The Madgician S01E01:Navigating Innovation, Marketing, and Sustainability in fashion entrepreneurship, with Viviane Paraschiv, Growth & Innovation Consultant

The Madgician S01E01:Navigating Innovation, Marketing, and Sustainability in fashion entrepreneurship, with Viviane Paraschiv, Growth & Innovation Consultant

The Madgician: A podcast with women entrepreneurs launches today!  

My guest for today is Viviane Paraschiv, Growth & Innovation Consultant for the fashion industry. Viviane is an outstanding entrepreneur with over 14 years of experience in the luxury sector, where she has been instrumental in pioneering new multichannel experiences, driving innovation, and leading transformative change. 

In this 1st episode, we’ll talk about technology as a fashion enabler, balance between innovation and marketing, the struggles of women entrepreneurs, #sustainability, thinking outside the box on how to build meaningful connections with like-minded people, and a lot more. 

Tune in for The Madgician S01E01, on Spotify!

About Viviane: 

This has been an exciting (and sometimes complicated) 14+ years journey working within luxury companies at the forefront of new multichannel experiences, innovation and change. 

Managed full project cycles including concept, strategies, execution, training and delivery for events, product strategies and client retention. Coordinated worldwide client experiences to maintain brand attachment and support business development. Developed and led teams on execution of change management strategies within retail. Working on identifying opportunities for the future of luxury retail. 

My values are about authenticity, supporting other women and making meaningful connections. And if you'd just like to talk more about changing the narrative about Romania, drop me a line!

What you’ll learn by listening: 

  • How entrepreneurship in fashion differs from entrepreneurship in tech
  • Technology, a fashion enabler
  • Finding balance between innovation and marketing
  • Strategic marketing insights: balancing revenue goals with brand confidence building
  • Struggles that women entrepreneurs have to put up with
  • The importance of relationship building in general, in entrepreneurship
  • Think out of the box on how to connect with people
  • Sustainability in the fashion industry
  • Adapting to change: redefining success in brand scaling

Enjoy listening on Spotify! 

Hi!  My name is Georgiana. I've been an entrepreneur in digital marketing since 2014, and recently I started creating custom high heels. This podcast is with women entrepreneurs who work their magic day after day at home, and at work. I'll be interviewing them to find out useful tips and tricks that can help you start or scale your business. Stay tuned! 

Georgiana: Hello! Hi Viviane, how are you doing? 

Viviene Paraschiv:  I'm doing great. I'm good. How are you?  

Georgiana: I'm really nervous about this being the first episode of the podcast I've been planning. I've mainly done research, to be honest. But still, I'm super nervous because it's just the beginning. I've been in the podcast field for about three years.

I've been in services like employer branding and digital marketing for quite a while. But since I started my shoe brand, this podcast has been on my mind. Here we are talking to women entrepreneurs for other fellow women entrepreneurs trying to scale or start their businesses.

So I'm really eager to talk to you and share whatever insights you have today. Thank you for accepting to speak with me, and I wish you a warm welcome.

Viviene Paraschiv: Thank you so much for having me. I'm honored to be the first. I immediately said yes when you asked me to be on your podcast. I'm sure it's going to be amazing, and I can't wait for our conversation.

Georgiana: Thank you. I'm curious about your take on entrepreneurship and some fashion-related questions. This podcast is for women entrepreneurs in general, but because you've worked in fashion for so long, it's interesting to touch on relevant subjects. First, could you tell us what you're doing at the moment?

I know you've worked in tech for fashion, so to speak, for quite a while. Also, you've worked for Farfetch for about four years. Could you tell us more about that?

Viviene Paraschiv: Thank you, Georgiana. Currently, I'm an entrepreneur and a growth consultant, primarily for companies innovating in the creative industries, especially in fashion and luxury. I enjoy working with people with new innovations and supporting them in scaling, both operationally and in their communication with brands and partners. I've been doing this for over 18 months now.

