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Valerie Blaise is the designer and founder of Vavvoune, an exciting new leather accessories brand that’s taking NYC by storm with their exquisite, fresh takes on classic looks. In this episode of In The Know Style: Changemakers, Blaise shares how she went from learning to sew on YouTube, to starting one of the most exciting new brands in the competitive world of NYC fashion.
Design has always been a part of Blaise’s life, starting from when she was growing up as a young girl in Haiti.
“Fashion and style was always very fascinating to me,” Blaise tells In The Know. “I was born and raised in Haiti until I was about nine. My grandmother was a fabric vendor in Haiti, and I remember my mom used to always have her clothes made. So I was always fascinated with her.”
This fascination followed Blaise into her teen years, when she made an online purchase that would change the course of her career as a designer.
“When I was 19 or 20, I purchased a [vintage] bag online, and when that package was delivered, and I opened the package, I was just exhilarated and joyful and inspired and enthusiastic,” says Blaise. “That’s when I knew that bags were what I wanted to design and create.”
To jumpstart her brand, Blaise taught herself how to sew by watching videos online.
“I am very much self-taught. I taught myself how to sew through like, YouTube and two-week courses, three-week courses at FIT,” Blaise tells In The Know. “I think it’s really good as a designer to actually know how to make your products.”
Blaise prides herself on finding design inspiration everywhere. She describes herself as “very open and light,” and constantly keeps an eye out for ways that she can be inspired from her environment.
“I was in the garment district in New York, and I saw this piece of hardware, and I just purchased it, just because I really liked it,” says Blaise. “And a few days later I started to create bags from that piece of hardware.”
For her leather pieces, Blaise wants the leather itself to tell a story and inspire, using bold colors and sleek design.
“I love leather. I want the leathers to be different. You know, I don’t want them to be just, you know, this red leather that’s smooth. I want them to evoke an emotion when it comes to the colors,” says Blaise.
As her brand continues to grow, Blaise has high hopes for Vavvoune’s ever-expanding influence.
“We live in an era where building a business or a brand, you don’t have to follow a protocol anymore,” Blaise tells In The Know. “That’s actually what excites me the most because there are no limitations to the directions that I want to take to grow my brand.”
For Blaise, being able to use Vavvoune as a platform where both she and her customers can express themselves, while continuing to grow and adapt, is essential.
“I see Vavvoune being like, out there. Like in artful spaces and spaces that tell stories,” says Blaise. “The way that I design is always going to be exciting. And it’s always going to be spontaneous and it’s always going to be experiential. Without curiosity, Vavounne wouldn’t be in existence.”
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