I remember when I had the opportunity to meet Alisa, the co-owner of J’adore Les Fleurs when the flower shop had just opened. The concept of flowers in a box was a new one here in LA, and what made this flower shop unique was that each arrangement was made with taste and style. Now, with over 100k followers on Instagram, 3 flower shops later, Alisa is pursuing her true passion, and she has officially launched her fashion line Tovmali. I got a chance to sit down and ask this boss lady a few questions:
Looking back, what was the moment that you knew that you wanted to be a designer?
Growing up I was always fascinated in clothing, especially the details. For as long as I can remember, I was always interested in garments and the construction of them. In my younger years, my parents would cut my hair short and dress me in androgynous clothing and I remember hating it and always wanting to wear feminine clothing with bows, ruffles, a lot of pink and dresses with fun prints, especially with color. My aunt was a fashionista and I would sneak into her closet and wear her clothing and stand in front of the mirror and pose and imagine I am on the runway. Going back to my more younger years, my grandfather taught me how to draw at the age of 4. He started with teaching me how to sketch animals, fruits, and then human figures. As I began to learn how to draw a human figure, I started to sketch dresses. I sketched dresses I dreamt of wearing. My grandmother sensed my love for clothing so she would bring me scraps of fabric from her friend who was a seamstress and I would sew clothing for my barbie dolls. I would drape sheets over myself and create dresses and walk around in the house as if it was a runway show. I always had the ability to envision women in beautiful dresses designed by me. I was literally reading Vogue and fashion magazines over assigned readings in school.
How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
When it came time for me to choose my major, my father held me back from a fashion design degree. He was never supportive of this. He wanted me to choose a major within the norm of society and choose something that “can put food on the table.” My grandmother, my former boss, and my husband were the main people to push me towards my dream of being a fashion designer. I ended up going to Woodbury University and majoring in business and marketing to fulfill my father’s expectations. For a whole year, I would do my business assignments in the fashion building with the dress forms.It was where I belonged. I was engaged at the time to my now husband, Davit. I spoke to him about my interest in switching to fashion design without any ones’ approval. He pushed me to do it. My grandmother also pushed me during this difficult time and my former boss, Susan Harris, was also the main motivation for me to go my route and become a fashion designer. I gathered all my thoughts, I fueled myself with power and I went ahead and spoke to Kathryn Hagen, head of the fashion department at the time and quickly switched my major. I immediately fell in love with her and I knew I was making the right decision. I needed to be surrounded by fashion people. Fashion is the language I speak. I mean, for as long as I can remember, I was born to do this. I graduated with a degree in Fashion Design and I am where I need to be. I am me, here. My father is also happy with my choices in life.
What was your business’ original vision? How has that vision evolved in the time since?
I have always had the same vision for my business. I create the things I love and I would personally wear. Originally, I grew up wanting to design only dresses but my vision and design aesthetic evolved in fashion school. I learned a lot about garments and I fell in love with every single piece of clothing. I love ready-to-wear pieces, gowns, coats, shirts, pants, skirts. I love it all!!! I even love swimwear & lingerie.I tend to consider myself an overachiever, and I would love to eventually do it all. Right now my main focus is on dresses, ready-to-wear pieces, and everyday street wear. I find myself struggling for the right dress, so most of the time I end up designing my own dress to wear to special events. I know what fits best of my figure and to be able to know this and be able to design my own is pretty awesome!
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business’ success?
Upon graduating, I took a break from fashion and shifted my focus to our flower business, creating J’adore Les Fleurs, a Los Angeles based flower boutique, which combines both fashion and flower worlds. Here, I was able to learn a lot about how to run a business with the little information I learned in the one year I studied business. As J’Adore Les Fleurs started to expand and grow, It was time for me to create my own clothing line. It was the right timing. I learned so much about running a business with the flower boutique. I know I am growing and there are no limits in learning new things every day. I created Tovmali – my very own ready-to-wear fashion line, where I create playful and posh designs with feminine silhouettes. My first design with my brand Tovmali was inspired by my flower boutique. You can find it at www.Tovmali.com
What has been the greatest moment of your success?
I choose to define success as a continual work in progress. Ask anyone who’s “successful” if they are “there.” There is no there for a successful person because success is simply a road to travel in an attempt to create a more compelling and enriching future. Right now I am successful because I have followed my dream and I am currently where I want to be. I am designing. I am on a never-ending road, there is a direction I must travel to keep moving and even if my destination keeps moving away no matter how quickly I move towards it, I am and will always be on that road. I am in my own journey and there are 5 factors that I am centered on in improving: Who I am, where I have been, and who I hang out with, and where I am going.
How do you balance being a businesswoman, a mom, and a wife?
I am superwoman! I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love being busy. I have never been a lazy person in my life. I come from a hard-working family. I can’t say it has been easy, but I think I am balancing everything pretty well. I am a workaholic and I enjoy being around people. I am active and I enjoy moving around, and I move a lot. Sometimes my husband argues with me and tells me to sit down and enjoy the moment. If my body isn’t moving, which is rare, then my mind is working for sure. I have a lot going on right now and it’s exciting. Sometimes I get so excited I can give myself anxiety. Happy anxiety. I do what it takes to get to where I want to be giving focus to every person and thing in my life. I think a good word for it is balance and setting priorities. I became the Queen of my own routine. Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband who understands my nature. He is with me in all of this.
In 5 years from now, where do you see yourself?
In 5 years from now I see myself emerging more, but like I mentioned above, my road to success is never-ending. I don’t even think I like to use the word “success” in this. I am not striving to be successful and end it there. I am striving to continue to do what I am meant to do and what I love to do and that is designing beautiful garments to be adored and be worn by women. Fashion is my second skin and I see myself creating today, tomorrow and forever.
Who is your muse?
My muses are my customers. My customers light a spark and get me moving. I also have this imaginary muse. The Tovmali Girl/Woman- She lives in a contemporary fairytale wherever she is, changing the perception of fashion anywhere she goes. Her style combines freshness with a classical twine. She is not afraid to be bold and add her own twist of fun to her femininity, and her playful character. Her outfits are as cheerful, colorful, and eccentric, as her personality!To her, fashion is an adventure, most importantly, it is a way to express who she truly is by what she wears.She is a dreamer and allows herself to express her heart’s content through her choice of clothing. She emphasizes her fresh, feminine, and cultural individuality. Her outfits encourage other women to live as colorful and feminine as she is.
If you could give advice to anyone wanting to start their business, what would it be?
Reach out to people. Ask for help. In the beginning, you will be spending more than you will be making. Don’ t be afraid to take those risks. Don’t stay in your comfort zone because great things come from outside of that zone. I think we worry about making mistakes but on a deeper level worry about “failing.” There is no failure in life, just feedback. There is a necessary path that leads you to an exciting new road, so the best you can possibly do in your own area of business is just learn from it. Of course, starting a business goes way deeper than inspirational words. I think if you have the right support and information, it is possible. But, I also encourage for people to go get experience in their field, whether it be a degree or work experience. Doing your homework in knowledge is power.
I love that her fashion line incorporates the Armenian culture! It’s so classy and so beautiful!