Before this, fashion has always intrigued me. It's been a part of my family for generations. I've always been interested in merging the creative and business sides of fashion. I did business school and then studied at the Institut Francais de la Mode in Paris. My journey led me to Louis Vuitton, where a six-month internship turned into seven years, focusing on omnichannel technology and CRM.

Then I moved to Ralph Lauren in London and eventually Farfetch. It's been an exciting journey, and every day is different. We're shaping the future of fashion.

Georgiana: That's quite a journey, very different from mine. I come from the tech world, specializing in digital marketing and employer branding, helping with recruitment strategies. But then I realized entrepreneurship is entrepreneurship.

Georgiana: You know, I might apply what I've learned from my agency to my shoe brand. But I'm realizing it's different. Fashion is a totally different game, right? It doesn't work exactly like tech. So my next question is: How is entrepreneurship in fashion different from entrepreneurship in tech?

Viviene Paraschiv: Well, you hit the nail on the head. It's like speaking a different language. That's been my experience at Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren. I was the tech girl in a fashion company. Then at Farfetch, I was the fashion girl talking to tech people. It's about building bridges of understanding because the mindsets are completely different.

Luxury fashion is very product and customer-focused, while tech often focuses on operations and features. You have to connect the dots, which I find super interesting. The space tech has taken in fashion is completely different now. It's an enabler; it supports the vision and strategy. Initially, companies chased tech without a clear purpose, but now people are starting to understand the importance of aligning tech with the experience they want to create.

Georgiana: We had a similar experience with employer branding a few years ago. Everyone wanted it because it sounded modern, but it doesn't work that way.

But back to your point, it's funny how, despite tech being everywhere, fashion remains somewhat separate. It's still inaccessible for many designers and entrepreneurs. How can we bridge these two worlds?

Viviene Paraschiv: We often focus on outward-facing tech, like fancy apps or connected mirrors, but we miss how tech can empower smaller designers and brands. Shiny new things won't make a difference. What matters is how tech enables them behind the scenes. Nowadays, it's much easier to develop your own website or app without needing extensive coding knowledge.

But even just considering small wins, there's so much technology that's easy to implement and not costly, which can help you build your brand faster or organize your processes, like your CRM or payment systems, for example. It's these simple wins that make a difference, especially for small brands juggling many hats. They might focus on SEO one day and streamlining communication with manufacturers the next. These might not be flashy, but they're impactful.

Georgiana: Absolutely, I agree. We should be looking for tools to streamline our processes and make things easier. Since I started my shoe brand, I've noticed the importance of marketing, a constant in all the worlds I've encountered so far. Even as a marketing person, I sometimes neglect the tougher marketing discussions in favor of other tasks. But then I realize I'm making the same mistake my clients did when I worked in services—prioritizing product over marketing, which often leads to failure. How do you ensure you don't forget about marketing?

Viviene Paraschiv: It's an ongoing conversation in many of my projects. People often see marketing as just gaining followers on social media or creating brochures. But to me, marketing enables business development efforts. It's about understanding how certain actions drive your KPIs, objectives, and revenue. Marketing should be tied to sales—it's all part of the funnel. We've become too focused on the details of campaigns or tools without considering how they serve our revenue or business goals.

Georgiana: Exactly. Sometimes we forget the overarching strategy of the company and get lost in the details. That's why I've been reading a book on strategy by Alex Smith, which emphasizes a no-nonsense approach to strategy development. It's essential to keep the bigger picture in mind.

It's fantastic. He says, 'Strategy should not be difficult. The moment you get it right, everything else falls into place; marketing becomes easy, and following your business objectives becomes easy.' So, I think okay marketing for the sake of marketing is difficult because it's not part of the bigger thing, and we tend to forget it.

And so do I. So, I think this is also something to keep in mind. Does this Instagram post really serve my higher purpose? Does this help with revenue? Because if not, then let's put the money elsewhere where it serves us better.

Viviane Paraschiv: You know, sometimes you can just say, 'Okay, well, this will be for brand awareness or just to tell my story.' And then another one will be to showcase my expertise or will be to, you know, to show and gain confidence. Not every single post or every marketing activation or action on your list has to drive revenue immediately, but it's like, what are you trying to achieve with each and what are the levers that you're trying to pull?

