This Is What A Cuban-Egyptian Feminist Clothing Line Looks Like
Nothing makes me happier than witnessing rad women follow their dreams. That's one of the many reasons why I am such a huge fan of Sabrina Scandar and Silvia Scandar Mahan.
Cuban-Egyptian sisters born and raised in Miami (305!), they left behind their demanding corporate jobs and pursued their love for art and creativity by founding Vividly, an art community and fashion house.
Silvia and Sabrina were kind enough to take time out of their busy schedules running an entire company (no biggie) to answer a few questions for PolicyMic.
It's so empowering to witness these ladies excel in their fields. I had so many questions I wanted to ask but alas, time is of the essence. I'll let the founders tell you more about this fabulous company but before we get to it, I wanted to share one of the many things that makes Vividly truly unique, its dedication to socially responsible manufacturing processes. When you buy an item from Vividly, you can rest assured that every step of the supply chain was carefully thought out to promote the highest standards in the industry. That's pretty rare in the fashion world and I am so excited a company like Vividly is here to change that!
Now it's time to get to know the power duo behind Vividly, what makes them tick and how their identities as women, feminist and Cuban-Egyptian, shaped them and their company.
Ana Defillo: Tell us a little about yourselves and Vividly.
Silvia and Sabrina: We are sisters, born and raised in Miami, Florida, where we first fell in love with bright colors and daring art. We founded Vividly to foster creativity and promote self-expression through clothing. Through Vividly, we are providing artists with a new way to share their art, and consumers with the chance to wear and share art they love.
We partner with visual artists to create garments that incorporate their art. Every piece is made in the USA, using high quality fabrics that are a pleasure to wear. Each simple silhouette tells a story or conveys an emotion — ideal for anyone who loves gorgeously made clothes that express their passion, vivacity, and love of art.
Our goal is to help people own a part of an artist’s work that would otherwise be too expensive to own. And, not just own it for their private enjoyment, but be able to share it with friends and others every time they wear it out. We do this by creating classic pieces that can be worked seamlessly into one’s everyday wardrobe.
AD: Both of you came to Vividly from very different fields. Silvia was a lawyer, and Sabrina worked in policy consulting in D.C. What prompted you to enter the fashion world and create Vividly?
SS: When working as a lawyer in NYC, Silvia felt there was a part of herself she wasn’t fully able to express. She decided to pursue her dream of being an entrepreneur, but wanted to find a way she could help others express their creative and entrepreneurial sides, too.
She moved to SF, eager to be a part of what she sees as the new Wild West — the world of tech startups. She also took up sewing as a hobby. The idea for letting people create original clothing items came from combining those two interests.
Sabrina held a few different jobs before figuring out that she loved the world of startups and technology. She started as a DoJ contractor, then as a marketing associate, and finally transitioned to a role as a product manager at a rapidly growing tech company. It was at that job that she realized her true passion was being part of young companies and helping to build cool web products. The skills she developed there helped propel and transform Silvia’s original idea into what is now Vividly.
AD: Who is your favorite artist and why?
Sabrina: Salvador Dali. I love his style and have always really connected personally with his paintings. My two favorite are Persistence of Memory and Meditative Rose.
Silvia: Jackson Pollock. Explosive, colorful, random, but balanced. I can’t get enough.
AD: If you can have any living artist design something for Vividly, who would it be?
Silvia: There are so many we would love! If I could aim for the moon, I think Frank Stella’s minimalist work would be a really interesting new take on traditional “stripes,” and I’m a big fan of Jasper Johns — abstract, colorful images look amazing on clothing. There are also a bunch of SF artists I would love to get on board — like Rachel Kaye, Charmaine Olivia, and Serena Mitnik-Miller.
We can’t reveal any names yet, but we are working on getting some very talented Miami-based street artists on board.
Sabrina: Banksy! I love political street art and fell in love with Banksy’s work while traveling through the Middle East. His messages are powerful and I’d love to see what message he’d create for Vividly.
AD: Tell us a little bit about the process behind starting your own company. What were the biggest challenges and biggest surprises?
SS: Starting a company has been, as so many told us it would be, a roller coaster. It’s always exhilarating, but there are definitely ups and downs. One of the best things about starting your own venture is also one of the biggest challenges: wearing so many different hats. The Vividly team right now is just the two of us, so we do everything — from accounting and legal, to marketing, to web design and development, to managing manufacturing and shipping — you name it. It makes for a really engaging workday, but can also be stressful because if we miss something, no one else is going to think of it.
