FASHION DESIGNER Yvonne Yvette wants to one day rival Gucci. She spoke to The Voice about quitting her day job to pursue her passion, Africa’s influence on her collection and why she wants to empower women through fashion…
The daughter of shopkeeper and a seamstress, some may say it’s no surprise that Yvonne Yvette became a successful fashion business owner. But despite her undeniable skills, she wasn’t initially sure that design was something she could make a living out of.
“Everything that I’m doing is self taught, I’ve never been to a fashion designing class, so I’m learning as I’m going,” she said.
The fashion designer’s passion for clothes stemmed from childhood and was clear to her loved ones later on it life too. “My partner always says to me I look good, and when he first met me he could tell I knew what to wear.
“When I was young I wanted to dress up and wanted to make sure whatever I wore would make sense. When I started it as a hobby I thought I was good at it why don’t I try to see where I am and then I just started making them and it came to me very easily. I started wearing them for myself and I got compliments from people, from my friends and family and they had make clothes for them.”
It wasn’t until Yvette began making clothes for other people that she realised she could make money from what started as a hobby. “I thought to myself I’m actually wasting time making stuff for free and I started charging and they were like you undercharge because you’re not confident.”
The accounting and information systems graduate and former banker juggled her side hustle with her full-time job but she has no complaints. “I even think that when I started I enjoyed it so much that I stopped going out, I was so excited.”
Eventually the time came when Yvette packed in her day job to pursue fashion design full-time. “I was working for someone and it’s one of those things where you’re going to work and keep doing the same things over and over again.
“Working for yourself, you have the freedom to do your own thing and I can work on a dress overnight and if I get an idea late at night I go into my work room and try and create it. I’m enjoying my work, so it doesn’t feel like I’m working.”
Yvette’s country of birth and the place where she grew up, Zimbabwe, and the country she now calls home, England, have both had a huge impact on her designs. “With my family we’ve always been a modern family…we were younger we could wear trousers, and I know some of my friends weren’t allowed.
“I think Africa is a bit behind on fashion compared to Europe, so moving from my home to here I realised there was a lot more you could do here.
“Coming here did make a big difference to my life.”
Since the birth of her eponymous company in 2014, the talented designer has received a number of awards for her work including North West UK Best Fashion Designer award and a BAWR award. She’s also been nominated for a Women4Africa award. She said the recognition “solidified” what she was doing.
Yvette’s clothes have also been worn by models and clients across the world but the reality of how well her creations have been received is still sinking in. “I still don’t believe it, I couldn’t believe that actually my work has gone to America and Australia…I’m hoping I can go even further and compete with Gucci, who knows. I don’t want to limit myself.”
Her latest work, “Kiss” ready-to-wear collection 2018, will be on sale from July and it’s a manifestation of her aim to “liberate” women through clothes. “I think in this day and age women should be allowed to decide what they want to wear and when, without being subject to cultural beliefs.
“Women face a lot of challenges because of social beliefs within our culture (African culture) whereby they can’t be themselves or wear what they want without being objectified. This collection is about encouraging women to stand for themselves, have a choice in society; about what they wear and above all self-love. I want women to feel good about themselves with this collection no matter, what size, colour and where they come from.”