What is more important? Do you have to drive revenue now, and then that's your priority, or do you have to convince the markets that you are the best and that they can have confidence and trust you? It all kind of depends. I think on what is necessary at the moment. It’s a push and pull like you can change. It's not written in stone.

Georgiana: It's a constant evolution. I guess it's just important to remember that marketing is valuable and without it, as I've seen in many of the tech products that I've worked with and for, in the absence of marketing, you have zero business. But I think what happens is that you know the saying, when you have a hammer or you're used to working with a hammer, everything is a nail, right?

You're better at designing fashion items or, I don't know, manufacturing pastries or whatever; then you're going to focus on that because that's what you know best. And then sometimes doing marketing activities may be outside of your comfort zone. It's also outside of mine. Because I've been doing marketing in B2B, and now B2C is a completely different story.

But, in any case, coming back to our discussion, because, again, this is a podcast for women and for women entrepreneurs, here is the rather stereotypical question, which I will be asking all of my guests: What are the main struggles that women entrepreneurs have to put up with?

Viviane Paraschiv: How long do we have? There are many obstacles that we still have today. I think if I go back to, like, even my own experience, I was, and you know, we're both Romanian, so we can, we probably understand each other on this level, but I was so socially pressured to have a job in a big company because, you know, my parents immigrated from Romania, and so for them, it was like, you have to; this is like showing your status. You have to get into a serious job and in a big company because that's what's the most important.

It took me a really long time to realize, but they were both, by the way, entrepreneurs. My mom and my dad, like my mom is a therapist and my dad has his own company. But to their kids, that's what they said. And it took me courage and say, actually, like, I'm an entrepreneur.

Like, that's what I want to do. I'm an entrepreneur myself. I have different businesses alongside my consulting. And so the, and again, I think as a, you know, daughter of immigrants and then also a woman, it's like, well, you shouldn't take too many risks because everyone tells you that, you know, it's like, well, you're going to get pregnant. So who's going to pay for your leave? And you're going to, you know, if you want to have two kids, one after the other, then how are you going to bring in money? And like all of the messages that we hear when you start being an adult is you have to be safe. You have to play it safe as a woman; you can't, and, and, you know, at least that was sort of like my experience, and I see it with a lot of women.

And so I think it's sometimes the, you know, finding that courage and also surrounding yourself with women who will help you take that risk or and who will help you develop that mindset. And, and I think that's so important, like, to surround ourselves with, you know, with women who support you, because that's not always the case, because I think we've been pitted against each other for so long.

Like, you can always, you know, go higher if you crush two other women, you know, because I think you, it's that mindset of, well, There's only one seat at the table for me. I'll bring another one. Like, I'm not going to take away a chair. I'll bring a new chair for another woman. And also, developing their courage.

Because I think we are, it's shown in statistics, girls at school, at school when they're younger, they're often the ones who answer quickly, understand quickly, are very bright. And then there's something that happens, there's a really interesting TED talk about it, how we dim the lights of young girls, and from the age between like the age of six, they start being not as good in like arithmetic or math or science or, you know, like this conditioning, and it, you know, I think there's things that are changing.

I'm obviously like a very positive person. That's how my mind works. But it's really interesting. Um, I really am hopeful, but it's, it's how you as a human being, you can try to, um, Surround yourself with people and also realize it's not going to be always easy, because they're still, um, very much ingrained in society, and it changes slow.

Georgiana: I think so. You know, one of my questions revolved around the importance of the relationships with manufacturers, with suppliers in the fashion industry, so to say. But I'd like to rephrase it or reframe the discussion on the importance of relationship building in general, in entrepreneurship, because I think oftentimes this is forgotten.

Viviane Paraschiv: I have taught my brain to work that way and connecting with people. I think it's helped me tremendously, and that's always when I talk to anyone, you know, whether it's one of my interns or young people who start in the industry or others like I, again, come from not knowing anyone in this industry.

