WHAT PROMPTED YOUR CAREER IN FASHION?
I would say, I did not start a career in fashion design, however I've always loved fashion. In fact, when I was a teenager, I interned for a fashion designer in Boston. However, my journey was not so straight forward…
In college, I studied Fine Arts, and I focused mainly on Graphic Design. At the time I interned for about a year for a graphic design studio in the South End, which really helped my career as I was able to create an entire portfolio of graphic design work. At the end of my internship, I was able to graduate a year ahead of my class and land a job as a Creative Director at a dot com company right out of college. As a young Creative Director, I was often made fun of by my colleagues who were twice my age. Their comment was always: "What does a 20 year old know?" And, I was taken back. I thought: "You know, you’re right. I am young, and there is still a lot more to learn and to be challenged by. So I decided to go back to school to pursue my masters.
During my time in business school, I started working with a high tech company, where I helped project manage software development. Although the role was lucrative, I was still unsatisfied. It wasn’t until I realize the lack of high quality thigh high stockings in the American market place did I see this as an opportunity to start a business, get back into fashion and most importantly build something greater than myself.
WHICH PHOTOGRAPHER, DESIGNER OR MODEL WOULD YOU LIKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO COLLABORATE WITH?
I would say that, first and foremost VienneMilano is an inclusive brand, meaning, I welcome the opportunity to collaborate with designers who fit our brand. Our brand is for a professional woman who wants to reveal her style and confidence by being elegant, playful and sexy for every occasion. So, if you are a designer that fits that, then I welcome the opportunity to work together.
However, I would love to collaborate with Caroline Herrera. I would also love to work with Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent himself or Oscar de la Renta, if they were still alive. I would love to have an opportunity to collaborate with those legends.
WHO INSPIRES YOU THE MOST IN FASHION?
My inspirations are people who have been able to build something greater than themselves, whether be it in fashion or any other industries, but since the question is about fashion, I would say the folks who have inspired me include Vera Wang. I’ve always admire her story in leaving Vogue to launch her own brand. I've always loved the story of Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE CREATIVITY WITH COMMERCE?
I don't honestly think of these two things to be completely different. In fact, I would even say that commerce often can dictate creativity. To give you an example, when we first started VienneMilano, I was often told by producers that women only wear black stockings. So you may be thinking: black?! How boring, or how delightful depending on what you're wardrobe is like. And of course, that’s not true. You can do a ton of various designs with various embellishments with black. In fact, I think using commerce to dictate creativity is fabulous as it gives you a frame of reference to work with, and if you are really creative you work within those guidelines to come up with something beautiful.
WHAT KIND OF FEEDBACK HAVE YOU RECEIVED ON YOUR LATEST PROJECTS?
So far so good. In fact I would say that some of our new items in our spring collection are almost sold out.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOU / YOUR BRAND IN 5 YEARS TIME?
I would like to grow VienneMilano to be the primarily brand for thigh high stockings in America.
1. Why hosiery?
Well, hosiery for me is the ultimate fashion accessory. I believe that legs are a canvas for color and texture, thigh highs allows you to use it. Think about it, about half of your body is legs. I'm 5'2", my legs are about 33" long. So my legs are more than half of my body. That's a lot of room for an individual to use for self-expression.
2. Who is Vienne Brown? Who is Vienne Cheung?
Vienne Cheung is me, I'm the founder of VienneMilano. My maiden name is Cheung, but my husband's name is Brown. Therefore, I go by Vienne Brown as well.
3. When did VienneMilano begin business?
We started in November 1, 2011. Actually, our launch party was 11/11/11 which if you look at the numbers (11, 11, 11), they look like legs, right? We called it: Legs Day.
4. How important is diversity in your work?
Over the past six years now, we've work with individuals from all over the world. While we value diversity, I believe it’s also important to find someone who fits the brand. Meaning, are you somebody who first of all, wants to be in the fashion business? Are you hard working? Can you get the job done? You can't control where you come from, but you can control where you're going.
5. Has being an Asian American impacted your business; if so in what ways?
I am originally from Hong Kong, and I moved to the Boston area when I was almost 7 years old, so I'm practically American. But I think what makes my personal experience unique is that when I was a child in Hong Kong, my grandmother had often talked about her roots. In the 1930’s, my grandmother had family members, and her father had lost his factory because the Japanese had bombed everything in Southern China. She, and my grandfather were somehow able to pick everything up, start a new life with four children. I think about this because we all have the luxury to think about what our passion is, what makes us happy, etc. but I also think it's important to acknowledge those who had to do what they did, not because of passion, but because of survival. There were a lot of people in history that were able to achieve great things because of survival and necessity.
6. How has the decision to partner with large 3rd party online retailers changed your business (eg: Poshmark / Indiegogo / The Grommet)
Indiegogo is not a retailer, we don't sell on Grommet anymore, and Poshmark was just a test for us.
7. Has the popularity of shapewear impacted your business?
No, not really. In fact, I've actually heard from pregnant women that thigh highs are way better than wearing pantyhose.
8. Where did the name VienneMilano come from – how does is play upon Italian influence and style?
Vienne is my first name and growing up folks have often complimented on how they like the name. We chose to emphasize the fact that our products are made in Italy by incorporating the name Milano. Milano is the Italian word for Milan, which is a significant city which is known for many great things; it is also considered a fashion capital.
My target audience is North Americans. While, yes I do pay attention to what women in Milan are wearing, but ultimately, the folks that I focus on are North American women.
9. Are the products currently manufactured in Italy?
Yes, they are. Italy is a country that is known of producing quality. If you think of the best brand of shoes, bags – most of them are made in Italy. Hosiery is no exception. As such, we make sure that all of our products proudly read: Made In Italy.
10. Many would consider thigh highs to be a very seductive piece of lingerie and something that should not be seen in everyday wear is that a reputation you embrace or try to avoid when marketing your line?
Yes it's true. For most American women, we think of thigh highs as an accessory for a hot date - but I challenge that Idea. I think thigh highs can be worn for every occasion. For us at VienneMilano, we play up on the elegance of thigh highs and we play down on sexiness. In fact, on a lot of formal occasions such as weddings, parties and even to work, I am actually wearing thigh highs.
That being said, I see the misconception of thigh highs as an opportunities for VienneMilano to reeducate the American audience that thigh highs are for every occasion. Our stay ups (which is another name for thigh highs) actually stays up.
11. Why no garters?
Garters are a pain in the butt. I've worn garters before, but garter belts require four hooks, which means that for every pair of stockings you are spending a copious amount of time getting that buckle on just right. It is just a waste of time. With our thigh highs, we use a silicone band, and they just simply stay up without the struggle of using a buckle.
12. Who are your primary designers? / Are you looking for new designers?
I am the person behind designing my brand. Yes, we are always looking forward to new designers. In fact, we have partnered with some of our customers before in getting their feedback on what they believe would be a good design for hosiery. VienneMilano is an inclusive brand, and we welcome feedback and collaborations – as long as it fits our brand.
13. Info about the affiliate program?
Our affiliate program consists of our trusted partners. This is a list of fashion brands, publications, restaurants, etc. Again, we are inclusive and not exclusive and welcome the opportunities to work with new affiliates, so long as they fit our brand.