Startup Diaries: Follow Your Heart - But Take Your Brain With You!

Michaela Jedinak, co-founder of fashion businesses Joy of Clothes and Michaela Jedinak LondonMichaela Jedinak talks to The NextWomen about how she is building a business by following her passion and challenging traditional fashion rules. Her first little red dress collection was described as “a cut above the rest” by The Times London, and the concept as a “Eureka moment” by The Telegraph’s senior fashion editor Lisa Armstrong.

I am the co- founder of two fashion businesses, Joy of Clothes, your online personal stylist, and my own label, Michaela Jedinak London. My target audience is leading business women who need power dresses to rely on from desk to dinner. Dresses that make them feel confident and comfortable, and reinforce their performance, rather than distract from it or feed on any body insecurities.

I am a stylist and fashion designer whose mission is to empower women to dress for success, so they can stop playing the daily guessing game of “does that look good on me?” and focus on their work and their day-to-day life. I believe every woman is different in her build and many body features and has her own personal 'Style DNA', and therefore needs individual, personalised advice on how to create an attractive visual balance.

I have always been passionate about giving women the relevant advice and the tools to dress themselves in the best way, as well as how to dress in their own signature style, rather than being a bad copy of someone else.

I have had a unique range of experiences working in the fashion, media and design industries in London, New York, Milan and Prague, and while working in Milan, I developed a love for Italian women's style. They naturally know how to effortlessly look their best and create their own signature looks. An Italian woman would never copy another woman’s look from top to toe.

But it was only when I started working for Grey Interactive in London that things began to fall into place, and I recognised the potential for online media to empower women and dramatically improve the clothes shopping experience.

At the same time, I realised that with an increasingly overwhelming choice of clothes, designers and stores, finding the clothes that suit you can be more stressful than joyful. There are a lot of mixed messages and information out there that focusses on shopping for the latest trend or newest designer, rather than on how to make a woman look her best.

I was also inspired by Coco Chanel:

“ Fashion is like architecture - it is a matter of proportion.”

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”

“Luxury must be always comfortable otherwise it is not luxury.”

After many years as a personal stylist, my husband and I launched Joy of Clothes, your personal stylist online. Now, with the help of my website and our interactive tools, I can bring my knowledge, skills and experience to a much wider audience, and empower women everywhere with the expert know-how they require, to dress with complete confidence for every occasion. Joy of Clothes will make it easier to analyse current and upcoming fashion trends by eliminating the ones that simply don’t work for you. We now have a fast growing worldwide audience with over 70,000 visitors a month, and over 28,000 visitors who have created and shared looks on Style Me.

Last year we thought it was time to launch our own label, Michaela Jedinak London. 

While most designers design with only one or two body shapes in mind, I appreciate the diversity in women’s body shapes and design dresses with the 7 most common body shapes in mind.

My dresses are designed to flatter your body shape by creating the visual balance of the neat hourglass body shape.

A lot of women forget that a beautiful dress won’t make you look beautiful, nor will wearing a dress by a famous designer. But wearing the right style of dress for your body shape will make you look beautiful.  Women often overlook that the same dress can’t look right on every woman. Even if we share the same size, we come in all different body shapes.

“ Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”. Pablo Picasso

The concept challenges traditional fashion rules, as most designers only design for one idealised body shape. The dresses are from size 6-16. It has nothing to do with plus sizes, although people often confuse size with shape, and fit with suitability. We are targeting women business leaders.

The fact is, a retailer can’t be everything to every woman. Retailers design for their idealised customers, as designers design for their muse of the moment. That means every designer and retailer has a different sizing system.

I am passionate about providing the right fit, so women look good and feel confident.  I designed a range of crafted dresses to flatter every woman’s figure. Each dress features the ‘Front Slash’, interpreted differently for each body shape, to create perfect visual balance. My dresses are made of with luxurious, high quality Italian wool - which has the WOOLTRADE MARK - with elastane for comfort and with lining to support a perfect fit. All dresses are made with highest craftsmanship and are MADE IN THE UK.

I chose red for my first collection, as when a woman feels confident she will wear red, and it is one of the most versatile colours that can be worn to any occasion, event and season.

It is a red that is as modern as it is elegant, and will be always a timeless colour choice.

My dresses are sophisticated, timeless and current, and allow each wearer the opportunity to add their own style personality by combining it with different accessories. They also provide an alternative to suits.

Following the success of the red dresses, we launched our dresses in black. We will be offering more colours in 2014, as well as offering a new technology where women can see which dress style and size best suits their body shape. I am also currently working on my second collection, which I hope to launch in March 2014. We only began trading in June 2013, but have received a great response from customers and press so far. I am involved in many networking events and workshops, to showcase my design concept and quality, and to turn every single customer into an ambassador of our brand. We feel this is the best way forward in growing and building our brand Michaela Jedinak London.

Starting a business is always tough, but starting a new business with a new concept can be even more challenging, since you have more doubters than believers.

When you start out - especially with a new idea and concept - failures, rejection and loneliness are part of the package.

What helped me was reading inspirational books by entrepreneurs who changed the world with their ideas. It gave me the comfort and belief I needed to keep pursuing my dreams. A life lesson learned was that all your relationships change for better or for worse. So, I was ruthless about eliminating any negativity out of my life, because a negative mind can’t give a positive life! You have to learn fast how to keep the noise out and to only listen to what matters. Creating something new simply needs time to come together – it is the nature of doing things differently. When plan A doesn’t work, there are 25 more letters in the alphabet - so stay calm and keep going!

Another valuable lesson I learned is that you can’t satisfy everyone, or make every woman believe in your brand. But this is ok, since it is kind of obvious that you can’t be everything to every single customer, which means as well that a customer can’t expect me to satisfy their every single need and niche. So, it kind of works both ways.

At the end of the day, what counts is that you build on your strengths and achievements, rather than always focusing on missed opportunities or things that didn’t work out.

As a startup, you can’t do everything at the same time, so at the end what should matter is that you did your best at the time and gave it your best shot.

Business plans are important, but then we should not forget that business plans are always reflecting best scenarios, without being interfered with by real life, where things happen that you did not expect, situations occur that you need to address, and time is spent on getting things right or back on track.

You can’t foresee every single life situation. You can only prepare yourself as well as you can, and then hope for the best. The way I see it, as long you are making progress you are on the right track, and that can be considered a “Success”. One of the most inspirational quotes that keeps me going and pushing when times are challenging is from Henry Ford:

“You can never quit. Quitters never win and winners never quit.”

So, keep dreaming, keep believing and keep aiming high!

I know that, as a retailer, I can’t be everything to every woman, but I like to provide a choice other than traditional retailers and designers.

Michaela Jedinak is a fashion designer and personal stylist. She is the co-founder of leading style website Joy of Clothes, and has recently launched her own dress collection at www.michaelajedinak.com. In 2012, Michaela also published her first ebook, 'STYLE ME, Your Personal Stylist.' Michaela is passionate about finding the perfect fit and style for a women's shape. She wants to empower women to wear a dress that makes them look and feel good, bringing a smile to their face every time they wear it.

Michaela lives in London with David Lethbridge, her husband and business partner, and Barnaby, their chocolate Labrador and best friend. She is a great animal lover and supporter of animal causes, including the preservation of our remaining wildlife.

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