Tie One On

Karine As­saf silk scarves are colour­ful, chic and time­less. And ac­cord­ing to the de­signer, they might be the hard­est work­ing item in your closet.

Bespoke - - STYLE - Writer: Na­dia Michel

 here are so many new fash­ion brands emerging these days that it’s hard to keep up with who’s who. It must be a sign of the times that fresh grads are now pre­fer­ring to go it alone rather than get sucked into the vor­tex of shrink­ing job prospects, glass ceil­ings and rigid sched­ules. Of course, they do say that, in busi­ness, the po­ten­tial for re­ward is un­lim­ited but one clear con­clu­sion from this ev­i­dent rise in en­trepreneur­ship is that the val­ues of the Amer­i­can dream are shared glob­ally. Sadly how­ever, in the cold hard light of day, nine out of ten star­tups fail. The pri­mary rea­son, ac­cord­ing to For­tune, is a lack of mar­ket need for the up­start’s prod­uct. The sec­ond, in case you were won­der­ing was a lack of sif­fi­cient cap­i­tal

more usu­ally re­ferred to as run­ning out of cash. Scarf de­signer Karine As­saf says she's fully aware of these pit­falls and has set her sights on be­ing in the other ten per cent. It'll no doubt help that she has an en­gi­neer­ing de­gree – there’s some­thing to be said about a cal­cu­lat­ing mind, es­pe­cially when you’re build­ing a busi­ness. Then there’s also that post­grad­u­ate diploma in en­trepreneur­ship from Cam­bridge, and this is in fact where the story of her brand be­gan. “I de­vel­oped an or­ganic waste op­ti­mi­sa­tion project,” As­saf ex­plains. “The

idia was to find a new use for dis­carded im­per­fect – bruised or over­ripe – fruits or veg­eta­bles.” Ini­tially, she tried to re­sell those unloved fruits to the F&B in­dus­try, but quickly re­alised that char­i­ties might be her best bet. The project was there­fore ad­justed from be­ing for point to non profit and she went

back to the start­ing block in search of an op­por­tu­nity to com­bine her artis­tic tal­ent with a unique busi­ness con­cept that could ful­fill her de­sire to cre­ate a sus­tain­able

suc­cess­ful en­ter­prise. “I started us­ing those fruits and veg­eta­bles and turn­ing them into paints, as I’ve al­ways been a free­lance artist on the side,” she tells us over some cof­fee in a de­part­ment store that has re­cently taken on her brand. In fact, even as a man­age­ment con­sul­tant at Deloitte in Mon­treal, she was oc­ca­sion­ally called upon to pro­duce art­works. And it was that very tal­ent that even­tu­ally caught the eye of Ol­lie Amhurst, founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor of Lot78, a suc­cess­ful on­line fash­ion re­tailer in the UK. “When he saw my paint­ings he thought of tex­tile prints,” she re­calls. And from there, with Ol­lie’s guid­ance and men­tor­ship, As­saf sourced Ital­ian silk and launched her epony­mous brand in Lon­don in 2016. i took a risk she says about her first

pro­duc­tion, which she show­cased dur­ing

an in­ti­mate event held at her par­ents’ home, a choice she con­sciously made to min­imise cost. “That week, peo­ple I didn’t know started call­ing and or­der­ing scarves,” she re­mem­bers. Hav­ing sold all but a few pieces, she had the im­pe­tus she needed to go for­ward. “Nowa­days, you have cheap scarves from China, which you don’t nec­es­sar­ily want to wear, and super ex­pen­sive ones by Her­mès, but I wanted some­thing in the mid­dle. So I worked on a price point that would con­sti­tute ac­ces­si­ble lux­ury,” she points out. Then she de­vel­oped an ef­fec­tive sales strat­egy that would help boost in­ter­est and sales. “When you just put scarves on a rack, they don’t mean any­thing. So for our first pho­to­shoot we showed all the ways

you could wear the scarves, par­tic­u­larly in a younger way, or rather a more cre­ative and free spir­ited way. And that ap­pealed a lot to the younger gen­er­a­tion, as much in fact as it did to the older gen­er­a­tion.” Still though, as much as she may be part of a new crop of cre­atives, As­saf is highly aware that she has a clas­sic prod­uct, one that's more likely to ap­peal to a so­phis­ti­cated Her­mès shop­per than a trend-fol­low­ing, In­sta­gram-stalk­ing fash­ion­ista. And be­cause of this, she is re­luc­tant to throw her hard-earned cash at ei­ther smart-talk­ing PR agen­cies or of the minute in­fluenecers thats a story

we’ve all seen be­fore, and As­saf it seems is de­ter­mined to write her own.

“Nowa­days, you have cheap scarves from China, and super ex­pen­sive ones by Her­mès, but I wanted some­thing in the mid­dle."

Left: The 140 USD 'A Fem­i­nist at Heart' can be worn like a belt or, as here, through just one or two belt loops, and wrapped up in a knot. Above left: 'Geisha' scarf. Above right: 'A Pizza of my Heart' scarf worn as a tur­ban.

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