?
Sustainable living has been a big part of my life - in different capacities at different times. In my early twenties, I refused to fly anywhere, for example. But then I noticed that it came with a certain strictness and mentalities of lack. I realized that there was nothing wrong with traveling or living an abundant life, but it was the way we were traveling that was harmful to our planet and ultimately our habitat. I realized that the world I believe in wasn’t one where we are limited by sustainability, but one where we are able to live an even better life. I believe technology will play a big role in both increasing the quality of life and allowing us to live sustainably on the planet. So in my daily life now I cover all the basics (buy organic food, recycle, make sustainable choices in my business, drive a hybrid car, etc.) and I’m also always on the lookout for new ways of living sustainably that maintain or increase quality of life.
What are the most challenging parts of being not only an entrepreneur but a woman in business?
The most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur is inventing your own way forward. Don’t get me wrong - this is also the most fun. But there is never anyone telling you how to accomplish the goals you set - and while you can take advice - it always in the end comes down to what you believe is best and what you decide to try. This is fun a lot of the time, but also really challenging when you don’t know what to do next and wish you had someone who would do it for you. But those hard moments are often the times when I have breakthroughs and figure out my next steps. In terms of being a woman in business, I’ve always believed that my capacity for success has nothing to do with my gender. I have this privilege because I work for myself, and I don’t have to deal with all of the gender inequality that I hear goes on in large corporations. If anything, I’ve felt a lot of support from others because I am a woman and they want to see me succeed.
Photo Credit: WildMantle.com
What are the creative ways you come up to solve the challenges you encounter daily?
I’ve learned that it’s important to work hard, but more important to work smart. Sometimes you need to take a step away and walk around the block or take a call with a friend to clear your head and gain perspective. I’ve also learned it can be helpful to think a problem through out loud (yes, talk to yourself), almost as if you were giving someone else advice. Above all I’ve learned it is important to trust the unfolding of events and navigate by adaptation rather than force of opinion. That doesn’t mean I don’t persevere through problems, it just means that sometimes I go around the big rock sitting in my path rather than banging my head against it expecting it to move.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
For the first 3 years of Wild Mantle, I didn’t always have a good work life balance. I would burn myself out and then try and establish a balance, and then burn myself out again. I realized I had a belief system that said I should feel guilty if I didn’t always work overtime, which is ridiculous! And not at all why I became an entrepreneur. Now I’ve realized that it is a marathon not a sprint. I have two days on my calendar a week in yellow that say “DAY OFF” and if I work a weekend day, I move it to another day to compensate. I’m pretty good at sticking to this, but only because I learned the hard way.
What is the most rewarding part since you’ve started Wild Mantle?
I love interacting with my customers, whether it is in person at a private trunk show, or via email helping them pick out just the right mantle. People get so excited over my designs and I love when I get a message saying how much they love their mantle and wear it so often. My customers say “it feels like a hug” and it’s really fun to think about giving out all these hugs and people being cozy warm all winter. There are a lot of other really rewarding and exciting moments, but this is one that has repeated itself since the beginning that I think is noteworthy.
Photo Credit: WildMantle.com
As a woman entrepreneur, what do you think are the most significant obstacles to women’s leadership?
Growing up, it honestly never occurred to me that I couldn’t do something because I was a woman. This probably has a lot to do about how I was raised. My parents were never like “there has never been a female president” they were more like “what do you think, would you want to be president when you grown up?” I think that if you are an entrepreneur and you are working for yourself, there are a lot of benefits to being a woman because there are so many programs showing up around the country to support women entrepreneurs. While there are a lot of obstacles of salary inequality in the corporate world, and work-life balance challenges across the board, I think the biggest challenge is to not let that hold you back and realize that those are peoples challenges and that you have the power to create the reality that you want.
What advice would you give to like-minded entrepreneurs, who are just starting out in the industry?
That it is important to have GRIT. I’m currently reading the book GRIT by Angela Duckworth (which I first heard about through her TED talk) and it talks about how perseverance is more important than talent in dictating success. I love this book because I remember when I started Wild Mantle, I realized that it would take 5 years to really know if I had a viable business or not because most people give up and businesses fail in the first 5 years. I made a commitment to myself to see these 5 years through. And it’s been really hard - there have been times when I have wanted to give up and almost done so. But I never did because I understood that while it is important to make sure you have a good idea, it is also important to make sure you show up, stay in the game and display a lot of GRIT long enough to give success a chance to kick in.
In 5 years, how do you envisage the future of Wild Mantle?
In 5 years from now, Wild Mantle will be 8 years old! That’s so exciting. I envision having a few major retail partners, expanding into international sales, and perhaps adding a few more specialty lines. I also gave a TEDx Talk and by the time we are 8, I hope to develop a speaking series on self-empowerment and “taking up your mantle” that I can bring to schools around the country and create a supportive culture for young people.
Where can we purchase your products?
Most people shop our website, www.wildmantle.com , You can also find us on The Grommet and Fancy.
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