Just Go For It: Fiona Tran on Her New Fashion Label
Have you ever seen clothing in stores and thought a couple of changes could make it so much better? Well, that is how Fiona Tran felt and decided it was time for her to take her love of fashion and turn it into a brand of clothing she would want to wear. Fiona Tran is a 22-year-old San Francisco-based entrepreneur launching her first clothing label called FT The Label. The label is made for modern-day women and individualists. She attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she received a B.A. in Political Science and on March 19, she launched her label.
FCF:When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur and what was the point that really made you go for it?
Fiona Tran: So, I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was a kid and I always felt like I wanted to be a boss in some way. Even when I was playing house as a kid, I decided to take the lead role. Over time I developed my passion for fashion and I really liked that industry and I realized I was shopping a lot. There was always something I didn’t like with some little detail or noticed something that could have been different and that’s when I knew why not take this time now to jumpstart my career and be an entrepreneur. It is something I’ve always wanted to do and it was kind of like a universal calling. I basically started this right around the time when the pandemic started back in March when I was in my senior year of college. I basically was going through depression and anxiety with the uncertainty of what was going to happen since my senior year was taken away from me and I didn’t have graduation. I couldn’t say bye to my friends and things just changed very quickly, so this (the label) was kind of my thing that brought me back to the feeling of being grounded and knowing where I’m going to end up and give me something to work towards. It gave me direction to work towards, plus it was tough to find a job at that time and no one wanted to hire. I was just running around in circles and it was honestly miserable and at that point, I was like why not just take that extra time that I have when I don’t have that many distractions to jumpstart my career. Then I officially started doing everything, probably around late June and July.
What was your inspiration behind the label?
FT: As I mentioned earlier, there is always something I didn’t like when I was shopping, whether it’s the cut on a pair of jeans, the price, or the fabric that they use. There was always just something, so that’s what motivated me to start my own label to have something that I would like and wear. It just reflects my personality and hopefully others like me as well. The label is for women who want to be empowered and want to be a boss and have this general aesthetic of being an individualist with modern elegance. I don’t feel like there are many brands that embody that very well and obviously, I’m still at the very beginning, but it would be fun to develop this idea.
What type of clothing do you see yourself creating with this line?
FT: I want to put out ready-to-wear women’s wear so that it will be very timeless pieces like dresses, pants and tops. My goal with all these pieces is to let each client build their own capsule wardrobe with every piece. One of the label’s main goals is to make it fully sustainable in the future and sustainability is something that not many people talk about because it’s costly and hard to source. So being able to have that touch of sustainability would be amazing to have in the future and to have a capsule collection that’s healthy for the environment. You don’t have to shop a lot because you can create 10 outfits with a dress or a pair of pants.
Are you making all the clothing yourself or do you have a team of people or is this you?
FT: It is a one-woman team of me just working on it right now and in terms of a team, I have contracted people to help me do things, but I can’t sew to save my life right now and I should probably learn how. I literally studied political science, so we’re on totally different spectrums here. I always had my roommate sewing when something ripped. I’m also up in the Bay Area and there’s not a huge fashion imprint like New York or Los Angeles where there’s a fashion district, so it’s helpful for me to work with my mentor to navigate everything remotely and just in general.
What has been the hardest part of starting this endeavor in your life and the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
FT: I think one personal challenge is that mindset of “you can do this,” and it’s so much easier said than done and that’s probably why it’s taking me so much longer to get started on this. Because there’s like some 18-year-old entrepreneurs out there that are building successful businesses and go them! I guess I wasn’t like that because I was always this person to have a timeline. So I always thought I needed to follow the timeline and when things got shuffled for me it was really hard for me to be confident in myself and my abilities. It’s important to remind yourself you are very capable of doing this and no one will tell you where to start. You have to jump the gun and do it. This is cliche to say, but it is what it is. I have even spoken to Alana Hadid herself like Gigi Hadid and Bella Hadid’s sister and even she was like, just start! I had no idea what I was doing when I started my clothing brand and she was just so humble about it and seeing someone as successful as her and knowing that she started from the same place I did was so reassuring for me. Plus, getting started is one of the most important parts. It’s important to keep yourself motivated and encouraged because it’s super easy to get discouraged. After all, once you pass one step, there’s always another waiting for you. In terms of logistics, the hardest part was fabric sourcing. Fabric sourcing is challenging because there are so many different textiles and once you find it, you have to find the fabric with the most yardage, you have to make sure the price per yard will fit into your price range and fit into production. I have a lot of respect for brands that create their own unique fabric for themselves just because it’s such a time-intensive thing.
What made you walk into college with political science and come out with the fashion line?
