Dessy Tsolova is the founder of utelier.com - a B2B online fashion manufacturing platform, bringing transparency, simplification and education to fashionpreneurs large and small. With over 15 years experience working for luxury fashion brands and her own fine jewellery brand, there isn't much she doesn't know about fashion business and developing an idea to product.
Dessy, delighted to have you with us! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thank you for having me! I am a Bulgarian Brit, an entrepreneur in the fashion tech world, mum of two very strong girls and a frustrated artist and designer. I often feel like a fish out of water as my early upbringing and current life experiences make me rather level headed fashionista and perhaps too creative of an entrepreneur. But somehow all these contradictions work.
Your career trajectory is impressive. What would you consider your biggest achievement to date?
I love the time I spend at the last company I worked for and the products my team and I created and the way we elevated and developed the brand. But since then, perhaps a better achievement is what we are creating with Utelier.com. Via the platform we aim to bring transparency in a largely fragmented and opaque industry and simplify an unnecessarily overcomplicated fashion manufacturing process. So the community we are bringing, the impact we have on fashionpreneurs and brands is something that makes all the hardship in creating something new all worth it.
I gather you enjoy creating new products having started your career as a product designer. In your opinion, what is the smartest consumer product to be launched in recent times? Why?
Interesting question. I generally feel that there is too much of everything and that the market doesn’t really need even a single new product. So, with that in mind and by the sheer fact you have used the word” smartest” I will veer away from fashion and perhaps say that anything technology related has been a smart invention, due to the massive widespread impact (mostly positive, though we mustn’t forget that it also has negatives) it has had on the entire world population.
Your business, Utelier.com, aims to connect designers with manufacturers. How did the idea come about? Is there a gap in the market for such a platform?
The fashion industry is very dysfunctional and as Virgo I often feel frustrated at how unhelpful and messy it is. Unnecessarily so! If you are new to the industry it appears to be so closed and hard to navigate as there is so much ego and selfishness, yet it is full of lovely people. So launching Utelier.com was out of the desire to make an impact and bring in some transparency, simplify process and thinking and allow for newcomers to come in and disrupt the industry even. In an industry that is based on smoke and mirrors and vanity, there is always a gap to break that mould and expose the reality and allow new blood in.
Manufacturers or designers? Who do you prefer to spend and afternoon with?
Probably manufacturers to be honest! They are more real and humble, hard working and together we will have a good laugh at some of the craziness in the fashion world that not many people laugh at and about. Some of the behaviour and demands are so wild, unless you are from inside the industry often you won’t believe this can possible happen and people can behave this way. Plus I am fascinated by craft and love a good old lesson at how to do something or see how something is made from scratch.
You are a mentor to several people. I believe you are part of the Virgin Start Up initiative. What is the best part of being a mentor?
Yes, I have been mentoring people since I started utelier.com. The best part if to see how so much of the knowledge and experience I take for granted can be of help to someone else. The small nuggets of advice or guidance given to mentees can have such a profound effect on their journey, experience and business. Because as a mentor you can speak form a place of experience and not of love as would a parent or best friend. Their advise usually sadly is the worst. So being a mentor is not without its responsibility but the rewards are great for both parties.
What does ‘Be your sparkly best’ mean to you?
Well, it has to go beyond the jewels and clothes. It would have to be more about the person you are and the sparkle that comes from inside out. Because that’s the sparkle that cant be bought or copied.
What kind of jewellery do you like? Do you have a personal favourite?
I scratch my own itch by having my own jewellery label, something I launched many years back and still hold on to more as a hobby than real business. The jewellery I design and wear is perfectly imperfect. Something, which transcends time and trends. That is precious but made in a way that you don’t have to be precious about wearing. For example one of my favourite rings is 18k gold dome top large ring that has a hammered finish. I rarely take it off and I am never precious about it. But any knocks it may have suffered don’t show and if they did – they will enhance it rather than spoil it.
Which Hep Audrey piece do you like the best?
I love yellow gold and emeralds, so as soon as I saw the Hema Abstract Gold Emerald earrings, my eyes couldn’t see anything else. So that is my favourite for sure! Plus it seems irregular in shape and asymmetrical – all the usual perfectly imperfect traits that attract me.
If you were a gemstone, which one would you be? Why?
Emerald without a doubt. Because it’s rarer than diamond and the colour is so vivid, once seen it cannot be easily forgotten. Lastly, because when you see an emerald with inclusions, to me, it’s one of the most beautiful things. The inclusions tell a story and make the stone even more unique and special.