The Story Of La Vivente: A socially conscious apparel brand

Aug 24 2023.

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Many individuals have taken it upon themselves to empower fellow citizens in various capacities. La Vivente, a trending apparel brand has a similar story. Its founder Dr. Dilesha Perera, aims to empower women in the outskirts of Colombo by providing them with employment opportunities. In an interview with Daily Mirror Life, Dr Perera spoke about how the brand came into being, her aspirations to empower women in the country and why parents should encourage their children to follow their passion. Excerpts :

Q TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF.. I initiated my journey in the retail sector while I was at university. During this period, I engaged in procuring stock lots, which I then distributed to prominent retailers across the island. In 2005, fate led me to meet my husband, who, like me, was a banker. Together, in 2007, we embarked on a new endeavour: manufacturing. Our banking background unveiled a concerning trend—people faced hurdles in securing bank loans due to a lack of collateral. This observation catalyzed our decision to shift our focus. In 2016, I left my banking career to dedicate myself entirely to this venture. In due course, we introduced a micro-entrepreneur programme with the goal of empowering women within the country.

Our initiative involved identifying individuals possessing sewing skills. We provided the designs to them and guaranteed a market while they executed the sewing for us. By equipping them with necessary machinery or other requirements, we enabled them to launch their own businesses. To date, our efforts have resulted in collaborating with over 20 micro-entrepreneurs, generating approximately 300 employment opportunities.

Q WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND THE BRAND LA VIVENTE? The inception of the brand La Vivente took place just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our operational model involved collaborating with various retail chains, and our workflow was intricately tied to their orders. This setup presented challenges, as we were obligated to provide work for our micro-entrepreneurs irrespective of order fluctuations. To address this dilemma, we strategized a shift and transitioned into the realm of retail. This marked the birth of the La Vivente brand. The name “La Vivente,” meaning ‘the living’ in Italian, was chosen purposefully to mirror our vision of enabling livelihoods for our entrepreneurs. However, shortly after we embarked on this new path, the pandemic emerged, temporarily shuttering the market. In response, we swiftly pivoted to online sales, commencing with a modest order volume that gradually gained momentum.

The timing aligned with the shift in consumer behaviour from offline to online, and our product line, marked by its affordability and cultural fusion in design, resonated well with market demands. In 2020, we inaugurated our first store in Galle, followed by subsequent openings in Koswatte and Negombo in 2021, driven by meticulous research. The year 2022 witnessed the establishment of our fourth store in Kandy, succeeded by another in Colombo this year. Our footprint extends beyond borders, encompassing Australia, New Zealand, and the UAE.

Our achievements have not gone unnoticed. We proudly secured the esteemed ‘Best SME Local Brand’ Gold Award and clinched the Bronze Award for Best New Entrant Brand at the SLIM Brand Excellence Awards. Notably, our digital presence garnered recognition, as we secured the BestWeb.lk Gold Award for the best SME website in 2022. Moreover, in 2022, I was honoured with the title of Asia’s Most Outstanding Women Marketer of the Year by the Asia Marketing Federation.

Q HOW ARE THE MICRO ENTREPRENEURS SELECTED FOR THE WORKFORCE? We receive inquiries from interested individuals, to whom we subsequently provide a sample task. This enables us to assess their sewing capabilities in alignment with our quality standards. Following this initial evaluation, we offer guidance and support. Often, they come accompanied by one or two colleagues. Our process begins with a skill assessment, followed by an evaluation of their potential to establish independent enterprises.

Q HOW IS LA VIVENTE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER CLOTHING STORES? La Vivente stands out for its commitment to empowering women and nurturing their growth. We are not just a fashion brand; we are a community that supports and celebrates women in all their endeavours. Our clothes are not just about looking good; they symbolise empowerment and confidence.

Q THE APPAREL SECTOR IS ONE OF THE MAIN INCOME GENERATORS IN THE COUNTRY. TELL US ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTION MADE BY LA VIVENTE. Certainly, La Vivente has significantly contributed to the apparel sector, serving as a noteworthy income generator within the country. Our impact is twofold, i.e. economic empowerment for micro-entrepreneurs and a distinct presence in the market. La Vivente has pioneered a micro-entrepreneur programme that has transformed the lives of numerous individuals. By identifying individuals with sewing skills and providing them with opportunities to start their own businesses, we have directly contributed to income generation at the grassroots level. Our support encompasses design, pattern-making, and the provision of necessary machinery. This initiative has resulted in the establishment of over 20 micro-entrepreneurs who are now creating employment opportunities for themselves and others. These entrepreneurs not only contribute to their household incomes but also contribute to the overall economic growth of the country.

La Vivente has pioneered a micro-entrepreneur programme that has transformed the lives of numerous individuals. By identifying individuals with sewing skills and providing them with opportunities to start their own businesses, we have directly contributed to income generation at the grassroots level. Our support encompasses design, pattern-making, and the provision of necessary machinery. This initiative has resulted in the establishment of over 20 micro-entrepreneurs who are now creating employment opportunities for themselves and others. These entrepreneurs not only contribute to their household incomes but also contribute to the overall economic growth of the country. In summary, La Vivente’s contribution to the apparel sector encompasses not only economic gains through entrepreneurship but also the enhancement of the market’s diversity and appeal.

Q HAVE YOU CONSIDERED INVOLVING THE YOUTH IN YOUR VENTURE? Absolutely, involving the youth has been a core focus of our venture at La Vivente. Recognizing the energy, innovation, and fresh perspectives that the younger generation brings, we have taken deliberate steps to engage and empower them. On a personal level, I actively foster entrepreneurship within the university to ignite enthusiasm among the younger generation. Our initiatives encompass various engagement avenues, including buddy programmes and sponsorships for university events like fashion shows. Notably, we recently collaborated with a prominent local designer to provide training for undergraduates, equipping them to participate in a fashion show. This experience not only showcased their talents but also exposed them to real-world industry dynamics.

For those pursuing fashion design in universities, we extend internship opportunities within our stores. This hands-on experience allows them to bridge the gap between classroom learning and practical application, fostering their growth within the fashion sector. By engaging with university students and cultivating their interest in entrepreneurship and fashion, we contribute to their personal and professional development, while also nurturing a future generation of creative minds.

Q FASHION DESIGNING IS A CAREER PATH THAT IS IN HIGH DEMAND TODAY. WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO PARENTS? Parents should empower their children to pursue their passions and become the individuals they aspire to be. Providing support for their chosen paths enables them to achieve greater success. It’s important to recognize that fashion designing is a specialized career that may not be suitable for everyone. However, for those with an inclination, there exists a multitude of opportunities. Fashion design resonates with a universal appeal, as it taps into something that resonates with people on a personal level. By fostering an environment that encourages the pursuit of passions, we enable our youth to unlock their potential and contribute meaningfully to various fields, including the captivating world of fashion.

PICS BY Pradeep Pathirana

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamanthi Wickramasinghe

A psychology graduate who eventually became a journalist to be a voice for unheard voices. A proud Sri Lankan - Thalassophile - Travel fan - Nature lover - Chocoholic - Extraordinarily loud - Frequent laughaholic. Follow me on Instagram - @kamzylifeTM or FB – Kamanthi Wickramasinghe


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