How do you make your passion into a successful business? Los Angeles-based artist and entrepreneur Ilse Valfré, 29, asked herself that very question, now she’s making millions.
Eight years ago, you could easily spot Ilse Valfré being extremely fashionable on the streets of San Diego.
Her unique sense of attainable style was captured on the pages of Teen Vogue when she was just 21-years-old. Back then the Tijuana native was busy working as a pre-school teacher — she even authored a children’s book, but her real passion has always been art.
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Her art work grew a cult following on tumblr and other social media pages. Fans of her illustrations even dress up like characters she created.
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Valfré says that art is a form of therapy for her, and the natural extension of her work made it possible to transition into fashion.
“I consider fashion a means of expression, and so is art!” Valfré said when she was 23. “I know this is said over and over, but I do have a deep passion for fashion and sometimes when I see a new collection that I can’t afford, I say to myself: ‘Since I can’t afford it right now, I’ll style my paper dolls with the clothes I wish I had.” It’s like living in my own little fantasy world.'”
Roughly three years later, Valfré started her company, along with her husband, appropriately named after herself.
At Valfré.com you can find an assortment of accessories including cell phone cases. She said that if someone wants to start their own business it’s important to be very specific about what they want to sell. “At the beginning it was pretty much a one-woman show,” Valfré said in an interview with Fortune. “It’s fun to open up product categories and create new types of products but you need to have a big team to continue to grow these categories once they’re open.”
Her brand’s real seller is women’s fashion.
The Valfré woman can be described as girly, passionate about being a feminist, and always experimental. Valfré said her stylish inspiration should never be about limiting yourself to one form of trend.
Feminism has always been at the forefront to her brand.
Valfré says that feminism isn’t just about being a woman, but being strong and bold about who you are.
“I think don’t think having ovaries makes you a woman,” Valfré said in an interview with StyleCaster. “Like my mother for example, she doesn’t have ovaries; since she had me, she’s had to get them removed, but that doesn’t make her less of a woman because of that, you know? I have a trans friend, and she’s a female, and she wasn’t born with female parts. But that doesn’t make her less of a woman than I am.”