The Scottish Mail on Sunday
The college drop-out with denim in her genes
FASHION boss Anika Islam is glad of the day she dropped out of college.
If she had continued with her womenswear degree she would have graduated only this year. Instead, she heads a brand stocked in more than 200 UK stores and expanding into Taiwan and China.
The founder of ‘Scandiinspired’ denim brand Waven realised she and her brother already knew what they wanted to do and she did not need to study any more.
Islam, whose family has been in denim manufacturing for 30 years, already had an economics degree and masters from Edinburgh University.
She said: ‘I knew I could get into banking, private equity or finance, but I don’t believe in working to make money. I wanted to make an impact.’
At 22, she applied for a womenswear degree at Central Saint Martins in London. She said: ‘I got in and then dropped out sort of after day one. I guess I had a clearer vision of what I wanted to do than the students at that age. It was a really good decision!’
Two-and-a-half years on, Waven is a rapidly expanding success story.
She said: ‘Our top customers are Asos, Zolando, House of Fraser, Topshop and Topman.
‘I’m in Bangladesh at the moment developing for 2018. We’re sending out samples to Japan, Italy and Australia. We’re opening up in China, in Taiwan for next season as well. So we’re healthily growing.’
The business has used invoice finance from Bibby Financial Services to manage cash flow. Islam said: ‘We just got to a point where we thought, “how are we going to do it? How is it possible to keep suppliers happy and make sure we have enough stock ready for our customers who are repeat orders?”.
But Brexit is a big concern. She said: ‘It’s difficult to give an opinion on this without sounding too negative. It’s been this long sour divorce and we’re all the children really suffering from it. The exchange rates were the biggest hit for us because we buy everything in US dollars and we sell in pounds. It’s been a massive hit on margins – no one else will take the squeeze.’