In the pursuit of our dreams we may stumble and fall, scraping our knees and knocking our pride. The path of success is unpaved and unforgiving, without a strong resolve it may leave you questioning whether what you are doing is worth the pain and frequent setbacks. In those moments where you're hit with that unwanted, unexpected news. It is important to note that with each set back, you would have first made a step in the direction of progress. We sat down with Oleata, owner of emerging durag and womenswear line Amber Raye to discuss the challenges she and her team faced in launching in the midst of a pandemic.
Where did the inspiration to begin Amber Raye come from?
Amber Raye was initially inspired by the desire to cut my hair and create something beautiful that I could wear on my head during the colder months. I saw a friend of mine wearing a grey velvet durag and instantly I said to myself “I want to create durags” but not the standard type. One that speaks volumes, evokes radiance and transforms biased projections. What started off as an idea, developed into brainstorming a brand name and before long Amber Raye was born.
The name Amber was inspired by the precious Amber stone, it’s wonderful healing properties and likeness to the sun. Combined with the name of my grandmother Ambrosine, for she was a great guide and beacon of light. Trained as a seamstress before travelling to the UK, she taught me half of the technical skills I hold till this day and played a huge role in my creative development and passion for design. Raye was also inspired by the sun, a “ray of light” and the joy and hope it brings to all living things in existence.
The significance of our brand name is so important as it embodies so much more than just the products we offer. Creating Amber Raye and coming up with the name was about reclaiming your crown, stepping into your light and the royal radiance that lies within. Amber Raye embodies self love and self worth. Showing up in a way that you want to be seen, adorned and respected. It is the emotions, feelings and values associated to the name that carries weight and inspires everything we do and hope to become.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting Amber Raye?
My biggest challenge starting Amber Raye was launching the brand during the covid-19 pandemic. I would say it has been bitter sweet as the pandemic afforded me the time and space to revive my passion for design and gave me the freedom to explore my creativity in a way that I hadn’t done for years. On the flip slide, with the unfortunate events of rising covid cases, frequent lockdowns, restrictions on outdoor activities and meeting with loved ones, this made it very difficult for Amber Raye to tap into our desired customer and resonate with them in the way we had hoped. Designing occasion wear pieces that were made to be worn outdoors, adorned and celebrated, it was very difficult to drive sales and tap into a market that was for the most part non-existent within the UK.
Running a business is no easy feat, it requires your time and attention, often leading to our inattention in over areas of our lives. How have you managed to maintain the balance ?
As it stands, I have had to put a pause on some of the future plans that I had in store for the business. This was an extremely difficult decision to make, but one that I felt compelled to do, in order to explore other areas of interest within my career and life.
Creating balance in life is about giving attention to all of the things that you feel called to do and making time for the things that matter most. Creating discipline is getting organised and prioritising your wants and needs, whilst giving yourself grace to pivot and change direction if you need to. Ultimately, the biggest lesson I am trying to learn and practice is patience. Patience in my journey, my career, my business decisions and achieving success.
At a time where fast fashion companies are taking notes from emerging brands and profiting from it. Have you given thought to how you will ameliorate such a situation with Amber Raye ?
At Amber Raye we design with our customer in mind, our values and a conscious mindset to our environmental impact and the effects fashion has on the world. Each design we create features unique elements that add to the functionality, style and purpose of the product. Sticking to our values, practicing what we preach and ensuring our designs meet all of the criteria above is what will continue to set us apart, build trust and establish loyalty with our customers.
Do you plan creating a line of menswear pieces as well?
We would love to tap into into the menswear market and is something we are considering but not actively working on at this time. Creating balance is a challenge that I face daily and work at constantly. Running a business is definitely not easy and requires much more than the creative flair and design process that comes to me naturally. Business is about numbers, strategy, planning and organisation. All things that I have had to learn.It also requires a heavy investment financially and physically.
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