I’m so delighted that fellow blogger, Carol; who runs a personal styling consultancy and has just launched her first fashion accessories collection under her British fashion brand Ufurria has agreed to do this interview for Loved by Lizzi.
I’ve known Carol a couple of years and I’m truly inspired by her energy, her passion for people and her desire to make whatever she is doing, truly successful.
Carol takes us through her journey so far, how she has got to a place where she is launching her own fashion brand and how she achieves work/life balance.
At the bottom of this post Carol has styled me three ways with her fabulous new luxury faux fur accessories, so keep reading, and I hope you enjoy our interview and her new collection!
Carol, tell my readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m Carol, aged 55, I’ve been married to Mark for 36 years and we live in Hitchin, Hertfordshire with our gorgeous two lurcher dogs, Rocky and Herbie
I am an inspirer! Whether it’s for women who struggle with feeling good about themselves, who have a wardrobe full of clothes but nothing to wear – I help them to feel joy in their clothes every time they get dressed! Or my latest venture, launching a luxury fashion accessory brand, of faux fur fashion accessories, Ufurria.
How did your journey start?
Born in 1962 in Hitchin, brought up in Stevenage and moved back to Hitchin when I got married, so I haven’t strayed far! I was an only child with an extremely close relationship with my father who was a tad over ambitious for me and a challenging relationship with my mother, who suffered from depression all her life.
I left school at 16, to take a course in Business Studies, as I knew University wasn’t for me, much to the disappointment of my English teacher who told my parents that I was throwing my life away. I was determined to get into fashion, as a retail buyer. But couldn’t get an opening despite applying to all of the big department stores.
One of my lecturers asked me if I’d be prepared to try accountancy as he’d been asked by a firm of accountants to recommend two students and he wanted to put me forward. I said yes, not because I had a burning desire to become an accountant, but because I was flattered and also sensible enough to know that a background in accountancy would open doors.
Where did that take you to?
This stop-gap went on to last 19 years! During this time I moved around between accountancy jobs until I got made redundant in 1991, which was the catalyst for setting up my first business, a management accountancy outsourcing company for the SME sector. I threw myself into that business 180% and there were two reasons for that. The first being that I wanted to prove I could make a success of it. The second being that I’d just been told a few months earlier that I’d never be able to have children. I’d had my menopause in my early 20s.
After a period of troubling times in my personal life, I decided to go back into corporate life and abandoned my business. I ended up in the video games industry, firstly working in finance and then in general management. In 2007 I joined a start up, three of us round the kitchen table, a designer, a MD and me… you can imagine how many hats I wore! We were designing and developing accessories for PlaystationTM and XboxTM.
It opened my eyes in so many ways, learning how something gets from an idea in someone’s head to becoming a tangible product on retail shelves. Within 7 years we had around 40 employees, turnover was growing year on year and we were profitable, but I was itching to do my own thing again. I’d learnt my lessons about work/life balance and so I went ahead and bought an online fashion boutique with limited experience in marketing, e-commerce and no experience of the fashion industry!
In February 2014 I finally parted company with the corporate world and tried to make Want Her Dress a success.
I call 2014 my Narnia year, as it really was like walking through the wardrobe to a new and enchanted land. I discovered the world of networking and collaboration. I couldn’t believe that there was a world out there of small business owners, particularly women, who wanted to support and help each other. Having worked for the last 13 years in a male dominated testosterone playground, it was a revelation…
Okay so the business was not a great success and was a huge drain on cash, but what I found was that people wanted to talk to me about their struggles with clothes, rather than buying new ones. It was this that led me to train as a personal stylist.
Tell us about the your new luxury brand Ufurria that you have launched?
Ufurria is a concept that’s been bubbling along for over 35 years! My grandmother bought me a small furry jacket from a charity sale for 50p when I was a teenager. I wore it on and off before cutting off the sleeves and wearing it as a gilet.
For some reason I hung on to the sleeves. Then one day I pulled them on over jeans and created my first pair of
furry leggings! I wore those leggings every winter and got loads of
comments about them. My husband kept encouraging me to bring them to market as
a product, but I lacked knowledge and confidence about how to do this until my
last role in the video games industry, where my eyes were opened to what it
took to bring an idea to market as a tangible product.
I was introduced to a designer, Taslima, after being invited to supply clothes from my online boutique to a fashion show for Models of Diversity. This amazing woman helped me to take my one product pony and develop it into a range of 12 products. We were ready to show the outside world!
My products are manufactured in Manchester by a Social Enterprise (SE) that is also run by Taslima. Taslima set up the SE to empower disadvantaged women. She wanted to use her skills to train others, to help their self-confidence and feelings of self-worth, to give them employable skills. So when buying Ufurria you’re buying into a brand that empowers others.
Our products are manufactured in luxurious faux fur and made to the highest quality. The rosettes that decorate some of the products are all handmade and finished with beads, so each is individual and unique.
We focus on manufacturing in on one fabric per season. The concept behind this is that we want Ufurria products to become collectors’ items. As the brand grows over time, the year of manufacture will be represented by the fabric. But to further endorse this, we’ve designed a small metal disc, which is sewn on to the products, and shows the year of manufacture.
