Q1. What does International Women's Day mean to you?
Abi: It’s an opportunity to reflect on how lucky we are to pursue our dreams thanks to the women who tirelessly fought for equal rights. Our workforce is made up of female talent. From our female owned atelier, our pattern cutter, seamstress, fabric agent, photographer and many more. Our team are all experts in their field, whilst we appreciate them everyday, today is reminder to stop and celebrate the incredible ladies we get the pleasure to collaborate with.
Sophia: It gives a chance to reflect on how far we have come thanks to talented women, but also motivates us on how much more there is to do. As female founders we are so fortunate to be able to do what we do, but I guess this feeling of gratitude also highlights the inequality. International Women's Day for me is both a celebration and a reminder for the need to ensure equal opportunities for women all over the world.
Q2. Who are your 3 biggest female inspirations (alive or dead) and why?
Abi: Coco Chanel - for her ground-breaking fashion in the 20’s. For going against the grain, and designing clothes that were comfortable and empowering for women. Her designs meant women could actually breath having been previously restricted in corsets.
Rihanna - For her intelligent, epic comebacks when asked personal and invasive question during interviews. She sets her own boundaries and I love it!
My grandmother: For teaching me to make clothes – something which has inspired by entire career. That and teaching me to lead with kindness.
Sophia: Michelle Obama - I loved reading Belonging. Her ability to show determination and vulnerability all at once is amazing. She highlights how inequality and prejudice ultimately affects all of us. And she shows that leading with kindness and understanding gets the best results. LOVE.
Dolly Alderton - Another book but 'Everything I know About Love' is one of my favourites. The fact that she highlights her female friendships as her strongest relationships really mirrors what we feel about Nola. The book was also given to me by Abi.
My Mum - For her strength and determination.
Q3: Nola is all about making women feel self-confident. What has been your proudest moment in creating a brand that caters to females?
Abi: It has to be that moment during appointments when you’ve helped a customer find a dress that compliments her body. When I see the glow of happiness and excitement in their faces…To be part of that moment is magic. I love it!
Sophia: I have two. The first time we made a mother of the bride cry seeing her daughter in our dress was incredible. It is so moving and empowering to know that a design we dreamt up can bring so much happiness.
My absolute favourite moment though was when a mother of the bride chose one of our dresses. She came to the appointment not looking for a dress, but the Nola energy in fittings is all about making everyone feel special. We stressed that she deserved to wear something that made her feel good, and that it was just important for her to feel amazing. She left with a dress and looking sensational in it. That's what Nola is all about. Making women, all women, feel special. Because they are.
Q4. If you had to describe each other in 3 words, what would they be?
Abi: Gosh, hard to narrow down into three words. Here goes: kind, strong, fun
Sophia: Loyal, creative, funny and strong (I snuck a fourth one in there)
Q5. What are your hopes for a more female future?
Abi: I hope to see more women in power on their own terms. Not fitting themselves into the mould of age-old structures. Challenging the status quo if it doesn’t feel right.
This is so relevant to us. We both come from high profile positions at large high-street retailers and could have continued to climb the ladder to the top but, we actively made a choice not to. We decided to do it our way, to run a business on our own terms, with our own values, at our own pace. It was the scariest and most empowering thing.
Sophia: I hope that in the future, women don't have to answer the first question of this Q&A in the same way we did. 'How fortunate we are...'. We come from an industry where 75% of the workforce is female but only 8% of CEOs are women. As a mother to a daughter I want her to be able to pursue her dreams without question or hesitation. I would like to see men creating space for women too. Female attributes are often seen as a weaknesses professionally, but kindness, the ability to nurture and empathy are strengths that have helped our business thrive.