Grad Goes From Intimates Designer to Entrepreneur
Kayla Vallar was born in Michigan and raised in North Carolina and Minnesota before eventually returning to her birth state for high school and college. She told her mom she wanted to be a fashion designer at the age of five, but ended up studying Graphic Design at Grand Valley State University. Not wanting to limit herself to one career path, she ended up graduating with a B.S. in Art & Design, and immediately headed West. “Like most designers, I moved to LA aspiring to be that fashion designer I dreamed of as a child,” said Kayla, who received her Apparel Industry Management degree from FIDM in 2012. After working for women’s intimates brands such as Honeydew Intimates and MRC Creations for many years, Kayla struck out on her own in 2019 as an entrepreneur and launched Faven, an eco-friendly collection of handmade organic cotton and nontoxic underwear for women specializing in simplistic silhouettes for all-day, everyday wear. We recently chatted with her to learn more about her creative career.
Any favorite FIDM memories? It’s remarkable that almost 10 years have gone by since I sat in the classrooms at FIDM. I look back and feel so grateful for my experiences FIDM provided. My most cherished memories are those with a classmate who has become one of my closest friends!
What are some lessons you learned at FIDM that you still use today? If I had to name three: Expect the unexpected. Communication, both written and verbal, are important. Lastly, learn all aspects of the business as if you have to do it yourself.
Tell us about your industry experience prior to founding Faven: My path did not start with an interest in designing intimate apparel. I trained as a professional [track and field] athlete while attending FIDM, so my singular focus was on designing athletic apparel. My introduction to women’s intimates was pure fate. Like many young designers, I was eager! I grabbed onto any experience I could to help build my career. What I thought would be just a stepping stone, turned into my passion. My design career was successful, but not without setbacks. I quit more than one job, got fired by a friend, and even briefly left LA. In hindsight, each experience pushed me into the next best phase of my life and career. It took all this before I decided to start Faven.
Why did you found Faven? In 2019, I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, and longed for creative freedom. I decided to leave my job as a designer to recharge and gain creative clarity. I threw myself into ideas that were mine. Faven was an opportunity to design, create, and make something I felt connected to.
What separates Faven from other underwear brands? Faven (pronounced FAY-VEN) means “light” in Tigrinya. What sets Faven apart is the integrity and transparency in the products I make. First, I design, cut, sew, and dye each pair (like I said, learn all aspects of the business)! Secondly, in a world where "organic" seems diluted, I remember every effort counts. Being an organic brand means our products are packed full of goodness, eco-conscious, and less harmful for your body.
Tell us about the sustainable aspects of Faven: Faven was born from the idea that we all deserve to have a drawer full of comfortable, reliable, and eco-friendly underwear. Faven uses GOTS Certified organic cotton and non-toxic, low impact dyes to help keep both your body and our planet healthy! I also use all leftover fabric cuttings and trimmings to stuff pillows and create small accessories like scrunchies. Like many brands we are not perfect, but we believe that finding ways to minimize our footprint and remaining transparent are the positive impacts that make a difference. I take pride in offering products made out of love for women and the world we live in.
What are the greatest joys and challenges of entrepreneurship? Everyone will tell you the hardest part is starting, which is partly true. While any creative person can start an idea, my biggest personal obstacle was committing to my idea when success was uncertain. Self-doubt kept me juggling names, ideas, and designs for months. I started from scratch dozens of times before I committed to just doing what I felt most drawn to. Only then did the rest fall into place.
Now that Faven is off the ground, “challenge” is a constant companion and keeping momentum can feel like swimming upstream. As a business owner and designer, I am always contending with challenges outside of my control. Whether it’s scarce materials due to COVID-19, limited manufacturing options, or a customer who wants something I do not offer, I have to find ways to be creative and keep moving forward. Even as an experienced designer, I am always faced with the unexpected where I don’t know the answer. Treating each day as an opportunity to learn something new gives me the courage to meet new obstacles. For me, the real joy of entrepreneurship is realizing I have allowed myself this experience.
Anything else you'd like to share? Some positive reinforcement, affirmations and perspective: Don’t give up! Try, fail, and modify! Don’t let people who make this career look easy discourage you. Not everyone comes up with their golden idea the first time around. Once it clicks, you’ll know it so run with it! Lastly, doubt is a natural reaction because we are human; that human behind the brand is what makes it successful!
Learn more at faventhelabel.com and on Instagram @faventhelabel.