Margarita, thanks for taking the time to share your lessons with our community today. So, let’s jump right in – one of the most essential skills for unlocking our potential is self-discipline. Where does your self-discipline come from?
My self-discipline was encouraged and developed early on as a child of four years. I was put in classical Ballet classes. Initially, it started as a way to keep me focused and out of the house for a short period. It later grew into a love for the music, the style of dance with its strict discipline and understanding how competitive the art form is. My studies included studies in the Russian discipline and later I followed the Royal Academy and reached the level of professional. As with all art forms, there comes a moment when you must take a hard look at yourself and truly be realistic of your future. Basically, you need to ask the hard question, “Are you exceptional enough to become a prima ballerina?”
I knew I was good but not exceptional and basically slowly left the physical art form but not the creativity and self-discipline.
Thanks for sharing that. So, before we get any further into our conversation, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and what you’re working on?
My interest in fashion was always there, since I can remember, in particular for shoes. Probably, some influence came from the costumes I wore when performing in many ballets recitals and later on the stage. Although my initial interest in fashion was in retail on the business side; I was given the opportunity to train as a buyer and loved working with designers, forecasting materials, colors and tendendancies for the up coming season in my market while overseeing several stores in the US for a few European designers.
Later with market changes, I started consulting in Europe. At first, with brands that looked to enter other countries, creating cross-boarder synergies. A very interesting job, but my love was more hands on with luxury products, so I continued buying for store owners who needed support. Once I returned to NY, this lead me to continue working with accessory brands on their product assortment for the US market and managed their wholesale business. Eventually founding a showroom for emerging accessory designer brands, mostly European, for 12 years. I met many wonderful brands, who I still keep contact with.
Once the Pandemic hit, our brands which were mostly young designer found the situation unsustainable and needed to step away from the US market. I needed to fill my time with a monthly newsletter checking-in on our clients but I was looking for more creativity. I had been working with several scarf brands, helping them maneuver the US market for many years and felt I was ready to design, manufacture my own collection and decided to collaborate with a few painters I had met in Rome and later in New York.
I now had the time to see this project through.
Mila+Mate LLC was formed in 2020.
I wanted to apply my skills. Mila+Mate became my offer to women, a beautiful artistic and quality scarf, shawl and headscarf collection that could inspire confidence, elegance and glamour.
Offering women, a luxurious accessory, to enhance their look or outfit, giving them a simple solution that made them feel great!
Fun Fact: Mila & Mate are the names of two of my grandchildren.
It has been a ‘BIG’ learning curve, challenging but very rewarding. Many courses taken alongside building the company.
I am excited to announce that Mila+Mate is joining a showroom in New York. We will show our new collection and retailers will have an easier time viewing the collection. I believe, you need to see the vibrant colors and touch the rich materials to appreciate the brand. The showroom alongside the trade shows and our online presence will hopefully help grow the business.
Looking back, what do you think were the three qualities, skills, or areas of knowledge that were most impactful in your journey? What advice do you have for folks who are early in their journey in terms of how they can best develop or improve on these?
Starting a business is not for the weak! And certainly less, if you are not used to working without a team. Your drive is ‘YOU’ and only you. Discipline, believing in what you are doing and understanding what are your limitations are three very important qualities to identify. Either finding someone to teach you or learning on your own requires discipline and determination. Finding the right person to work along with you is necessary but not always easy. Throw in the pandemic and well it is an interesting challenge. I for one, love a challenge. My self-discipline was key. My interest in the art world and how our new reality would affect the market, kept me trying to push myself to find and adjust to new skill sets required to compete in the marketplace, without sacrificing my standards. I am still learning and improving upon the experience.
How can folks who want to work with you connect?
Mila+Mate, from the very beginning has collaborated with artists-painters and will continue to do so. I love to discover emerging artists where their artwork can translate beautifully onto my scarves. It has been a lot of fun working with new painters interested in collaborating. It offers them another platform where their artwork can be seen and gives Mila+Mate another esthetic as well. I would love to partner with galleries and museums, where my scarves or a limited creation can be shown alongside paintings. I think for art collectors, this would be interesting for them. I also would like to partner with online stores or brick and mortar who would want to show their products alongside mine, making it more of a lifestyle look.
I am excited to update my assortment to include kaftans, with some of my more special prints. They will be introduced for the holiday season on mila-mate.com, in late October.