Meet Evelyn Mora, Founder and CEO of Helsinki Fashion Week, who fights for a fashion world based on sustainability and a circular economy. Evelyn already appeared in our Nordic Women Powering Fashion 2018 Infographic, where we highlighted the power women in leading roles across the fashion industry. To further elaborate on her career, we invited Evelyn to an interview with us in which she told us more about her success as a female entrepreneur.
The Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneur: Evelyn Mora
How did you get started in the fashion industry?
I didn’t end up in fashion on purpose! I started as a photographer: by doing fashion photography and editorial it quickly turned to shooting products. Through that I started working on lounge events and product launches. Before that I had started proposing themes and plans for brands – brand strategies in a visual sense, for the client’s lounge events and product launches. Very quickly I got involved with guest lists as well – who to invite, what kind of press, etc.
How did you come up with a sustainable Fashion Week?
It was a strategic decision. When we decided to plan Helsinki Fashion Week in July, we realized we were right after Amsterdam and Berlin Fashion Weeks. Therefore, we had to find a niche to have a reason for buyers and press to come to our Fashion Week. Sustainability is the future: kind of like cars – you need to think about what’s the next big thing. We found out that a lot of people have tried to produce a sustainable Fashion Weeks before and failed at it – so we took the chance and succeeded.
Read the latest article of HFW 2018 Edition Designer @noanstudio featured in @vogueitalia Can’t wait to reveal all our designers soon !! #staytuned #annalehmusniemi #helsinginmuotiviikot #ecovillage #vogue http://www.vogue.it/en/vogue-talents/news/2018/04/03/sustainable-bags-handmade-noan-anna-lehmusniemi/ 📷 @michael_smits
Helsinki Fashion Week has a very unique concept. How did you overcome the resistance (if there was any) when introducing the idea to stakeholders?
Luckily, the fashion industry doesn’t start or end in Finland, so instantly we had a very international take on it. We didn’t want to only showcase Finnish designers, because that doesn’t make any sense. Showcasing designers is not a patriotic thing, collections are not born. It’s a global inspiration: your individual self is not restricted to one country. Since the industry was so small here, we wanted to attract international designers to come here and start selling in local stores to mix with the local scene. It’s a balance between export and import. We didn’t only do that with designers, but also with press. Fortunately, there are people in the press and media world who appreciate our concept and thinking. Through global press support we started attracting international attention here and started getting the recognition, exposure and visibility that the event deserves.
What challenges do you currently face or have you faced in the past as a young, female entrepreneur?
You said it – young and female, so those are two challenges. Often corporate people judge me when I walk in. I’ve been told: “Girl, you have balls coming here”, but then we end up signing a contract. You might get this stereotypical behavior, but I don’t let it bother me, I like a challenge. Also, even though I’m Finnish I don’t feel very Finnish. I’m kind of lost in my national identity because I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. So that has been a confusing theme, my own identity and getting used to it and developing it. It’s also very difficult to stay real in the fashion industry while there is a very selfish and ‘fake’ vibe. Everybody wants to network and create a lot of connections, but I’m not interested in that. Connections should happen naturally and not just because we want to benefit from each other. I think communication, mutual respect and sincerity is all important in creating a successful partnership. You have to be on the same wavelength to co-create something with someone.
When working with Fashion Week partners, what does the gender division look like in leading roles?
In the leading roles it’s definitely male-dominated. I’m not even 100% sure that there is any female leader that we work with. Currently I would say maybe about 20% of my partnership communications happen with females, mostly as marketing specialists – the rest is with men. In my personal experience, working with women is faster, in a positive sense: you make a plan and you execute it. But all in all, I don’t care about gender. I am for female empowerment, but I don’t pay attention to which gender my employees or the people I work with are. I also don’t promote feminism as I don’t want to label my values on the gender issue, I just believe in equality.
Female leaders in the fashion industry are rare. What tips would you give to women who want to climb the career leader?
I would say that it’s about facts and comfort. You have to feel comfortable about yourself and with your own way of working. If you don’t feel comfortable in heels, don’t wear them. I’ve always had a conflict with my personal style because it’s very artsy, but then I’m a hiker and a sporty person, so that creates a conflict in my wardrobe. But now I’m fully embracing my ‘Patagonia’ moment in my closet. You can still look sexy even without lipstick and high heels – confidence is always sexy! Another tip: Don’t give a shit what other people think about you!
How do you see the future for women in the fashion industry?
I think we females have to step up our game. I think we spend too much time talking about our gender than actually creating impressive results and letting our work speak for our gender. We should focus on completing things rather than only talking about it. But it’s not just a female thing; a lot of guys are getting abused too. However, it should not be about your sexuality or your gender – those can only be good things about you, so why focus on them negatively? Rather focus on skills and talents that you have!
If you could, would you change any steps you took in your career, and if so, what would you change?
I would give myself more time: I started as an entrepreneur way too early and inexperienced. If I could, I would go back and take my time in order to enjoy the road. Today I work way less hours than I used to a couple of years ago and I’m much more effective now. So it’s not about time, it’s about quality. Not about moving forward, but moving upward. Upgrading yourself and your activities.
What are your professional plans and projects for 2018?
The top project for 2018 is this year’s Helsinki Fashion Week! Other than that, I will consult similar platforms in terms of sustainability. Also, it’s always been my dream to travel a lot, but now that I do, it’s not as glamorous…
If you had some advice for your younger self, what would it be?
I would say focus more on being happy than impressing others.
For more on the world’s most sustainable Fashion Week, check out: Helsinki Fashion Week. We hope you enjoyed the interview as much as we did. Let us know your thoughts below in the comments!