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Stepping Up: The Inspiring Journey Of House Of ATANA's Founders

Get inspired by the story of House of ATANA and its founders in this exclusive interview. Learn about their journey in entrepreneurship, their vision for the brand, and their tips for success in the fashion industry.

April 26th, 2023

 

Introducing the story of House of ATANA: a brand that inspires women to step into their power and embrace their individuality. From humble beginnings to becoming a global sensation, the founders of House of ATANA have defied the odds and created a brand that represents so much more than just beautiful shoes and accessories. In this interview, they share their journey, their passion, and their unwavering commitment to empowering women through fashion. Get ready to be inspired by the House of ATANA story…

Tell us the journey that led you to launch your brand, House of ATANA

ATANA was founded by my sister and me not long ago, but it had been a long time coming. We just needed an extra push, which, in our case, came in the shape of COVID lockdowns. To give a little extra context about us, we come from a very entrepreneurial family, and so we have always envisioned ourselves as running our own business, and we have dreamt of doing it together since we were kids. Our careers, up until 2020, however, were not headed down that road at all. My sister, Tanya, had a strictly finance background as she worked in Citi Investment banking as well as capacity building in Africa for a few years before her MBA at Harvard. I myself had chosen a career in embroidery and design and had spent the last several years as an Embroidery Designer in both the Menswear and Womenswear departments in Alexander McQueen, where I was part of a great team and felt truly fulfilled.

Our dream was rekindled, however, when I went back home to spend a Mother’s day with the family, and the lockdowns happened for months on end. My sister and I spent time together again, which we had not done since we were kids, and talked about what we had imagined for ourselves as women leaders and business partners. Not much after, ATANA was born, in spirit and documentation!

The product category was quite clear early on, as Tanya (my sister) has always seen shoes as the most defining element in a woman’s style. I put my own twist on it with my skills and experience in embroidery and fabric manipulation, and so the idea for the unique ATANA shoes evolved quickly. Getting the right partners on board in times of COVID was not so swift, though.

Craftsmanship is at the forefront of what you do. Why was this important to you?

My education at the Royal School of Needlework, as well as time at Alexander McQueen, has instilled in me the foundation that story-telling and authenticity are a must for any collection or product mix. Moreover, the quality standards that I had worked with at the level I had got also meant that our shoes would be positioned in the Premium category. I wanted to be able to use the same suppliers and craftsmen that work for the big houses, which was a significant investment in time and finances but also means that ATANA shoes are now beautifully handmade and unique in every way.

Your designs stand the test of time in a world that has become obsessed with fast fashion. What are your views on this?

We are not part of fast fashion and proud of it as consumers as well as business owners. We would like to create products that transcend fads, and to that end, we bet on classic lines and top-quality materials. A pair of ATANA shoes is an investment in time and a staple in a woman’s wardrobe. We release two collections a year and very limited numbers of each model, as our shoes are all handmade and beautifully embroidered.

How do you want women to feel when they wear your shoe designs?

How a woman feels in her ATANAs is the key consideration during the design process, and it comes down to two key elements that are equally important to us. First, we want to stand out with our design and aesthetics, which gives ATANA a very unique and memorable style in the branded shoes landscape. Secondly, we spend just as much time and effort on the comfort element of our shoes. We have owned some beautiful pairs in the past that, while worn with pride, also came with a significant dose of pain, which is unacceptable. We study the heel heights and their positioning, as well as invest in next-generation aloe inserts to make sure that each design never sacrifices comfort. And the latter is the toughest part to explain to our customer base. They can see and assess our designs from pictures, but the fit is something they can only appreciate when their ATANAs are on!

Have you got plans to expand your range and launch other products in the future?

Yes, there are some natural extensions to shoes in the women’s accessories category which we are actively working on, but I will be able to share more when these projects develop a little further.

If you didn’t pursue this career, what else would you have liked to do?

I don’t quite know. I do what I love, and this is a necessity to me. My very first undergrad degree is in International Management, and while I got a First-Class Diploma in it, it never felt like home or something I wanted to thrive in. What I do now truly does.

What advice would you offer any aspiring fashion designers who are struggling to get started?

Fashion is a tough industry to break into as its glamour and beautiful creations draw many people into it. From the success stories that we hear, however, there are always two key elements in the mix: authenticity and persistence around one’s personal style, which gives all of us a chance to express our creativity and be unique, and also leaning into one’s personal network. ATANA’s most successful partnerships to date have been with people who have known us from before and believed in our project and product because they believed in us. Every beginner should make the most of their network of family, friends, or supporters in general as we never realize how vast and tight-knit it can be.

Talk us through an average day in your life…

It starts at ATANA’s studio where both of us have our second morning coffee. There is usually a conversation around some publications or red carpet events that have happened overnight and where we worked to be featured. Usually, there are calls with our workshop where our shoes are made and developed, as it takes the better part of six months to develop a new shoe design. It is exciting when we have someone over for an important fitting, as the studio buzzes with more energy, and it is nice to see the new models tried on and appreciated. The best part about entrepreneurship, however, is that there is no average day in the office...there is always a fire to put out and an opportunity to make the most of.

Looking back since launching the business, is there anything that you would do differently?

There are many things that we would do differently, but hindsight is easy. We try not to dwell on it, which does NOT come naturally to either of our personalities, so that is why we work hard at it. We move on and pour ourselves into the next opportunity for ATANA. Mistakes happen, and they are a fact of life and business, and of course, what you make of them and yourself after is what sets you apart.

Our readers love to travel. What destination is at the top of your bucket list?

Prominent cultures and rich heritage recharge my spirit and bring inspiration. Japan, Mexico, Peru, Morocco, and Hawaii are very different yet distinctive places and cultures that resonate with me. Some of them I have been to, while others feel that way even from such a distance.

Running a business can be non-stop. What do you do to switch off?

That is very true. Running a business can be very lonely too, as it is not something that many friends or confidants necessarily go through and can understand. That is why we try to switch off with family and friends during holidays and parts of the weekend. It is not always possible, but we have also become better at it as we are here for the long run.

What's your go-to quote when you're lacking motivation?

I believe that different quotes influence people in different ways, but I personally love the quote "One day or day one, up to you" because I am not a procrastinator. I get things done and don't like to delay. These words are also related to the story of ATANA. We had been planning to start this business for over a decade, but we always found excuses. However, "One day, ATANA was day one" for us as entrepreneurs. If anything, we should have made the leap earlier.

In five years from now, where do you see the brand?

In five years, we envision ATANA as a contemporary go-to brand for women's shoes and accessories worldwide, with a strong presence both online and in physical stores. Shoes can be a tricky category due to the size and fit element, and many of our clients prefer to try them on in-store before making a purchasing decision. We aim to be able to answer the countless messages we receive each day about where our shoes can be tried on, with department or concept store addresses in close proximity to each of our clients. This is a tough challenge right now as wholesalers are wary of new brands due to the macroeconomic situation, but we are determined to overcome it.

Where can people find out more?

To follow our story, please check out our Instagram page @houseofatana, where we've been sharing our journey from day one. You can also visit our website at www.houseofatana.com.

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