Interview with Tracy Greenan | Founding CEO of A U R E L I A + I C A R U S and THE FASHN COLLCTR
Tracy Greenan is a serial Fashion Entrepreneur who started working professionally in the fashion industry as a shoe designer at the age of twenty, while earning a degree in Fashion.
She has since designed eye wears, men's and women's apparel, shoes, hats, bags, accessories, homeware and several other fashion accessories.
In 2017 she launched a fashion blog called THE FASHN COLLCTR, and in 2018 she launched a fashion brand called AURELIA + ICARUS.
In our interview with Tracy, she talks about her entrepreneurial journey and the challenges she overcame to launch her fashion brand.
Hello Tracy. Thank you for participating in this Q&A session. We would like to start by exploring your origin story. Please give us an overview of your background and initial career aspirations?
Tracy: I was born and raised in Canada. My father is British, from just outside Belfast, Northern Ireland, and my mother is from Zamboanga City, in the Philippines. Both of them are from areas where there was major religious conflict happening. Belfast with the troubles between the Protestants and the Catholics, and Zamboanga City with Muslims and Christians. I felt very grateful that my parents decided to raise me in a safe country like Canada.
My first memory of being interested in fashion was when I was about seven or eight years old. There was a particular department store catalogue that would somehow make its way into our home every autumn, and I remember leafing through it, analysing the construction of the clothes and concluding I could do a far better job designing those clothes than the images laid before me!
I do remember packing up a set of clothing designs I had drawn with a proposal to that catalogue company and handing it over to my mother, demanding she urgently rush my ‘portfolio’ over to them, as if I was going to somehow do them a massive favor and generate them millions of dollars!
I never knew what happened to that package and am still waiting for my millions to arrive!
Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any past or present business leaders?
Tracy: I’ve been inspired by how successful some of my colleagues from Canada have become. When I was about 27 or 28, I was invited to stay with some fellow young entrepreneurs in Montreal. Their names were Shane, Suroosh and Gavin. They lived and worked in a dingy, 1500 sq ft studio space, and upon entering I instantly was dreading having to sleep there and was already counting down the clock to leave!
Their bathroom was about as clean as a petrol station toilet, and they had these rag-like brown towels with super dodgy stains on them! I do remember eventually warming up to them and having a good time and enjoying my stay after all.
They were in the media business and had a magazine, which was small in distribution, but I was quite struck by their rather quiet drive and determination. Shane and Suroosh in particular.
That little magazine was called Vice. Fast forward several years on, I’m living in Europe and visiting my parents' house in Canada one summer. I was working out on their treadmill when I nearly fell off of it after seeing Shane on the tele talking about how they are now worth several billion dollars! It’s an incredible Cinderella story and I hope they’ve upgraded their towel situation with those billions!
What key challenges have you faced in your entrepreneurial journey to date, and how have you navigated these?
Tracy: The biggest challenge for me came in 1999, when I was 29. I received some publicity for my work which published my studio address. Then I noticed people started appearing at my workplace wanting to get involved with my label. This was all very nice to see, however it also attracted some other characters. A stranger with a criminal record started following me everywhere and leaving me horrific letters and voice mails. Things quickly worsened as this individual began giving me death threats. It got to the point where the police had to have a car camped outside my apartment every day. This greatly disrupted with my business as I couldn’t leave my home out of fear. My female friends were too scared to stay with me and be around me anymore. I ended up having to move out of my apartment and move in with my best friend.
The intensity of the situation was too much, and the only way out was to halt my business and leave the country immediately to London, to convalesce and start a new life. It was a deeply traumatising and lonely time. People joked about how I’ve made it now that I’ve had a stalker, but they will really never understand the seriousness of the situation. My main regret was not going back to Canada to testify against him. I was simply too terrified and wanted to put my past away forever.
I also deeply regret keeping everything all bottled up inside, and not being able to tell people what was really going on. How can you explain the reason you are shutting down to your buyers, manufacturers and sales reps ? I couldn’t even tell my parents what was happening.
Everyone out of the loop thought I had gone mad! Mental health was not a topic one wanted to hear about back then, let alone in business! Additionally, being a full-time mother while steering a company is a far greater challenge than I ever anticipated. Almost every night I am burning the midnight oil, catching up on domestic duties.
What originally attracted you to the fashion industry?
Tracy: I knew from a young age design was my calling. However, I knew to be successful I had to work harder than anyone in a world class city because I was living in a small town, far away from everything.
Before I got accepted into the Fashion Design program at Ryerson University in Toronto, I toiled relentlessly, prepping my portfolio. I stayed behind a year after graduating high school and took extra courses, and I spent the rest of my time locked away in my bedroom, designing apparel day and night.
I worked out of fear of being left behind in my home town forever and missing out on my dreams, which was for me, non-negotiable.
You own a fashion blog called THE FASHN COLLCTR. Please give us an overview of how and why you started this blog? Additional, who is the target audience of your blog?
Tracy: THE FASHN COLLCTR was launched in Stockholm, Sweden, where I had the pleasure of living for three years. Stockholm had always been on my bucket list of places to visit and I was lucky enough to actually live there.
After being on a ‘sabbatical’ from the industry for several years, the time felt right to return to fashion. Stockholm is one of the most creative, original and inspiring cities I have ever been to. I loved how intimidated I felt by the design being created there. It’s the right kind of intimidation that moves me to get my game on! It was also impossible not to document the effortlessly unique Scandinavian style while living there. I simply had to share it!
The target audience for the blog is professional women aged 25-49 who are looking for inspiration and advice on style trends and travel ideas to build a stylish and dynamic life.
You launched an online jewellery shop called AURELIA + ICARUS in 2018. What’s the origin story behind Aurelia + Icarus and where did the name come from?
Tracy: The name came to me within seconds of conceiving it. Creativity happens so fast for me and I usually work in fast spurts before the moment fades forever.
I discovered the name Aurelia while flipping through an old hymnal in an ancient church in Stockholm. I added the name, Icarus based on the mythical character, who flew close to the sun with his wax wings in order to escape his situation. I’ve always deeply admired those who harbour brave and daring ambitions.
My life has been bronzed in big, bold decisions, and I’ve always been willing to take the calculated risk and deal with the fall later if need be.
I am a huge proponent and participant in the concept of failure; for that’s what makes us stronger, smarter and builds character.
What’s unique about AURELIA + ICARUS, that makes it standout from other online jewellery shops?
Tracy: I’m proud to say, we are the opposite of most industrial-sized, e-commerce shops. We try to do everything differently, authentically and personally for our clients, and this is why our customers keep coming back. We view each order as an individual behind it, not simply as revenue.
We believe each customer works hard for their money and deserves to be made to feel special, and we do this by ensuring every purchase they make arrives like a gift for them, or for someone they love.
Our jewellery is capsuled in simple, yet stylish velvet-lined signature gift boxes that are meant to be reused. Every purchase also comes with a handwritten, branded card (our clients love to write about this in their reviews!).
We believe companies should do more than make money; they should be socially responsible. The Aurelia + Icarus brand was created because we want to make women feel good about themselves without harming the planet. Our modus operandi is to strive with humility and resolve, to create a more positive and beautiful world.
Before concluding the interview, is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
Tracy: Find your purpose and roll with it. Have a sense of humour and don’t let the small things get to you. Embrace failure, learn from it and rise from the ashes. Be an original. Most of all, enjoy life, because life is too short and everything given to us is a gift depending on how we see it. My glass is always half-full, and I’ll always drink to that!
You can visit Tracy's online shop at ShopTheAi.com or drop them an email at hello@ShopTheAi.com