21 May Fashion Businesses are Leaving the Coasts and Moving to Texas! Vegan Fashion Boutique Blue District is now in Dallas!
This year has been one of much self-reflection for businesses with all the lockdowns and restrictions they had to face during the last 12 months. Unfortunately, many businesses found themselves shuttering their doors while others reevaluated their business models to determine if their current operations were best in other avenues or even locations. Cici Voise of Blue District, a vegan clothing and accessories boutique out of Los Angeles, found herself in that same predicament. We were excited to find out that she was relocating to Texas and pleasantly surprised that the constant battle to keep fashion industry professionals growing within our great state has seemed to be attracting more and more transplants, as well. Find out what brought her to uproot her life and business to Texas and what that means for the future of Texas fashion.
Pictured here, Cici Voise, owner of Blue District. Photo provided.
SLTV: Cici, we’ve been following Blue District since we covered Los Angeles Vegan Fashion Week in 2019. We want to know everything about you! I feel like you are so multifaceted and we need to know as much as we can about you and how you got into the Vegan fashion world!
CV: Thank you! Well, I was born in France, but I’ve been in the U.S. for 18 years. I became a citizen a few years ago, but what I really keep from my French heritage is the focus on family versus work. While I am an entrepreneur at heart and like to work many hours, the importance of enjoying the weekend to spend time with loved ones still resonates with me. I started Blue District 4 years ago, at the height of my recording artist career. I had a song that was set to be part of a movie so MTV wanted a video associated with the film. We had to rush to produce this video and they had gathered a team of people, and among them was a celebrity stylist (name withheld). When I was at the fitting, the stylist came with a rack full of furs and leather pieces and that was the first time that I couldn’t see anything but dead animals and not clothes. It hit me then and there, so I made the suggestion to possibly use faux furs instead. What happened next changed the course of my career and my life. I was yelled at by the stylist and they even ended up storming out and I felt so upset that it drove me to want to start my own company that only sourced the highest quality vegan fashions that everyone will want to wear!
SLTV: That was quite the experience! I’m sure that was very emotional, but did you ever have an inkling towards entrepreneurship before that?
CV: Not at all! I was really into the music industry and it never even crossed my mind before that incident. It was honestly an “Aha moment”, especially when professionals were telling me that vegan luxury fashion does not exist. That just fueled my desire to fix that problem. Once my mind was set, there was no turning back. I know that there were decent-looking faux furs and vegan leathers at the time, but it just wasn’t as available as it is now.
SLTV: So, you were definitely breaking barriers since you started this journey! How was the process of facing challenges along the way?
CV: As Blue District progressed, I took other sustainable measures like eliminating plastic packaging, and when it came to sourcing I had to consider making sure we were sourcing clothing with non-toxic dyes. I continued to research and learned about ethically made products and all of these concepts were so foreign to me. It was definitely a learning curve and the more challenges I faced, the more I wanted to address these issues. There were so many steps that seemed so difficult, but where there’s a will there’s a way! You would be surprised at the number of people who do value good practices, especially in places like China where a lot of my merchandise is manufactured. I think China gets a bad rap for unethical factory practices, but it turns out that their culture is raised to be the best in the world at everything they do. Many companies do have ethical practices and have the desire to be the best at being the greenest, for example. I didn’t know until I started researching for the right companies to work with that they have standards for practices that don’t even exist here in the States. It was really eye-opening when I learned about the required certifications that they need to even operate as Green Companies.
SLTV: That’s definitely not common knowledge. So, do you design the clothing yourself or do you work with a team?
CV: It’s definitely a collaborative effort. When I started my first collection, I only had about 20 pieces and of course, there were a lot of jackets (laughs) as it was my main focus at the time. I work with pattern makers who show me the options and designs and I select from there. I do make requests for certain fabrics, adding a zipper here and there, show my inspirations and things like that. I didn’t really attend design school but I am involved in the process. I also take all the photos and run social media myself. I hadn’t been able to invest in marketing until recently! lived in a building in L.A. where around 5 famous Youtubers lived, so I was able to connect with some of them and collaborate with them! Thanks to their help, I was able to grow my audience and customer base. I also was able to participate in Los Angeles Vegan Fashion Week twice, pop-up shops around L.A., and other opportunities where I got to meet so many amazing people who have devoted their lives to creating sustainable fashion, who really care about the new generation and saving the planet that really inspires me.
SLTV: One of the things that I find very impressive about Blue District is that you managed to master the art of keeping the prices very accessible while providing high-quality vegan, non-toxic products and working with fair wage production. How do you maintain affordable pricing?
CV: The answer to that is very simple. I take a smaller cut. To be honest, all the natural materials are not that expensive and while many companies will sell you that organic cotton at a high price tag it really is rather inexpensive so you know their profit margin is very high. Also, materials like recycled polyester or cotton are very affordable. For example, recycled polyester made with plastic bottles is abundant in China and it costs them less to produce those knits over brand new material. When it comes to fair wages, you have to keep in mind that what you consider living wages in the U.S. is very different based on the cost of living in countries like China or India. The difference between the factories I work with and fast fashion factories in price is still manageable for me to keep my pricing affordable. While items don’t cost me $0.30 apiece as they would in bulk for fast fashion companies, I am still going to bed at night knowing that those prices still afford them a living wage and I am able to bring affordable and attainable fashion to my customers. When people tell me that they want to wear more vegan, sustainable fashion but they can’t afford it, I’m happy to prove them wrong! So, my pricing is similar to known companies like Zara while being ethically made and the profit margin a bit lower, but my goal really is to show people that sustainable fashion is attainable. As the industry grows, more companies will catch on and hopefully lower the pricing as well. I don’t mind taking the hit because I’m happy, I’m doing something good and the business is doing well.
SLTV: So, let’s talk about your move to Dallas. What made you uproot and bring your entire business from Los Angeles to Dallas, Texas?
CV: It really took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that for small businesses, California is not ideal. They have very high taxes and the rent/cost of living is outrageous! I was doing fine and with all the events/pop-ups, plus the online shop and showroom the business was doing great. But, when 2020 hit with all the extremely strict COVID lockdowns in California I had to go online only. Thankfully, the online boutique was doing surprisingly great, but I still had to pay rent on the showroom and it was really eating out of my costs for an entire year. I was like “What am I doing?” so I decided to research other locations to relocate that would be open-minded, fashion-forward, and eco-conscious. Everyone in L.A. I knew was moving to Austin, but I found that the cost of living was almost as high as L.A. So when someone suggested to check out Dallas, I took a weekend to visit and immediately fell in love. I made up my mind and found a great warehouse space, found an apartment for myself, and was able to take my work online. Ultimately, my goal is to have a physical boutique because I’m noticing that Texas is embracing sustainable fashion so I feel it’s the right move. The energy is shifting and I’m truly happy where I am now!
The wave of imports from major cities like New York and Los Angeles is very noticeable. Texas is definitely becoming a major hub from tech companies, to the Hollywood industry and, of course, fashion. This just shows that Texas is on the rise and we’re here for it as we make way for major growth in the next 10 years. Are we ready for it? I believe we are as long build a sustainable infrastructure that withstands the growth. The future in Texas is bright, we just have to continue to forge and lay down the groundwork.
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