One of the pleasant surprises we’ve found is the tremendous encouragement from the SF and Miami startup communities. They are very different in nature, but both bursting with innovative and enthusiastic people who want to support each other and love new, daring ideas.
AD: What does a Vividly work day look like?
SS: Because we live in different time zones, our days look a little different. Sabrina works out of the LAB Miami, a co-working space in Wynwood, Miami’s arts district. She typically tackles emails and social media queries in the morning, before getting to work on site design and development.
We have a daily check-in at noon Eastern, usually on Google Hangouts because Silvia lives in SF and Sabrina in Miami. At check-in, we each share what we worked on the day before and what we’re hoping to get done that day. We share ideas, discuss challenges, and ask each other for advice.
From there, every day looks different from the last. Silvia works from home, but makes frequent visits to our patternmaker and sample-makers, who are located in SF and Oakland. She also spends a bit of time at coffee shop meetings with designers, other entrepreneurs, and anyone interested in talking about Vividly.
Sabrina’s day usually involves a good deal of Illustrator, Photoshop, HTML, CSS, and exploring and editing the bowels of our Big Commerce website. She can also be found visiting our manufacturer, who is located in Miami.
AD: What's your favorite Vividly item?
SS: We can’t choose one! You can see all our favorites under the Staff Picks section of the website. We are obviously a little partial to the Subtle Unity top, which is featured on our homepage. It was the first piece we made, and the bright blue photographs so well. Plus the colors are excellent for this season. But choosing that piece was really difficult because we love so many of them!
AD: Both of you are rad feminist women from a Cuban and Egyptian household in Miami. How have these identities shaped you and Vividly?
SS: Wow — what a great question! We could talk for hours about our heritage (as some of our friends know), but here’s an attempt at a short answer:
We are motivated, first and foremost, by a desire to help others feel empowered. We consider ourselves feminist in the sense that we believe every person should be empowered to shape and change his or her world. Vividly is a vehicle we’re using to empower others — both men and women. We are grateful to our late father, who taught us we can do anything we put our minds to. He never believed that being women should hold us back from achieving the greatest of success, so we have never believed that either.
Our Cuban and Egyptian heritage is a colorful one. You can see the tropical influences in our favorite Vividly pieces, and our love for bright, colorful clothing comes from growing up in Miami, immersed in Cuban culture. Our Egyptian father was an artist, who created beautiful stone carvings, paintings, and ceramics in the style of ancient Egyptian art. We were always taken with the patterns and colors in his pieces and he fostered in us a love for art and creativity.
We’ve also been influenced by the vibrant art and fashion scenes in Miami, particularly in Wynwood, Miami’s arts district.
AD: As women changing the art and fashion scene, what advice would you give other women out there wanting to enter the field or start their own company?
SS: Take risks. Be fearless. Trust your instincts. Be confident. Ask questions. Cultivate a strong network of supporters and advisers. Be kind to everyone.
Not everyone thinks about that last one, but it’s important. You don’t have to be aggressive to get things done, and, in fact, kindness can open many doors for you. It’s a better way of living, and of doing business.
AD: Sabrina, as if Vividly wasn't enough, you also co-founded FemEx Miami. Tell us a little about FemEx and why it came to be.
SS: FemEx is my passion project. It’s a community organization that runs courses aimed at empowering and educating individuals around gender, sexuality, and health. The organization was born out of a desire to create a safe space for women in Miami to share experiences and discuss important issues. Since its conception in 2010, FemEx has run seven full cycles of its two courses, FemEx (all female) and GenEx (co-ed), and has attracted 10 volunteer facilitators who contribute time and experience to helping the organization grow. Through FemEx, I’ve met some incredibly inspiring people and have learned a lot about growing an organization and motivating people around a common goal.
AD: Right now, Vividly has tanks and scarfs. Will more items be added as artists contribute?
SS: Yes, of course! Up next: a skirt, and a silk bomber jacket. We are also working on other accessories, pants, dresses, and men’s items!
AD: Is there something you would like to share with the PolicyMic audience?
SS: We are big fans of PolicyMic, and we’re honored to be included on its pages. We believe in PolicyMic’s mission of amplifying unheard voices, and encouraging thoughtful journalism. So, to the PolicyMic audience, we would say: keep reading PolicyMic, and when you can, support small businesses and support art!
Thank you ladies! Aren't they awesome? Can't wait to strut my Wynwood tank!
For more on all things Vividly follow the duo on Twitter: @vividlyco