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Five Minutes With – Valentina Karellas

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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

I am a knitwear designer and maker; I make everything in my small workshop in north west London.

Have you always been interested in fashion and/or owning a business?

For many years, I have always loved making, I used to help my mum sew as a child, that’s where I learned my skills of pattern cutting and seeing how my mum dealt with customers and making them happy. I actually loved performing arts and costume design more, but I was lead down knitwear at London college of fashion, I loved the idea of making my own fabric from raw fibres.

Where did your journey begin?

As a child for sure, I learned everything from my mum, back in the days where people used to make their clothes, but also I learnt to use and utilize every scrap, I still have all her scrap fabrics and cuttings, I always make something small or patchwork from them.

What is a strong ethos you hold for your business?

Zero waste. It’s time consuming, keeping all the firbres, making new things, utilizing everything, however, its worth it. I practice what I preach, a lot of brands out there say they are ethical, but they only focus on one aspect of sustainable fashion, I cover every possible factor I can.

What makes you love what you do?

I love seeing the ideas come to life, being a maker also gives a deeper love and as you make mistakes on a machine that turns out better than your initial idea, so you grow and learn with each piece you make.

Why did you specifically get into knitwear rather than general design?

I studied knitwear as a degree, but I also did a masters in womenswear, I never stopped knitting or designing for knit. I feel it’s the most sustainable route to fashion, you can shape your clothing, you can keep every fibre and use it in many ways. Where as with woven’s, as lovely and versatile as they are, they mostly require cutting, which is more than often discarded.

 Do you have a personal life motto?

Just keep smiling, keep going, I never give up.

 What is your main struggle in being female business owner?

I feel it’s the same struggle as any business owner, finance, as designers and creatives, having lack of funds/investments makes it very hard to grow. Unfortunately, as a female we tend not to ‘ask’ so we don’t get, but I am learning.

 What was your biggest personal achievement?

Building my own workshop, well not physically myself, I commissioned the studio years before I had my brand, with the hopes that if I build it, I will one day have my own brand and business.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned from being an entrepreneur/ owning your own business/brand?

That everything takes 3 times longer to do than planned and everything costs a lot more than planned.

How do you find inspiration on an average day?Do you have any rituals?

Yes, I have daily morning gym sessions to keep the strength going and evening relaxing yoga, I couldn’t be able to have such a physical and mindful job without it.

Are you a morning or night person? When do you work best?

Definitely a morning person, I also need the best light to work on the machines, I prefer natural day light than electrical lights, which means I have to start knitting early, so I can get on with emails and website work later in the day.

Who has inspired you the most and why?

I would say aside from my mum, she taught me everything I know about work and life, but I particularly love Stella McCartney’s designs, ethos, way of life, I love that she uses her name to drive awareness and have never swayed from this.

Do you have any advice to give to the up and comers or people wanting to do what you do?

Do your research, where to make your items if you can’t make them yourself, get a realistic budget, find out prices, from photoshoots, website building, show and events, everything costs money, be prepared to spend it in the right place.

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