My parents didn't work in it. I even moved to Paris and in like a new country. I still have to start almost from scratch. No one helped me. Really, but it's, but you can always start from somewhere. There's always going to be, if not in your direct network of friends and family, they will probably know someone who can help you, who has, you know, who can help you open the door.

Nowadays with social media, it's easier than before to try and find new people, connections to contact someone, and send them a little message on LinkedIn or even on Instagram or wherever. It's like, you know, I'm interested in understanding your career and understanding more about what you do and talking to you.

As long as it's authentic and personalized, people will know if you're just sending the same message to 100 or even to 10 people. So, if it's specific, authentic, and you're not asking too much of their time, and you're also asking people to talk about themselves, they love that.

I've never had someone in the years that I've sent outreaches on LinkedIn or whatever, reply back and say, 'How dare you ask for my time?' The worst case is they don't answer, you know, that's the worst case. But if it's done in a smart way, it's always something positive.

And also, something that one of my previous bosses told me is that it's something you have to do constantly. But it does not have to be complicated. Just do one thing for your network a week, one thing, whether it's like one message to someone that you want to connect with or one coffee or a chat or, you know, like one thing because it all adds up. You can't build your network in one day.

It’s something that happens. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. And also, you have to maintain it; it's like having your own garden or taking care of flowers. You can't all of a sudden say, 'Oh, well, you're dying. Why? Well, you didn't pour water on me for like four months.'

And again, it's not complicated. People want to connect with other people. We're human beings. We are built to connect emotionally with others, and that's also how you do business. I really truly believe that. People do business with other people because they like them. There's obviously a big part of what you offer, your price, your expertise, like what you produce, but a big part of doing business is person-to-person. At the end of the day, if they choose, or you're a bit in a pickle or whatever, like people will. If you've made an emotional connection and not just on like price and invoices and talking about like if you're connected with their left and their right brain. Something magical is happening there.

Georgiana: You are so right. When I moved to Berlin in 2018, I just felt disconnected from everything and everyone that I'd known and learned to know. And I made a very conscious effort, and I was consistent about meeting new people and creating a new village for myself. And that new village of fellow women, most of them in tech and HR for tech, they were instrumental and so essential to my professional and personal well-being while I was there. It's absolutely essential to connect with like-minded people and like you said, because people work with people. In the end, it's not business to business, it's gonna be person-to-person. I'm finding it sometimes funny how we are all connected via smaller or larger degrees, you know?

You, you come to, to learn how you know people via other people in London or Paris, or, I don't know, sometimes even further.

Viviane Paraschiv: The world is really a village. You know, it is. It's um, it's really, it's really interesting. And even if, you know, just giving an example, and some people think I'm crazy, but like, sometimes I've used LinkedIn to connect. When I moved to Paris the second time, all my friends from like, you know, my, my, uh, from my master's degree, they were either in relationships, didn't have time, or they were working too hard, or I was like, I need to recreate my network. And I went, I was like, okay, so how could I find people who have something in common with me?

I'm like, LinkedIn. So I checked like all the people who had studied at my business school in Brussels. Who was based in Paris. I had one friend who was not even, I think she was from my business school. We had like some ties. I was like, Fiona, do you want to just like have a drink with me? And I'll invite random people who studied at Ishek.

And I literally like just went on LinkedIn and like, 'Hey, I just moved to Paris. We're having a drink with also another alumni,' and six people showed up. And they were like, I never had a message like that. But why not? And then one of these girls showed up, and she's one of my really good friends to this day. Think out of the box on how to connect with people. It doesn't have to be complicated.

Georgiana: It doesn't. And then coming back to entrepreneurship because I like to segue between the two areas. How does one balance creativity, and I'm thinking now specifically about fashion, although I think we all are creative and should be creative in all businesses, creativity and the rational part, like the more business-oriented side of things. How does that work? Because for me, it's always a battle between the two.

Viviane Paraschiv: That's so interesting. I'll ask you a question. Is it a battle because you don't find the time, or you don't create the space? Or what's the battle coming from?

