Meet Ver Co.: Alana Mann, Founder Extraordinaire
This month on the #BadAssBabes blog, we're introducing you to the women behind Ver Co. This week, meet Alana Mann, the founder and brains behind the whole operation. In between securing funding and overseeing creative direction, Alana chatted with us about how Ver Co. came to be and where it's going.
AD: What’s your name, age, and where do you live?
AM: My name is Alana Mann. I am 25 years old, and I live in Soho, NYC.
AD: If you had to sum up your career goals in one word, what would it be?
I’ve always trusted my gut and pursued jobs that were in line with my passions and longer-term career goals. The times I didn’t—that’s when I was really miserable. I felt I compromised myself, my values, and it impacted my relationships with friends and family. Stay away from companies that make empty promises, and trust your own moral code. Not everyone will be 100% real with you and many will dangle your aspirations in front of you as just another tactic to manipulate you. (Dark, I know!)
AD: What inspired you to start Ver Co.? What are your goals for the brand?
AM: I went to school in Nashville, TN – woo, go Dores! But one thing I noticed, there were never any options like Second Time Around or Beacon’s Closet. As a young college student chasing fashion trends and dreams, I was desperate for secondhand pieces and always bummed I had to wait for college breaks to get my hands on some in NYC. Since about 2013, I’ve been brainstorming ways to make vintage more mainstream and accessible to a wider population.
Then, something clicked this year and I said welp, let’s make it happen! I think it was a mix of deep-rooted dislike for my previous job, and knowing ultimately this was my year to do something big. Sometimes one bad experience is all it takes!
Regarding goals for the brand, I say this in every spiel but I want to empower women. I want us to be a company where young women can pursue their hopes and dreams and have full confidence they will be paid equally as any other male counterparts.
Also, many don’t know significantly how much fast fashion disempowers women. 80% of fast fashion workers are women aged 18-24 with the majority earning less than $3 a day while averaging 14 hour days in sweatshops and also dealing with sexual harassment. Our goal is to provide an alternative to fast fashion, and get slow fashion into the mainstream.
AD: What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
AM: Don’t be so traditional! Ew, I was so conventional at 18. I thought I had to pursue super cut and dry jobs at big banks since I grew up going to prestigious schools where that was the norm. I am happy I spent some time learning to be corporate and wearing pencil skirts, but honestly those were my worst-dressed days and nothing about that life was for me.
I inherited my creativity from my mother, who worked in fashion design for much of her career, and for some reason, 18 year old me ran away from that. I don’t know why I was so scared of just doing something more out of the box…in short, BE YOURSELF.
AD: What does the day-to-day of a startup founder look like?
AM: The day-to-day is drastically different. I am very type A, so I spend most of the day just writing out emails to make sure that we as a team are constantly having conversations about how we can do things better, more efficient, or try something new. I probably email the team from 6am to possibly 9pm any day (thankful for their patience and acceptance). I try to always network also – I have always been passionate about entrepreneurship, and lots of times talking with other founders offers new perspectives and potential collaborations. It’s so inspiring to see the community of female founders in NYC and all the awesome things everyone is doing!
I like to divide up my time between engaging discussions over email or coffee, setting business goals, competitive research, learning more about social media and marketing, managing multiple calendars, working with our designer, and also looking for interns! (Shoot me an email if you think it could be you – email@example.com.)
AD: Does your gender ever pose an obstacle in navigating the entrepreneurship/business world (i.e, how people treat you), and if so how do you manage it?
AM: Sadly, yes. One of the most discouraging things I noticed when I first decided back in 2013 that I wanted to launch some sort of vintage fashion destination was that the entrepreneurship community loves men and tech! Go figure. Somehow I had been sheltered from that growing up in the Tri-State area, but Nashville was quick to show me what was up. What I did instead was participate in a few business accelerators and help others with their techie, bro-y ideas. Ultimately, I built up credibility and became someone who people could rely on to support their ideas.
Being a team player is always important, and an awesome way to combat obstacles like that. I also made some strong connections and learned a great deal. You don’t always have to be the star of the show to gain some lasting experience.
AD: What was the most formative job experience, good or bad, that you’ve ever had?
AM: I once interned for a sustainable fashion company, which entailed worked directly under the designer. He is and always will be a true artist. At the same time, I was still very much chasing after corporate opportunities and wanting to be a true 9-5 gal. A lot of the time, I couldn’t understand why he seemed to be more interested in the fashion shows and less interested in growing his business commercially. Looking back, I learned so much about sustainable fashion and the true impact of fast fashion. I was naïve then, but I certainly see now how these bigger commercial retailers choose not to care about their environmental impact.
AD: What sets Ver Co. apart? What are your guiding principles as you set sail with this company?
AM: I think today’s culture demands us to chase into the latest trends or buy, buy, buy. But what if your favorite brand also wanted to help you save, and they wanted you to kill it at work, and they wanted to help you feel better about the environmental impact of the clothes you put directly on your skin? When I was about 6 or 7, I sat down one day to write down my career aspirations (I know, what a weird kid). I wrote down all the jobs that made people happy – comedian, actress, singer, entertainment artist, etc. I literally remember at the time thinking I would dabble in all of them just so I could do something impactful.
That’s what inspires me, and my guiding principles are always to just make our customers smile and feel comfortable in their skin. If I can save someone a few bucks and the planet while doing it, then I will be fully content.
AD: How would you describe your style in one word?
AM: Someone recently told me my style is “effortless.” I guess that’s cheating but I thought that was pretty awesome to hear that the vibe I am 100% trying for, ironically, is being affirmed by others.
AD: What do you love about vintage?
AM: Something I think, which is often forgotten or just not discussed openly, is that all these modern designers putting out runway collections each season are 125456% inspired by shopping in thrift stores or vintage consignment. It’s crazy! It’s literally part of a lot of fashion designer’s process for innovating & creating their next season’s looks. The only way to then be ahead of the trends is to just go out and find these vintage pieces before them! That’s where Ver Co. comes in.
AD: Do you have a favorite vintage find?
AM: I hate to say it but before I knew much about vintage denim—I spent an absurd amount on a pair of Vintage Levi’s. It’s too embarrassing to even discuss where they are from. Yes, they are a good pair, but now with all my knowledge about vintage and what transparent pricing should look like – let’s just say I have worn them almost enough times for me to feel better about it.
However, they are still my favorite, because that’s where my love for vintage denim and mom jeans all began. Since then, they have become super trendy, and next I knew I was vigorously learning as much as I could about vintage Levi’s, so that it would never happen again. Years later came Ver Co! And now no one needs to pay ridiculous markups on vintage jeans again.
AD: What are your favorite Ver Co items right now?
AM: This is cruel, because the new collection is launching so soon & my favorite one is a silk dress launching Friday. I love this dress, because we re-worked it from a size 12 skirt into a halter mini dress. (Yes, you heard that right!) But when I first started designing the re-worked styles, I showed this to a freelance seamstress, who looked at me and said “Nope, it's not feasible.” Long story short, this turned out to be one of the most glamorous, flattering silhouettes of our re//worked launch! Check it out on Friday, the 18th.
AD: What’s the worst trend you've ever participated in?
AM: Pencil skirts are not a trend, but the fact I ever owned one or wore one is a scary, scary truth. Whoever says that fashion can’t be comfortable is super confused, because a lot of times the hottest looks are the ones people feel confident and sexy in. Unfortunately, pencil skirts were the exact opposite for me.
Also, why did I ever wear so many chokers?
Ariana DiValentino is Head of Social at Ver Co.