It’s not every day that you get to sit down and chat with just any fashionable pioneer on the ins and outs of building a business from scratch.
Luckily, we were able to meet up with the admirable Roberta Benteler, founder of upscale e-tailer, Avenue 32. What diverges Benteler from her contemporaries is that she was once like many of us – working uninspiring jobs whilst chasing something satiating in the ever-creative and dynamic world of fashion even encountering her own share of rejection. But by doing something we’ve encouraged all along (never giving up) she embarked on her own and made waves in the luxury e-commerce landscape with her brainchild. Hear what she has to say on what that journey was like and what’s in store for the future of Avenue 32.
1. What were you doing before Avenue 32?
Before starting Avenue 32 I was working in Private Equity, but being a creative person, I felt the finance industry wasn’t stimulating enough for me. After helping out a friend of mine who is a fashion designer, I eventually had the idea for Avenue 32.
2. How did it come to exist?
It was born out of the desire to create an online shopping destination that brought back the element of discovery – by scouting new and interesting designers and to create a brand mix that inspired a sense of treasure hunting in the customer, as opposed to shopping for basics or widely available pieces.
3. What was the most challenging part of starting up?
Definitely getting the designers on board as, even five years ago, there were still a lot of skeptics in regards to selling luxury fashion online.
4. Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Oh many things, but the important thing is that Avenue 32 as a company, and me personally, have learned a lot throughout it all, which will help us reach our goals for the future.
5. What do you love most about fashion?
There are many things I love about fashion. Being a very visual person, I love beautiful craftsmanship and fabrics for instance, but most of all I love how fashion reinvents itself every six months – that element of surprise, as you never know where it is going next. Fashion can also inspire confidence and emotion; it is an expression of ourselves, if we want it to be.
6. What is your most and least favorite aspect of owning your own business?
The best aspect of owning my own business is that I get to do my dream job and work with such an amazing and strong team, who are like a family to me. My least favourite aspect is probably being able to spend less time at home in London than I would like to.
7. Are there any particular things that influence your buying decisions when scouting new/emerging designers?
A lot of it is instinct to be honest, but good quality cannot be compromised.
8. Must have pieces to get through winter.
Definitely a THP Shop faux fur coat to brave the cold, Ikkii boots to stay warm and dry, plus anything by Perfect Moment, if you are going to face snow. Oh and a good party outfit of course! My favourite is the velvet Tuva jumpsuit by Temperley London.
9. Any advice for those interested in pursuing a fashion career that lack the educational background and network?
My advice would be to be persistent and don’t shy away from internships. They are often the best way into a business and then you have the chance to prove yourself. Also, apply to smaller firms and designers as the big ones will usually be inundated with applicants.
10. What’s next for Avenue 32?
2016 marks our fifth anniversary and will be a big year for us – we are not only launching 25 amazing new brands for SS16, but will also reveal our brand new website.