Georgiana: I guess it's all of the above. Because although I've been passionate about design and fashion all my life, and you know, pretty things, in general, I think of myself as that person who's been in tech, has worked in marketing. Sometimes, I imposter syndrome myself and saying such an imposter in fashion, I shouldn't be here. But then I look at what I've created and everyone's telling me that my shoes are beautiful and they are, they're pristine. They're just majestic. So I say, okay, but who am I and where am I? So, you know, the pressure comes from inside, right? Because we're women and we're so good at it, aren't we?

Viviane Paraschiv: Of course. I think it's, uh, being able to sort of recognize that we have both, both parts, you know, the business side and the creative side. And I think that's also what, you know, when you're able to recognize that you're, it's just a constant balance, like you have to find the balance constantly.

And it's ever-evolving. And one day maybe you'll be more creative and you'll be like, today, um, you know, that's the hat I'm putting on, or that's the shoe that I'm putting on, you know. And tomorrow I'll, I, I have to put the, the business shoe on because like that, I need to make some decisions to drive my business.

And I think I agree with you when we were, what you were saying in introducing this question, like we. Whether you're doing a purely creative job or not, we are creative. Like, I don't design. I don't, you know, I don't take my pen and paper and design something. I'm really bad at it.

I can't even, like, sew a button. That's always what I tell my mom, like, it's so bad. Um, but I do consider myself creative, you know. Because you have to think out of the box. You have to think of, how am I going to build this new, like project management system. That's creativity, you know, like you have to think and put something together.

And, and, and I think, um, again, going back to the fact that we're women. Often we've, we hear we can, you can only be one thing. You know, you can only be like either a very strong businesswoman and be a shark and be like, that's the only thing you, you know, you should be. Or you're this super creative motherly figure. We're a mix of both. I'm driving board meetings, and then on Sundays, in the evening I'm playing Peppa Pig with my daughter.

You're learning even more when you have a kid. We wear so many different hats during the day, um, And, and just embracing it and realizing we can be kick-ass and amazing at both. You know what I mean?

Georgiana: Exactly. And now I remember a conversation that I had with a friend who is also in London and was one of the most successful women or not women entrepreneurs, the most successful entrepreneurs I've ever met.

And she was telling me the following. ‘It's so nice that you've designed a creative business. You are so creative. I wish I were creative as well.’ And at that point, it didn't occur to me as, you know, something unusual, but then I thought, ‘Hang on, you've created a business from scratch, from a single web page in years, now you employ over 80 people, you're hugely successful, you're, you're so creative’. I mean, here you go. But this, this is the way we think automatically. Unbelievable.

Viviane Paraschiv: Yeah, exactly. And we are both.

Georgiana: Yes, that's true. Also. Yeah. Um, I'm also mindful of the time. So I have to pick my questions very carefully. Yeah. Um, sustainability in the fashion industry. And then I have another, uh, fashion-related question and, um, and then a business question and that will be it.

Yeah. Sustainability is important for me personally. And I'm wondering how important should it be for everyone, or how should we tackle it?

Viviane Paraschiv: There's first of all, there's legislation that's coming. I think businesses, especially in the fashion, the creative industries, like it's they're forced to do something about it. Um, obviously, I see it kind of as, um. You know, when I started my career like Omnichannel was a thing because they didn't have like people were starting to buy online, you know, clients were starting to say, Oh, well, this is interesting. I can actually do that without rather than go to like a flagship or go to a store.

And so that was becoming something that was unavoidable. And I think sustainability is the same. And, but, but again, it shouldn't be just like sustainability for the sake of it. It's like, how does it also support your business model? How does it support your objectives? And, um, and then also having that added element of legislation, um, European or local, it's, um, it's, it's a wave that's like not stopping and I'm so happy to see some, obviously from my perspective, some startups, amazing startups that are doing.

Great things in, in the space, uh, to support businesses because sustainability is again about transformation. Um, we don't like as human beings changing our ways. Like, again, I think that's how we're wired. Um, so it, while you're, you're, It has the angle of sustainability, and that's the goal.

