Written by Malu Kingsland.

Valerie Friedman is a junior transfer at Haas. Her areas of interest involve corporate social responsibility in the fashion industry, marketing, and social media strategy. Outside of class, she runs a full-time sustainable lingerie brand that she hopes to expand once she graduates. 

Tell us a little about your background. What inspired you to start working in the online retail/fashion business?

I knew from a young age that I wanted to have a career in fashion. All of my favorite hobbies were tied to fashion, including art, dance, sculpting, sewing, designing, and event planning. Since I was twelve, I’ve also always had side-hustles tied to fashion, particularly jewelry making, accessory making, and sewing. I think deciding to work in the retail fashion business felt natural, as it wasn’t much different from what I was already doing. I’ve also been thrifting clothes since sixth grade, which is what inspired me to start my brand. It focuses on two of the issues I care about most: sustainability in the fashion world and women’s empowerment. 

As a transfer student, what stood out about our community that made you want to join Haas?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know what Haas was until my first semester of community college, and I decided I wanted to apply. Every time I told someone I wanted to attend Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, they’d roll their eyes in disbelief. I started visiting the campus on the weekends, and I noticed how determined the students were. Community college wasn’t as competitive to me, and I wanted to go to a place that would challenge me. Also, I loved how many resources there were for entrepreneurs–that was one of the most important reasons. 

What are you planning on doing with your Haas degree, and what specifically in Haas has helped you pursue your business endeavors?

I’m planning to use the knowledge I learned in my classes to improve my business practices. I plan to utilize all of the connections and resources we have access to and seek out mentors, team members, and people to collaborate with. The best part of Haas is meeting people who are either equally or more bold and determined as you are. I’ve met people that I could see myself starting another company with. 

Haas has helped me most by strengthening my resilience. Balancing a Cal workload and running a business has pushed me a lot. It’s made me hone in on what’s important to me. If my workload weren’t so challenging, I don’t think I would be pushing myself as much and taking so many risks in my business. When you’re under a time crunch, you’re forced to choose the decisions that matter most. 

What inspired you to create Femina, and where do you see yourself going with the brand in the future?

I’ve always wanted to start a fashion brand, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I had the confidence to do it on my own. I had always imagined I’d be working with a team and because of that, I was waiting around for the perfect group of people to come around. However, I became tired of waiting, so I went off on my own. 

My brand is inspired by my own style: unconventional, extra, and bold. I love how intertwined the lingerie and clothing industry are becoming, and that’s what inspired me to sell lingerie. Lingerie isn’t just something you can wear in private, it can be a statement piece in public. 

Statement pieces are the heart of fashion in my opinion. They drive trends, conversations, and reactions out of people. I hope to expand my brand in the future by creating my designs on a larger scale, while still staying true to my mission of sustainability. I’m still trying to explore what that is. I also plan to start sister brands in the near future. 

Do you have any advice for students who also want to work in fashion?  

Staying true to your vision is really important. It’s easy to become misguided by trends and what seems to be successful at the moment. Also, realize that competition is healthy, and it’s only going to push you to do better. There aren’t many students in the business major who hope to work in fashion, but don’t let that discourage you. Let it empower you to realize that you aren’t like everyone else and that it will work to your advantage. 

By Malu Kingsland

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