Tiffany Wong: Co-founder of Velé
This summer, I had the immense privilege of getting to know Tiffany. While she interned in Portland, I was inspired by Tiffany's contagious optimism, unstoppable work ethic and thirst to learn.
Co-founder of an emerging brand called Velé, this lady is going to do big things in the world! I wish all of you could enjoy a glass of iced tea with Tiffany like I did, but hopefully this interview gives you a small taste of the inspiring person she is.
Velé has an amazing mission behind it, and no one can share that better than Tiffany herself.
Pour yourself a tasty beverage and read on...
Share a bit about your personal background
I met my co-founder / best friend, Lauren, in seventh grade sewing class. As I’m sure many can relate, we were pretty awkward tweens, and where we found freedom was fashion. It was a world where art was wearable and a space that embraced us just as we were. Since then, we’ve worked both in fashion and the nonprofit world, and our hearts are to use conscious design to create a community where women feel worthy and wanted.
What was your inspiration for Velé?
We first fell in love with fashion because of the sense of freedom it offered us. However, while working in the fashion industry what we found was far from freedom. Out of the 40 million garment workers worldwide, 80% are women, and less than 10% are being paid a living wage. Our name Velé is derived from the Latin root of the word wanted because we desire to share the message that all are worthy, wanted. That’s why every piece is handcrafted in Spain by artisans treated with dignity, and 10% of every purchase supports our nonprofit partner in ending human trafficking.
Can you identify any major obstacles you've had to overcome in the endeavor?
While our hearts are for all women to feel worthy and wanted, ironically what’s been most difficult for me is accepting the truth that I am actually enough. Every day is a new learning curve, from working internationally with our leather artisans to exploring how to best use our purchasing power to uplift women exploited through some of our world’s darkest systems. When I’m most overwhelmed, I just have to tell myself that my worth doesn’t come from “changing the world” or any external marker of success. I am worthy and wanted as I am, and only need to love the world, not save it.
How do you select the partners you work with to produce your pieces?
We are committed to supporting factories where artisans are treated with dignity and who are committed to their craft as art. We respect our factory pays its workers over 3x minimum wage as we strive to ensure everyone is valued and treated with love and respect.
Describe your personal style
While traveling, limited luggage space has helped me curate a pretty essentialist wardrobe, equipping me to transition through each scene of the day without too much outfit planning. That said, while I admire minimalism, I recently looked through my closet and realized I was wearing all black all the time. I’ve since changed my ways and am trying to pick up more funky pieces to add some quirk and fun to the day.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
It really depends, but our business is centered on collaboration and partnership. So much of the day is peppered with calls whether it be WhatsApp chats with the factory in Spain or developing templates for how our nonprofit partner can best track the social impact of its brand partnerships. While the calls may vary, it’s inspiring to be working with people so dedicated to bringing love and beauty into the world through their unique talents.
With the products being sold online, what's one thing you wish consumers understood about it?
I wish everyone could meet our leather artisan partners in Ubrique, Spain. They have been committed to their art form for generations, and the time, heart, and care that is poured into every seam and edge is so precious and far from fast fashion. We try our best to capture the details, and have some videos on our site, but handcrafting every detail takes so much artistry and precision. For example, the thin straps of the Crossbody Clutch takes hours to hand stitch due to the delicacy of the piece, and in order to create a sleek and seamless back pocket requires them to use a whole extra layer of leather for the bag. These nuances in design are what bring human care and craftsmanship to each piece we produce.
What's been the most rewarding part of founding Velé?
Anytime a woman tells us she feels more worthy and wanted through interacting with our brand our hearts just do backflips. That’s why we’re doing what we do. There are so many messages telling us we’re not enough, and we’re passionate about building a brand that says otherwise.
In an ideal world, where would you like to see the brand in 5 years?
In 5 years, we will be empowering women with a full range of timeless, luxury leather essentials through working with global artisan groups. I would like to see us scaling Velé in order to maximize our ability to support our nonprofit partner in ending human trafficking. That said, if all we accomplish is empowering one woman to pursue her dreams, I would consider Velé a success.