Having had my furry leggings for many years and treasured them, I want the same ethos for the brand. I hate that we live a society where the trend is to wear something a few times and then discard it. This doesn’t sit well with me, so I wanted to create longevity for the brand.
What products feature in this collection?
The furry leggings of course! Anklets, wrist cuffs, fingerless gloves, muff, infinity scarf, neckband, shoulder bag, clutch bag and bag charms.
What’s next for Ufurria?
The next step has already been started! We have just launched our Winter Wedding Range. This is available now on a pre-ordering basis only.
We’ve been working with a bridal boutique, who have helped us with concept and design, and we come up with a range and the prototypes are now in seven wedding shows, so we’re waiting to see the results; in this range we offer muff, bolero, cape and a jacket, all of which come in a long pile white faux fur – simply gorgeous!
|Award winning collection! Carol receiving her award from the BTAA Awards|
What is a typical week in the life of Carol?
There isn’t one, which makes so much fun! I may be seeing clients or working on their style files and vision boards or preparing for a shopping trip. Or I may be blogging or marketing my latest workshops.
I also do a lot of networking and as a member of a couple of Mastermind groups, which are essentially peer support groups to grow our business and ourselves, this is how I get most of my business as a stylist. Plus I run a Facebook group, Awesome Women, which my forum for my support network and building an online community.
For Ufurria I may be working with the retailers who are taking my product or discussing events or pop ups or marketing the brand. We’ve moved from the design phase into launch phase now, so this is about getting the product out there and getting it noticed.
What’s the best thing about your work?
The best thing about my styling business is seeing the transformation in women who have lost confidence in their appearance, realise that with a few tips and tricks they look fabulous.
For Ufurria it’s the challenge in building a brand in an industry, which will fulfil my ultimate dream of leaving a mark on the British fashion industry.
What’s the one task you wish you didn’t have to do?
Technology! I don’t fear it but get very frustrated when something doesn’t work in the way it should!
What’s your favourite item in your wardrobe?
My brown silky trousers High by Claire Campbell for going out and a long line Mint Velvet jacket for day wear.
What’s in your handbag?
Not much! Purse, iPhone, iPad, charger, lipstick, tissues and business cards!
What’s your favourite bit of jewellery and why?
My gorgeous necklace from Caterina Wills jewellery (which I’m wearing in the photo at the top). It’s a unique statement piece made by Caterina, who is a self-taught jewellery designer.
What book are you reading at the moment?
The Glitter Plan by Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor. It’s autobiographical account of Juicy Couture and how they started it with $200 and turned it into a massive global brand. Inspiring and fun!
How do you achieve work/life balance?
With difficulty! I work out a lot, which is my main way of switching off and my dogs play a major part in helping me to maintain a sense of perspective.
How do you relax?
Working out – boxfit a form of boxing training, cardio conditioning, pump and with my Personal Trainer. Plus I love getting out into the countryside with our dogs. And my latest project which is upcycling denim jackets!
Where’s your favourite place to shop?
I love pre-loved boutiques. We have a very special one in Hitchin where you can buy anything from designer clothes and accessories to high street brands. It’s so much more fun than the homogenised High Street!
What tips do you have for busy working women?
You need to do what you love. Life’s too short to be doing things that do not inspire you or make you feel really passionate.
Believe in yourself. Self-confidence is so important and will get you to places beyond your dreams. Surround yourself with a support network. Family and friends are great, but a support network of other women is invaluable.
What three things could you not live without?
- My health
- Mark (husband)
- Our dogs
- Oh and 4… my iPhone!
Now don’t take too long to think about these!
- Clutch or Tote? – Either so long as it has a shoulder strap and is furry!
- Heels or flats? – Love heels but my body prefers flats!
- Leather or faux fur? (LOL) – both combined!
- Book or Kindle? – Book, my favourite place to read is the bath and I’m clumsy!
- Instagram or Facebook? – Facebook
- Paper notebook or digital tablet? – I still use an A4 book to organise my life but I do my diaries online so they sync!
- Diamonds or Pearls? – Costume jewellery it has to make a statement!
- Tea or Coffee? – Coffee
- Starter or Desert? – Starter but there has to be chocolate with the coffee!
- Lipstick or Lip Gloss? – Lipstick when I remember
And finally, the most important question! Where can ladies go buy your collection?
We’re in some local boutiques such as Polgara’s Secrets, products are also on some boutique websites such as Shop Ofio and will soon be available to buy direct from our Facebook and Instagram accounts. Prices are between £30 and £190.
UFURRIA – STYLED THREE WAYS
In the above photo I am wearing the large Russian scarf (super cosy!!) with the wrist cuffs which I think make a great alternative look to a plain biker jacket.
And here I’m using this fabulous cross-over shoulder bag, which was lovely and comfortable on the shoulders. Carol attached a bag charm and because I love them so much we kept the wrist cuffs on.
And for the third look, I’m wearing these gorgeous anklets along with the muff, I think these would be the perfect accessories on a glamorous outdoor event.