What did it mean for you to win the New Breed scholarship in 2023?
Winning the scholarship means that we could shine a light on high-quality, hand-crafted, vegan cactus leather products. It means we were able to educate every single person who came by our stand about vegan leather alternatives compared to traditional animal leathers and the issues involved with it. And it meant that we could build a community of like-minded people, with the other Exhibitors and with new customers. I want to see a better future for everyone, including the earth. We are not just selling handbags. We aim to educate people to do better and be better as humans through our purchasing choices and have knowledge about what our products are made from and where they are made.
What advice would you give to those wanting to apply in 2024?
Go for it! My advice would be to seize the chance with enthusiasm. You have nothing to loose and everything to gain! When applying, ensure you clearly understand your brand's purpose and a compelling narrative that tells your story authentically. What sets you apart? What drives your passion? These are the aspects that can truly make your application stand out. Along with cohesive, authentic branding!
Since winning the new breed, what has changed in your business, such as what processes?
The scholarship gave us a confidence boost, helping us communicate our brand's value and uniqueness to potential wholesale partners. The scholarship acted as a catalyst for us to reevaluate and refine our pricing strategy. This was a strategic move to position ourselves competitively in the market while ensuring sustainability and growth. We smoothed out inventory hiccups and tightened bonds with suppliers to keep up with our expanding network of stockists.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in the industry and how have you overcome them?
Navigating the fashion and retail industry, especially with a focus on vegan cactus leather handbags, has presented its share of challenges. The market for accessories and handbags is saturated with lots of competition online. To stand out, I've focused on a niche market—those who prioritise both style and sustainability. Crafting a unique brand identity and telling a compelling story about the origin and craftsmanship of my products has set my brand apart from the crowd. People are still not familiar with the benefits of vegan leather. Transparency about the production process and the positive environmental impact of choosing cactus leather has helped in building awareness and winning over conscious consumers.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the retail industry?
Find something you're truly passionate about. The road ahead will have its bumps, and passion will be your fuel to keep going. And I am a huge advocate for networking, surround yourself with smart, supportive people. Networking can open doors, provide guidance, and offer a fresh perspective.
What inspired you to start your brand and pursue a career in the retail industry?
Many life events inspired me to start Texcoco Collective. I've been travelling to Mexico and Central America as a photojournalist over the years and fell in love with the vibrancy, creativity and energy that flows through those nations. I have also been heavily inspired by my mother who was a seamstress and designer when I was growing up. Texcoco Collective is a culmination of my love for the environment, my passion for design and my deep respect and concern for the state of our earth. Pulling from these experiences I decided to build a brand with purpose and strong values which comes in the form of a handbag.
How has winning a scholarship impacted the development and growth of your brand?
Winning the Life Instyle scholarship has allowed my brand to reach a broader market. The exposure gained from the event, combined with the credibility of the scholarship, has attracted retailers and customers who may not have discovered Texcoco Collective vegan cactus leather handbags otherwise. Life Instyle is a hub of industry professionals, experts, and potential collaborators. The scholarship has provided invaluable networking opportunities, allowing me to connect with key players in the fashion and retail industry.
How do you differentiate your products from competitors in the market?
Texcoco Collective is the only Australian plant based leather handbag designer and manufacturer, certified vegan, sustainably sourced and ethically produced in Mexico. We work with two suppliers, both small, family owned businesses, in central Mexico, just a 4 hour drive from where the material is grown and produced.
Texcoco has the ability to change the traditional narrative of fashion production and marketing. While using alternate leathers is not a new concept anymore, it is still a surprise to a vast majority of people to hear about cactus leather or any other alternative leathers such as mushroom, pineapple or even mango exist.
What is your target market and how do you reach out to them?
Texcoco Collective is for the eco-conscious, for those who are trendy but don't want the world to go up in flames. We are for those who are interested in new innovations in sustainable fashion. We are about caring for the planet, people and animals. You don't need to be vegan to care about the environment, just educated. We reach our audience through social media @texcoco.collective, through our newsletter, in magazine features and markets and our online store of course.
What path led you to Life Instyle and what about the show makes it a great fit for your brand?
I was researching wholesaling and learning about that process of a product based business. I then registered my interest in the event for 2022 as a seller but realised I wasn't at the right stage to do it that year. I went as a visitor however, to have an understanding of how the event worked, talk to the vendors, and see how people displayed and designed their stands. This year my goal is to wholesale Texcoco Collective after having success in a few select boutiques last year. I saw the Scholarship advertised so I thought it was the perfect timing, as my supply chain solidified after recovering from covid and I am releasing a new collection.
Who are some of the other brands and trends in the industry that you love/admire?
One standout is Patagonia—these guys have been champions of sustainability long before it was trendy. Their commitment to environmental causes and the quality of their products is inspiring. Stella McCartney is a force to reckon with. Her dedication to cruelty-free, sustainable fashion has set a high standard in the industry.
In terms of trends, circular fashion is catching fire. The idea of creating products with a lifecycle in mind, minimizing waste, and encouraging recycling is a game-changer. It's not just a trend; it's a mindset shift that's gaining momentum, and I love seeing brands embrace it, and hope to implement these practices into Texcoco Collective in the future.