FT: To be honest, I initially was going to be a business major and I am terrible at math. I was like, no, thank you, I don’t need a business degree that bad. With that said, I was looking through all the possible majors I could go through and I thought that political science sounded cool because when I was younger, I thought maybe I could be the president of the United States. I always knew that I liked fashion and I never really thought that I would start my own clothing brand until maybe my junior year of college because I started joining a lot of clubs and people are doing their own startups. I thought I could totally do that; why not? Life is short. I started to think starting my own clothing line could be one of the most fulfilling projects I could ever do. I knew I didn’t like reporting to managers and sticking to a timesheet, so I really liked working on my own time and I realized that and I thought, let’s get things going and kick poli-sci out the door and started working on my business. It’s been a multi-faceted project ever since.
What is the typical day like for you?
FT: I work full time and I am not a morning person. I definitely don’t get up at 5 a.m. every day and I can barely get up at 7 a.m. every day. I wish I was one of those cool entrepreneurs that can get up early every day, but I try to wake up at 6 a.m. every day to do a workout and get some content stuff done in the morning before work. If that doesn’t happen I’ll get up at 7 a.m. and start work throughout the day and then have little gaps in between where I’ll have time to myself to schedule meetings or go out and shoot content. Then I’ll wrap up work around 5 p.m. to work out and get some dinner in. Then I’ll kind of keep working work throughout the night whether that’s organizing my brain, doing mood boards, or doing research. I go to bed pretty early usually around 11:30 p.m. just because I need at least eight hours of sleep.
What keeps you so motivated every day?
FT: I think just knowing the end product and having it in hand because I’m so close to the finish line being the launch date and seeing everything come together. Imagining that end product come together and seeing people wear my stuff and having it all pay off. That’s not to say there aren’t some days where I’m thinking am I even doing this for the right reasons or am I going to sell stuff. It’s kind of a roller coaster because I can feel like I’m on top of the world but I can feel like I literally want to quit. I think a lot of other entrepreneurs can say the same thing because you never know what to expect and there’s a lot more out of your control. But I think the end product and have built this legacy brand would be insane and I try to take things day by day to keep myself realistic.
What has been the main thing that you’ve learned so far that it takes to run a business?
FT: One thing that I have been practicing and I know is very important is to be consistent and to make yourself disciplined about things. I have a really hard time with consistency because sometimes I will do something and then I’ll get tired of it and then I’ll leave it behind altogether. But consistency is important to keep things up when there are so many other things going on. When you forget about one thing, I can really come back to bite you. I think it’s important to keep yourself motivated as well because there are going to be situations as well when people are going to doubt you, or you doubt yourself and a lot of things that test your patience and capabilities so it’s imperative to be patient with yourself. It’s important to know the most financially beneficial for your company and a lot of trial of error. Having the willingness to do it, keeping your head on straight, not getting distracted by other things, and really holding yourself accountable are the most important things because it’s easy to get sidetracked with a lot of other stuff.
What has been something that’s been really rewarding through this process so far?
FT: I think just having the little moments and the little wins are the things that make me so happy. I have a video actually unboxing the samples that I received for my first launch and I was so excited my words are scrambled and I was screaming I was so happy. Just those little wins and hearing words from my friends saying they’re so happy that I’m doing this are the best. Those little winds are what keeps you going. And yes, you might take some losses before you keep getting those wins, but the wins are the things that add up in the big picture and matter. I have a five-minute journal where I try to write down a little win for myself every day to remind myself of what I’m accomplishing and to keep yourself accountable.
Could you summarize who the brand is for and what your messages for the brand?
FT: I am targeting women between their early twenties and early thirties. These women are working women and are always out and about, but they always like to look stylish and stay comfortable. It’s basically a ready-to-wear women’s brand for city women who have an individualist yet modern style but still seek elegance. That way you still have a timeless capsule that you can continue to build upon and hopefully one day it’ll be fully sustainable. Right now we have sustainable packaging just to get our first foot forward.
How would you describe your personal style?
FT: I would say it’s very similar to my label, which is very elegant yet minimalist and has a touch of romance where there are tie sleeve details, maybe some pearl buttons. I like that little touch of elegance or feminine energy to it, but the overall style is very classic and modern and it’s a very timeless style. I very much speak truth to my brand because it’s a lot of stuff I would wear and I feel like I offer the most honest perspective of it, which is why I’m really excited about it.
Do you have any final advice for women who are thinking and dreaming of what you’re doing in the future?
FT: I would say just don’t be scared to start. You will never have anyone tell you a specific starting block and you’re not going to have a syllabus for yourself to follow. You have to create your own syllabus. Really continue to manifest things from there on out to build out a clear vision and to go after it because if you don’t, it’s always going to be a dream. It’s really about what you want and to go after that.