When you consider of the fashion world, you may think of super out there, too cool for school, untouchable, all-clad-in-black amazon ladies...or Whitney Port. And that's all the absolute opposite of DC-based fashion entrepreneur Elaine Mensah, founder of SVELTE LLC, and also what makes her so inspiring. Elaine brings new meaning to brains and beauty, but she'll also be your new best friend in an instant. Pleatherette hearts Elaine, and we are so psyched to bring you her fascinating story - from her start as a student of communications to how she opened the premiere fashion and lifestyle communications, branding, PR, marketing (the list goes on) firm in DC.
What's your career story, and how did you get started in fashion in DC?
I would like to say I was one of those people "who knew since I was 5 that I wanted to be in fashion" but alas that was not the case. I actually started my career in 2002 in traditional communication. For my last year of college, I had 2 shorts stints at NBC Dateline & National Geographic. During grad school, I moved briefly into the non-profit world and worked at an organization called the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity and then proceeded to the U.S. Small Business Administration. After grad school I settled into the workforce as a management consultant working for top firms Unisys, BearingPoint and finally Deloitte.
Over the course of the first 5 years from undergrad to working as a consultant I realized that I hadn't found the industry that was right for me and that allowed me to be passionate. In the summer of 2006, while still working in management consulting, I had as Oprah would say, my "ahaa moment." I realized that somewhere along the line, I spent hours and hours of my free time reading fashion magazines, and watching lifestyle and entertainment shows. It consumed my life.
So in September of 2006, I decided to 'test" whether or not this desire was real and I applied and got a short-term Fashion Week PR stint with NY-based design house Cynthia Rowley. The rest, as they say, is history. At that time, DC did not have as robust of a fashion industry as we have today (granted we still have a long way to go). So in an effort to tap into all the elements of the business that I enjoyed and frankly to have the opportunity to be a part of something significant, I founded SVELTE, LLC in the Spring of 2007 and my DC fashion journey began.
Tell us a little bit about SVELTE - what do you do? Your favorite past projects?
SVELTE is a fashion & lifestyle focused consulting and communications firm. Our expertise is in the development and implementation of creative and niche products, services, and solutions. Essentially the company focuses on working with fashion & lifestyle brands to determine & implement their branding & marketing strategies across a wide variety of platforms including social & traditional media, art direction & publishing, and video & event production.
What is also unique about SVELTE, is that we are creators/innovators. In other words, we also develop initiatives that we feel are either missing in our market or just haven't been done yet. Examples include SVELTE Tv in 2007 & Fashion BS in 2009 through which I have interviewed some of the biggest names in fashion, the first Fashion & Technology Panel in 2010 at Digital Capital Week, being one of the first independent DC businesses to 1) receive official accreditation from IMG for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks 2009-present, 2) acquire official accreditation from the British Fashion Council for London Fashion Week in 2011 & 2012, and co-creating The Fashion Impact Report & Directory for DC's inaugural Social Media Week in 2012.
In terms of favorite past projects, that's really hard. Everything I've done is near and dear to me but I do have to say I am very appreciative for all the companies, organizations, and people who entrusted me with their brands when I first started out and those who continue to do so today. All the media outlets and organizations that have featured me in some capacity (including you:)) or recognized me and/or my work, and for all the interns, friends, and family who have been on this journey with me.
What do you have in the works right now for SVELTE?
Well I have a rule regarding disclosing projects that are in the works. I don't :). I prefer for my work to speak for itself and for the projects to be announced when they are solidified. I can say though, that we are and have been working on a very cool initiative (details will be out very soon) that is progressing incredibly well. I am thrilled to be on the host committee for Tysons Galleria's All Access Fashion this September benefiting Make-A-Wish Foundation, and we are in the very early stages of planning for Fashion Day at this year's Digital Capital Week in November.
Do you have any advice for DC fashion entrepreneurs?
Please don't give up on the city. Yes, we are not New York, LA, or Miami but DC is special and we are moving in an awesome direction.
Find more about Elaine! She lives in the digital sphere right here: