I first met Ani Wells of Simply Suzette this past December when we were vendors at a holiday market. One of the best things about taking part in local markets is connecting with fellow creatives, makers & entrepreneurs in the city. And more importantly, seeing those exciting introductions grow into some pretty special friendships.
I'd say that sums up the wonderful bond between Ani and I. After that first encounter, we kept in touch via social media and I soon asked her to model Cadette's Spring 2019 collection. And throughout these past several months, we've had many invaluable conversations around each of our journeys as solopreneurs; we've discussed our challenges, successes, new learnings, set-backs, and future goals. And it's quite clear we've discovered just how much we have in common as women in business trying to find our way.
I've been fascinated by Ani since the day we met – I could see straight away that she was one incredibly motivated, intelligent, detail-oriented and go-getting bosslady that I wanted to get to know more. Now having a deeper understanding of what makes Ani and her company, Simply Suzette, so special and truly one-of-a-kind, I'm eager to share more about both, with you. I sat down with her for this brief Q&A where she discussed her start as an entrepreneur, why denim is her textile of choice, the importance of 'sustainability' in the denim industry, and how she has tackled challenges along the way.
Can you briefly describe your childhood – city you grew up in, hobbies?
I was born and raised in Toronto and quickly took to Rhythmic Gymnastics! I think it started out as a hobby, but soon became my entire life. My real passion was fashion!
When did you first discover your entrepreneurial spirit?
I first discovered my entrepreneurial spirit in my Postgraduate Fashion Management program. We had a class dedicated to entrepreneurism and I knew I had it in me to start my own business. One group project we had was to start a mini business in which I spearheaded.
When did you first launch Simply Suzette?
Simply Suzette launched on April 21st, 2018! Almost celebrating our first birthday!
Why denim? And what was your main mission or goal when you launched the brand? Is it still the same mission today?
I have always been a jeans and a tee kind of girl. I am obsessed with the craft and the unique qualities the textile has. My main goal when launching Simply Suzette was to bring awareness to consumers about the harms of denim production and educate them on a consumer level about how they can make better choices when buying jeans. I have done this through storytelling on my Instagram, brand reviews and brand guides, as well as offering a curated collection of my favorite sustainable denim brands. My mission is still the same today, but I am seeing more awareness in consumers. I want to remain a source for sustainable denim, but start to develop my own brand, as well!
‘Sustainable fashion’ has become quite a buzzy, yet hugely important category and value-system. How would you describe it?
Sustainable fashion is all about balance. Zero waste is the goal, but in reality, it is extremely difficult for a brand to be completely waste free. It is an extremely important category and value-system for the industry to adopt, as the fashion industry as a whole might cease to exist if production process were to stay the same. Fashion has caused irreversible effects on our planet and it is important that manufacturers, brands, and consumers educate themselves on the effects of our current consumer habits.
What is something you feel not many know about the mass denim industry and the impact it has on the Earth?
What people don’t often know is how much water goes into producing denim. One pair of jeans traditionally takes 2000 gallons of water to make, and that’s before all of the synthetic dyes and toxic chemicals go into treating the denim.
What are some interesting things you’ve discovered about women and their relationship with denim in this day and age?
The most interesting thing I have learnt is the way women think about purchasing denim. They’re not thinking about what material it is, or how they feel they way they walk. It’s the way they feel in them sitting down!
You introduced me to the brand Toko Nikomu (my new fav pair of jeans that I recently got from you / Simply Suzette)! What are another 1 or 2 sustainable denim brands that you love?
Toko Nikomu is definitely one of my favourites! I really love brands that incorporate upcycling because this is the most sustainable way to buy! EB Denim and AndAgain Co. are two of my other favorite upcycled brands!
In this era of overwhelm and vast variety, I truly admire Simply Suzette’s laser focus on denim. You’re truly an expert in this category! Have you ever felt the desire to work with other materials beyond denim?
Thank you so much! I am truly passionate about denim, the fits, the textile, the washes, everything about it. But, sometimes I do find myself testing out other waters. Stay tuned for what’s coming next at Simply Suzette ;)
Entrepreneurship is tough – with countless hurdles one encounters, daily. Can you share a challenge or two that you’ve faced along your journey. and how you overcame, or are still navigating it?
Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster. One of the main challenges I faced was getting brands on board with Simply Suzette. Most brands don’t reply to your emails if you’re brand new with no sales, but I persevered and kept following up! I even showed up to offices without an appointment just to get through to somebody!
Who’s a big inspirational figure in your life – personally or professionally?
Personally, my inspiration is my father. My dad has shown me how rewarding entrepreneurship can be and is always there to give me a little extra motivation when I need it. Professionally, I am inspired by all the amazing female entrepreneur’s I have met. To name a few: Ally from Cadette, Shelby from Shelby’s Naturals, and Sarah from Thrifted This! I feel as though we have similar journeys and I truly look up to them when I am feeling unmotivated or when I have any questions they can help me with too.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone looking to start their own e-commerce shop or brand in this digital era?
JUST DO IT! The best advice I got to this day was to just go for it. Of course, It takes time to build a business plan and strategy, but the hardest part is starting. So, my advice is to start writing out a business plan. Once that is done and concrete, you have the backbones and the strategy to GO FOR IT!
Ani in the Venus Necklace.