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VIDA x Frank Lloyd Wright: A Q&A with VIDA Founder Umaimah Mendhro

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation | Jun 4, 2019

From scarves and wraps, to bedsheets and curtains; you can now customize your favorite Frank Lloyd Wright designs turning them into custom-made apparel, accessories, and home décor items through our latest print-on-demand collection with VIDA. The best thing about partnering with VIDA, we’re able to offer mindful and responsibly made products—keeping in tune with Mr. Wright’s philosophies.

In celebration of this collection launch, we spoke with Umaimah Mendhro, founder of VIDA, to learn more about the company and how this partnership is a continuation of Wright’s philosophies.

Describe your daily routine.

My day usually starts around 6:30 am with five minutes of quiet thinking time, followed by a 30 minute run on the treadmill while watching TED Talks! I then spend some time with my two young kids and leave for work around 8 am. Once at work, it’s usually back to back meetings from our Daily Marketing Meeting to our Daily Engineering Stand-Ups, our weekly Leadership Priorities Meeting or various brainstorm, reviews, and working sessions. I also usually block a chunk of time on my calendar to ensure I get some time to think and plan.

I leave from work around 7 pm, have dinner with my family at home, and take turns with my husband putting our kids to bed. We get done with our daily routine around 9:30 pm and I almost always end my day reading the day’s tech, art, fashion, and business news on Flipboard, and reading a book for at least 30 minutes, or so, on my Kindle after that.

Umaimah Mendhro

What’s a piece of advice that changed your mind and why?

The best piece of advice comes from my mother. She instilled in me to always focus on my own sense of common sense, rather than common opinion—and to think for myself and create my own future.

Who has influenced you most when it comes to your approach to running VIDA?

VIDA advisor Doreen Lorenzo has been an invaluable mentor and sounding board for me. Doreen’s advice has always been direct and to-the-point, and on many occasions, she’s helped me prioritize, make the right, difficult business decisions, and pick the right partners to build our company with.

Additionally, my colleagues at Harvard, as well as at the social enterprise I founded, dreamfly, were some of the most purpose-driven and ambitious people I’ve known and remind and aspire me to live my life purpose.

VIDA offers art-inspired clothing, accessories & décor, all with zero waste. How did you choose this thoughtful, and art-driven direction for VIDA?

Growing up in rural Pakistan and Saudi Arabia I had no access to formal education most of my life— but always had a deep passion for design and art and a drive to make a difference in the world. I paved my way to Harvard Business School, and built a career in technology, working with a highly select portfolio of game-changing tech companies and managing million dollar businesses, while my love for art and design only grew stronger. As an outsider to the fashion and retail world, I saw tremendous waste and inefficiency, and an industry that hadn’t changed in centuries. With VIDA, I looked to create a platform where a designer anywhere in the world could get her product made and share her art directly with the shoppers. Where each item produced reflects an artist’s original vision and inspires, uplifts and connects with a global customer base.

 

Who is the VIDA shopper?

VIDA customers are mindful, global citizens who like to own original pieces that each tell a unique story. They are smart and inquisitive. They appreciate thoughtful design and art. And they are mindful of their impact in the world.

 

We love your model for giving back through the gift of education. What are some of the most rewarding stories you’ve heard from the people VIDA has been able to help?

In our Pakistan factory, where we launched our first Basic Literacy and Language Program in the local national language, a father once told me that he’s spent his entire adult life working at the factory with the purpose to provide for a decent education for his children. He proudly shared with me that his children go to a public school but they no longer speak his native language. It was only after completing the VIDA literacy program, that he is now able to speak the language that his educated children speak and truly connect with them.

A young mother in our India factory, where we launched a Financial Literacy program, shared with us that after opening her very first savings account as part of the VIDA program, for the first time in her life, she feels she may actually have a real chance of achieving her life’s dreams.

Something else we love is that VIDA ’s story is that of the rich, interconnected world we live in, and in your words, is “the story of contemporary life and mindful, global citizenship.” Talk about how you created this interlocked fabric (pun intended) between community, humanity, and art?

The idea behind VIDA was to create a platform where independent artists, designers and makers could come together and create beautiful and unique items while supporting each other and giving back to our communities.

Today, VIDA’s global creative community forges the link between ideas, culture and commerce. Our creatives are bold storytellers sharing their thoughts, dreams and inspirations via varied mediums. They are fine artists, photographers, illustrators, sculptors, textile designers and more. Translating their authentic creative voice into beautiful and unique products, they believe in supporting makers and the need to positively impact the world around them.

At VIDA we believe fashion can be responsible, accessible, and innovative. We can all play a part and create change together.

Including up-and-coming artists, you also work with brands and celebrities to create unique garments and designs. Who are some of the people VIDA has collaborated with?

We’ve had the privilege of collaborating with some of the greatest icons and visionaries of our time. Cher was one of the first celebrities to design her own collection for VIDA and till date it has been the most humbling and inspiring experience for everyone involved.

Since then we’ve collaborated with fashion icons such as Steve Madden and Iris Apfel, renowned museums including SFMOMA and deYoung, incredible, purposeful organizations such as Charity Water and Creativity Explored, and iconic retail brands, including Lord & Taylor and Home Shopping Network.

Why is Frank Lloyd Wright a great fit for VIDA?

Frank Lloyd Wright’s belief that well-designed objects should be more accessible and affordable to the masses is something that is extremely close to VIDA’s mission of making design and fashion more inclusive. Besides being a perfect fit with our vision and our mission, we are beyond thrilled and honored to get the opportunity to translate some of Wright’s visionary designs into unique and beautiful accessories and lifestyle products that people can bring into their homes and lives.

If you could create collections inspired by three of your heroes, who would they be?

Frank Lloyd Wright would be amongst the top of my list. He was a true visionary. His bold innovations in design using new technology and textiles has been a guiding force for creatives around the world and an integral part of VIDA’s vision as well. We look forward to using his powerful, timeless work to create a unique collection of art- and architecture-inspired products, respecting his legacy of sustainable, innovative and democratic design.

The print-on-demand model seems to be taking over the way consumers shop, why do you think this is?

Innovations in on-demand production can reduce lead-time from design to delivery to less than two weeks, making the need for inventory unnecessary and wasteful. We are also at a stage where consumers want to know how their clothes impact the world and the lives of those who make them. With access to technology possible today, we no longer need gatekeepers to decide what our wardrobes and homes should look like. Today’s consumers want experiences over objects, originality over mass-production, sustainability over waste and the opportunity to co-create and be a part of the process. We believe the fashion industry needs to shift from exclusive and mass to inclusive and original.

 

What separates VIDA from other print-on-demand sites?

Our choice of sustainable and eco-friendly materials, our luxurious yet affordable product options, our responsible, thoughtfully- and meticulously-sourced supply chain, and our strong, global community of incredibly talented fine artists.

 

 

What’s next for VIDA?

As a company, VIDA is forever evolving. We recently launched a brand new artist platform, VIDA x Studio, where artists have access to new features and capabilities and a seamless product design and creation experience. This year, we will be adding several new incredibly exciting product categories and styles in line with our principles of original, quality design and sustainable sourcing. We look forward to revealing these initiatives and many new ideas and developments  with our community in the upcoming months.

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