It's also about understanding how to bring transformation to a company, to a team, to a business. Um, and, and it's so, yeah, it's so exciting and fascinating. And, and again, I'm a believer, you know, I'm an optimist. Like, I see great things, but sometimes Also being in this world of like startup and entrepreneurship, I just, there's some great ideas, but I'm like, how does that scale?

There's no scalability in the model. You know, it's great. I love it. It's amazing. Love who you are. Sometimes I talk to people, I'm like, I love who you are. I love your personality, but just like, what's the scalability of this idea, you know? And, and, and maybe it's not. But, um, um, but yeah, that that's often what we have to think of also and you know. Having a business that is able to grow

Georgiana: And produce revenue at the same time, because you need to reconcile both In the end and very often as it's as is the case for us. We work with very a very limited amount of products every month. So I'm wondering if ever, God help me, I will produce more, will I be equally sustainable? I don't know. How will that look?

Viviane Paraschiv: Yeah, it's finding, and again, it's like an ever-changing, you have to adjust. And, and maybe for you scaling, you know, is not the answer either. Like maybe it's fine. Like. Not every single brand should be on all continents and producing 15 different collections. Nowadays, it is also possible to become like a super niche brand and just like focusing on stilettos. You see what I mean? But just being like the best and most recognized one. It doesn't mean you should all of a sudden start doing like a beauty collection and like sneakers and bags and yeah, and handbags and all of that.

Nowadays, I think there's so many more options and possibilities. Before it was the only way to scale a brand. It was like doing loads of different connections and, and different products. But I think nowadays the Rules have changed.

Georgiana: Yeah, indeed. Do you have a favorite fashion icon? Who is that and why do they inspire you?

Viviane Paraschiv: Um, well, actually I, uh, went back recently to, um, Iris Apfel. Cause she, unfortunately, Passed away recently. Instagram reminded me that I had posted a video from her, um, like a year ago or something, and that, you know, you can be, I think she was saying, uh, “there's a difference between, um, being fashionable and having style”. Style is very personal and no one can take that away from you.

I love that idea. Just bringing your own personality. Um, because that's what I also enjoy. Like, I think fashion is just so personal. You can be, look amazing and not follow any of the trends. You know, I know some incredible people who have the same style, but they, and they don't follow trends and you don't care.

And I think it's just like, it's also a way that you're, you know, like you enter a room and you, and you, you are as a human being. And I love that. And so, yeah, She's, I think the first one that sort of comes to mind,

Georgiana: That's a very good choice. I admire her a lot, a lot.

Viviane Paraschiv: She was amazing. Indeed.

Georgiana: And this brings me to my final question, um, which I think will or should be, uh, the cherry on top for every episode that I'll be doing, because I'm asking you about three MADGIC tricks or insights that you can share with my audience, knowing that my audience includes both shoe lovers and tech people. Yeah, three tips that you think could help any entrepreneur out there.

Viviane Paraschiv: Uh, well, first of all, for shoes, Not every shoe's gonna be comfortable, but you have to choose, I think: between comfort and, uh, and beauty. Um, you can't have it all. I'm gonna frame this somehow. There you go. Put it on my wall. So I think that's my, uh, shoe-related tip. Um, but maybe there's beauty in pain also, like I, you know, we can, we can go much further. Absolutely. Exactly. Um, that's my first shoe related.

The second one is around relationships. Building relationship and surround yourself with like-minded people. It's been a constant in my career and it's, it's really, I think it has been incredible. It's still to this day. And the third, I would say probably, and that's more to what we were saying about sort of women is like - be a bit crazy. As much as you can manage, but be a bit crazy.

Georgiana: I think life in general is better when you're a bit crazy because that involves courage and being bold and yeah, many things. Oh, that's nice. I loved it. I loved our entire conversation anyway. I'm super, super happy that you are my first guest. I'm loving this whole thing. Thank you so much once again, and please let's stay in touch.

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