"Make sure that your product or offering is unique. And then just go for it- you will learn everything you need to know along the way, and experience is truly the best education.” - Milicent Armstrong, Founder of Artemis Design Co.
One of the most important weeks in U.S. fashion happens in February at NY Fashion Week. To celebrate, the WIN Lab is highlighting fashion entrepreneurs who are adding their own unique flavor to the industry. We sat down with Milicent Armstrong, founder of Artemis Design Co., where beautiful, flat-woven textiles from Istanbul are brought to life through their famous Kilim shoes.
Q. You are both a designer and a business owner. How do you marry the two and stay inspired creatively as you work on growing the business, Artemis Design Co.?
I think that creativity in a design sense and and creativity in a business sense really go hand in hand. You must think creatively to come up with new product offerings, and also to solve business problems.
Q. You have seen incredible success through your partnerships. Tell us about how renowned retailer Steven Alan first discovered your Kilim shoes and what that did for Artemis.
It was a lot of luck and good timing. A good friend of mine (who worked for Steven Alan) loved my products and helped me to get a meeting with their buyers. The buyers and Steven loved the products and ordered for several of their stores. We had a “traveling trunk show” with them, which was so much fun and such a wonderful way to launch the brand. I really put my all into promoting and making these trunk shows huge successes, and it helped us get press and new customers.
Q. When you first began, you worked with a small shop in Istanbul to create your product line. Why did you choose this manufacturing partner?
We were lucky to find a wonderful manufacturing partner in Turkey whose values are so aligned with our own. All of our products are handmade with the highest quality materials, and attention to detail. We have customers who are still wearing the same shoes they bought from us 6 years ago, and it’s truly a testament to the skills of our artisan partners.
Q. Managing inventory for a one of a kind product that comes in many different sizes can be challenging. Were there any hiccups along the way that you learned from as you moved the business forward?
Yes- this has been one of our biggest challenges and I feel that we have finally figured it out, thanks to a lot of trial and error and to our brilliant Director of Operations, McNeill. We now have systems in place that manage our inventory effectively, and a fulfillment warehouse that takes care of the logistical end of things.
Q. How has your definition of “entrepreneur” changed since you started your business?
I think of an “entrepreneur” as someone who comes up with business ideas, solves problems, and makes things happen. In the first couple of years of my business I felt most like an entrepreneur, since everyday there seemed to be a new challenge and hurdles to overcome. We still have challenges, but I feel that now I am more of a manager and creative director than an entrepreneur. Every now and then I’ll have a new idea and get a big surge of energy to try something new (whether a new product, way of doing things, or completely different business idea), and it’s a very exciting entrepreneurial rush!