Thu, June 10, 2010 at 11:41AM
We're completely in love with vfish, the Chicago-based womenswear line that's beautifully tailored and infused with a confident, feminine sensibility (shop our sale today). We've also fallen for its dynamic founder and designer, Mandy Moise, a mom and P.E. teacher-cum-fashionista who turned a love of fashion into a thriving career. We recently got the ideeli Scoop from vfish's impresario about her dramatic career change, summer trends, and love of the Windy City!
How did your love for fashion come about?
The whole story is pretty crazy. I went from wearing sweat suits and gym clothes— every day, all day—to fabulous dresses! (I can’t say my husband was displeased.) I loved being a Physical Education teacher, but I had an opportunity to travel extensively on a hiatus from teaching, and it was then that I discovered my hidden talent. I began designing dresses for myself in a small tailor shop in Vietnam just for fun. You know how you try things on, and you think in your head, "It would be so much better for me if it had..." or, "If it was [this way]..." So I made myself some custom things that were just right for me. It sparked something in me, and I knew then that this is what I wanted to do.
What style icons/influences have played a part in developing the line?
My grandmother, Vera Fishbaugh (hence the "vfish") was and still is the inspiration for the line. She was a fashion-forward lady—way ahead of her time. I dig through old photos of her and steal her style. I'm also really inspired by all of the women I have met over the past three years since I launched vfish. I listen to what they love and don’t love about their bodies and their clothes. Every piece I design, I try to be conscious of all of the things I have learned from them.
What's the most meaningful praise you've ever received from a vfish wearer?
My mom is not a dress wearer. Never has been. A few weeks ago she had a wedding to go to, and decided to finally try one of my pieces. She told me that she felt beautiful, and hadn't felt that way in a dress since her wedding day. That was really meaningful to me!
We imagine that vfish's effortless pieces are among your warm weather essentials. What else do you rely on during the summer months to stay put-together?
Cute flats!! I'm a mom, so I'm always carrying my little sidekick around with me. I love a great pair of flats that can dress up a basic knit dress, or even cut off jean shorts and a t-shirt.
You recently opened up your flagship store in Chicago; what are your other plans for vfish in the coming months and years?
We are constantly improving, and growing, and all I can ask for is that we continue to see as much success in the future as we have since we began! I'd also like for Tim Gunn to dress someone in vfish. That would be a true measure of success.
What do you love most about being based in Chicago?
I love the city of Chicago. It is up and coming as far as fashion goes, which is really exciting to be a part of. Everyone always assumes that to be successful in fashion you need to be New York or L.A. I really like that we have had such great success as a Midwest-based line.
Lastly, what advice do you have other aspiring fashion entrepreneurs?
Take business classes! If you ever want to have your own line or brand, you will need to be very business-minded. Talent is important, but a strong business foundation is what can make or break you.