Andre Stewart of Ardané on Building a Brand
What were the first steps you took in the world of fashion?
The first steps I took in the fashion world were actually as a model. I started out as a runway model and progressed from there into print and commercial work. That’s what really set me on the path of starting Ardané. Most models either move into acting or something fashion related once their career is over. I chose to actually do both. Early in my modeling career I happened to be at Borders looking for a book on taxes and somehow came across a book called Life After Modeling. It talked about establishing relationships while you are working in the modeling industry and then parlaying them into something greater once you decide to stop working as a model. I think a lot of people would be surprised to find out that a certain actor/actress they know used to be a model before becoming this A list actor/actress, it’s usually the easiest and quickest way to break into the industry.
Tell us about your clothing line Ardané. What was your motivation to get this off the ground?
Ardané all started with a simple idea – fresh, high-quality, unique designs. To me the design culture was really lacking in this area, and apparently our design sensibility connected with many people. Ardané describes a person who cares about their lifestyle, their presence, and has a plan and a vision for their personal life.
I currently live in Los Angeles but I still spend a lot of time on the East coast. I spent a majority of my life on the East coast and I love the California vibe so I decided to bring them together in a clothing line.
Another huge motivation for me to get Ardané off the ground was to promote Autism awareness. I have a niece who was diagnosed with Autism at 3 years old and I have two close friends who have kids with Autism. To give people an idea of how serious it is from a numbers stand point, Autism Speaks Association (ASA) estimates the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million. To show our support Ardané has an Autism collection. Every time a person purchases a shirt, a portion of the proceeds goes to an Autism charity in different states. Every purchase translates into a donation to children living with Autism. We are grateful for the support of our customers and the ability to share our success with those in need. Even if you don’t buy a shirt spread the word.
How has Ardané developed since it first launched? Do you undertake all of the work yourself?
Since its inception Ardané has been developing gradually and steadily. Our steady growth has helped us, as a business, to build a strong foundation that will support us as we grow. One of my favorite statements is “It’s a marathon not a sprint” and that’s how I approach business. Now we’re constantly thinking of new designs and ways to stay ahead of competitors in a very competitive industry. So, we always have to think with that what will set us apart from the next brand as we create the next product and building our brand. As we speak, our denim line is in the early development stages. We have many new clothing designs waiting to be rolled out, along with some custom pieces for people we can’t mention yet.
As for the workload, for a long time I was trying to do a lot of things by myself. It is extremely tough to do, because teamwork makes the dream work and that statement will hold true until the end of time. Knowing this, I decided to contract out certain aspects of the business and also decided to turn to friends and family for help with certain elements of the business. As the brand grows our team grows and the team we assemble will make Ardané a relevant and lasting brand.
How has social media and networking impacted upon the way in which you work, brand and promote yourself today?
Ahhh the notorious social media! Some businesses are experts at this and for some it is a daunting task. In this day and age, your business will not survive without a social media presence. Social media drives so much attention and hopefully sales to your business. With Ardané we are focusing in on strategies that will optimize our social media presence. Social media has helped with establishing Ardané as a brand. Currently, social media plays a big role in what we do. We like that people stay connected with us through different channels, because what we do as often as possible, is seek out input from customers and followers to help us determine what designs will come out next. We believe that customers who are part of the creation process will have a stronger connection to us and with the product. This brings in customers and helps to create a loyal fan base.
Social media is also great with networking, putting us in touch with businesses and individuals we would not have connected with otherwise. I have learned that the relationships built through social media and networking must be maintained and nurtured. When they are, these relationships turn into fruitful partnerships. It’s not about what you know but who you know right?
If you could leave our readers with one last piece of business advice, what would it be?
My advice is: Don’t follow your dreams, chase them! Well, I grew up in a small, 3 bedroom house for a while that was hand built by my grandfather and cousin. It had a tin roof and buckets placed all around the house to catch the water when it rained. At times we had a house full of family staying with us in this small shack. I shared a bed with my grandmother at one point. It’s actually funny now but if I extend my arms from right to left, I can almost touch both walls of that bathroom. Follow your dreams seems like such a cliché statement but it really is about determination and consistency. Dream big, stay motivated, and always stay focused on the task at hand.
I have a vision board of all the things I want to accomplish on my wall to keep me focused. Sometimes, life happens and things throw you off the path, but as long as you find your way back and refocus, everything will be fine. It’s always good to reflect and think about the past because you can then appreciate what’s in front of you and the future that lies ahead.
Three things to remember:
- A person’s success in life can usually be determined by the number of uncomfortable conversations they are willing to have.
- The amount of time that it takes to complete a task is proportionate to the amount of time provided for its completion.
- You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose them wisely.