Today’s interview is with a woman who is pursuing what I think is probably a dream for many of us – her own shoe and accessories company, complete with online boutique and innovative business model. AnaLiza started fibi & clo in 2009 – a company making truly unique sandals and accessories, all at amazing price points. The online + “in home party” concept has seen a lot of traction in recent years with the success of companies like Stella & Dot. I was really excited to have the opportunity to ask AnaLiza some questions about the company, as well as herself. Enjoy!
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
I am AnaLiza Alba- I’m a southern Texas gal who came to New York to pursue a dream career as a creative director in advertising. After getting my Master’s in Advertising from the University of Texas, I moved to NYC and have been writing commercials, (mostly for the beauty category) for clients like L’Oreal and currently Nexxus Salon Haircare. While on L’Oreal, I worked with Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Diane Keaton and Evangeline Lilly.
I started fibi & clo because I love fashion, especially shoes. The idea of doing trunk shows came to me because I loved the idea of getting friends together in a comfortable setting. It was also a great way to get direct feedback on the shoes from my customers.
I think it’s absolutely amazing that you took the step of taking an idea and making it a real, thriving business. What made you take that step?
It truly started out as a fun hobby, and it was a great way to get me home to Texas more often so I could see the family I miss so much. But then as I got more and more positive feedback and encouragement from my customers, I decided to really pursue it as a serious business. We have 8 reps now and we’re recruiting more for next year. Once I had my first couple of reps and saw them really succeeding and having fun, I knew it was something to pursue because it was worth it for all of us.
What has been the hardest thing that you have encountered, unexpectedly, in this whole process?
Handling the demand and growth. I’m so grateful that women really love the sandals, and I always receive such positive letters and reviews. So, we have been planning extensively on how to keep up with demand and laying the groundwork for a consistent and reliable supply chain.
What about the most rewarding thing you’ve encountered?
The success of my amazing sales reps and their dedication to their family and work /life balance.
Where do you get inspiration for your styles, and which one is your favorite?
My inspiration comes from my travels (The bright colors from the Mexican & Italian Riviera, the culture and style from South America and the creativity and fashion-forward buzz that you get from Hong Kong) Plus, living in NYC’s fashionable SoHo neighborhood keeps me inspired every day. If I had to pick a face, I would say Amalfi Coast; it’s absolutely breathtaking. But we’ll see where I stand after I go to the French Riviera for my honeymoon! fibi & clo always plays a role in my travel plans.
What other designers do you admire, for their style and design alone? What designers/stores do you admire for both the style/price point value that they offer?
For everyday shoes, I admire Sam Edelman. I love the fact that they’re fashionable and stylish, but still totally wearable for everyday. Occasionally, I’ll splurge on Louboutin and Choo as my staples for heels. DVF and Geren Ford are my absolute favorite for clothes. Diane for her ability to make a woman feel like a woman: everything she creates feels feminine and effortlessly beautiful. And Ford because I love all the silks. But don’t get me wrong, I love H&M, Forever 21 and Club Monaco for both their style and price point. Mixing and matching is key. As long as you have a great quality bag and shoes.
Can you share with us some of your personal favorite things that you own or would like to acquire, that are not fibi & clo?
My Chanel crossbody bag is my personal favorite in my closet. It works with any outfit. It works with Converse or heels.
I heard that fibi & clo are your cats! Do you have any photos to share?
They are my cats! I adopted them from the Austin Humane Society. Now my customers write checks out to them! I get a kick out of it every time.
I know that the premise behind the business is selling most of your items through at home parties. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of this business model? Can you ever see the company moving to a more traditional retail model?
We have no plans to pursue traditional retail. With at-home parties, our company can control the environment and brand experience and I can guarantee each show is an amazing experience, where each guest leaves with a smile.
Can you share some of your key style icons and any style advice you’ve had to learn over the years that you’d like to tell readers?
Alexander Wang inspires me because he makes basic look beautiful, even edgy sometimes. So I’ll throw on a basic tank and funk it up with a big cuff and a chunky necklace. The best thing about being a Texas girl is that you never feel weird with too many things on. So if you want to throw on five bracelets and still wear big earrings, go for it! Over my years of living in NYC, I’ve learned that your style can be anything you want it to be. My biggest piece of style advice though is don’t be afraid to mix your metals when it comes to jewelry. Silver, yellow gold, platinum…wear it all together. Why not?
Can you also share some of the business learnings you’ve had in this process?
Assemble the right team and design the right and unique product. Everything else will fall into place (with the right planning of course ).
Finally, please share something surprising about yourself !
When I was in college prepping for a presentation, I was cutting a piece of foam core with an Exacto knife when I sliced the tip of my thumb right off. My dad put the piece in a paper towel and rushed me to the ER. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to salvage it or sew the tip back on. Now one thumb is longer than the other, but I love it. We all have our surprising quirks, but that’s what makes us all unique, right? 😉
I hope you all enjoyed meeting AnaLiza! It’s not everyday that I get to meet somebody who has started their own company and have the opportunity to ask them so many questions – so a very special thanks to AnaLiza for all her time and consideration (she was really super sweet)! For more of AnaLiza, her boutique and blog can all be found here.