Ever since I can remember, I knew I wanted to design my own clothing line.
I have always loved art in general. Growing up with two older brothers who are incredible artists may be the reason I have always wanted to design. Since day one, my inspiration for launching my own business has been my love for fashion and art.
It’s a burning passion that follows me through life. Not one moment of experience, but rather a collection of life experiences.
I worked for fashion retailers in New York City for 10 years, and it was then that I began working on my own label. I would work full time for whatever employer I was with at the time, and then I would go home and work on Elise by Elise.
It takes a lot of motivation to keep going after you start something like a clothing line. There are ups and downs, and many that you can’t foresee.
But I wanted to keep the promise I made to myself as a young woman to never give up on my dream and stay on course.
My mom also was a great inspiration to me. She would always tell me that I had what it took to be a good businesswoman. If I ever feel special as a person, it’s because my mom told me so.
Like most designers, when I started, I started small.
My first collection was 10 pieces and I sold it at a trunk show. At one point, I even sold a garment right off a model after a runway show I had. I just wanted to see a woman wearing my label.
Throughout my career, I have discovered there are not a lot of women of color designing in the fashion industry. So, I want to be the face for another young girl of color, her inspiration, her motivation. And my goal now is to be the designer of a trend-setting label.
The process of owning a business has been fun, frustrating, rewarding and more.
I have learned to roll with whatever comes my way. The only way to overcome obstacles is to stay focused on my goal, and not look back. That’s life. There will always be an obstacle.
If there was one piece of advice I could give to someone else it would be to never let go of your dreams, don’t ever give up. Even when you are the only person who believes in you, never give up.
But it’s also important to balance your life. Quality of life is important to me because I am a mom. I want to tuck my two little ones into bed and see them when they wake up, so I never obligate myself to something that will take me away from that.
As my career progresses, I’m sure there will be times when I have to sacrifice, but for now balancing my career with my private life is important.
Kendra Valton, creative director and designer of Elise by Elise, launched her women’s apparel line in 2008. She lives in the Columbus area.