Isabel Varela is a keynote speaker, life coach, master tailor, and sustainable artist.
Not only has she overcome her fashion addiction with over $100k of debt in clothing, but she has turned her life completely around by:
– Becoming Debt Free to a Successful Entrepreneur and CEO
– Filming an Award winning Documentary called Fashion Addict
– Awarded Changemaker of the Year a 27 years in the Fashion Industry
– Consulting major brands to implement CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) in their companies including LVMH, SAKS, and Balmain.
– Continued work with Donate NYC, New York City Fair Trade, Remake, and Climate Reality Leader and many more.
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Table of Contents
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Isabel Varela: Acknowledging my fashion addiction, $100,000 debt, and seeking professional help was a significant turning point in my life. My life coach inspired me to change my behaviors, actions, thought patterns, intentions and to face the reality of my fashion addiction. It was a whole rewiring of my brain and way of life. It wasn’t easy. I allowed my pride and ego to stand in my way. It was frightening and intimidating to face the truth of how I had been living and ignoring my issues for so long, but once I faced my darkness; freedom, wisdom, and light were on the other side welcoming me with a warm hug.
A few painful realizations included: how much emphasis I was putting on the exterior, the amount of self-hate I had towards myself versus self-love, and not believing I deserved any better. I knew I had to change my self-destructive path to a healthier route before it got worse. Having my car repossessed AND not having enough to pay my rent was terrible, BUT it could have been much worse! My fashion addiction made me part of the problem and not part of the solution. My irresponsible behaviors were not just hurting me. I was contributing to climate decimation, mass extinction, land degradation, and toxic chemicals contaminating the environment. It was both financially and ecologically detrimental to everyone. I purchased clothing I did not need and wore them only once or twice. I saw clothing as a disposable item, as many of us do when it comes to fast fashion.
It took being courageous and facing the truths, feelings of shame, guilt, and resentment towards myself. The irony is the more I faced my truths the more I healed. As I healed, my determination, self-love, and self-respect continued to increase and at the same time, my debt steadily decreased. I persisted and continued working several freelance jobs, embraced budgeting, freed myself of the clothing that was burdening me by selling, donating, and recycling over 90% of my closet. I refrained from shopping for nearly 2 years.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. What’s the worst advice you received?
Isabel Varela: “Isabel, you need to man-up and keep pushing! There are no emotions in business.” This was the worst advice I have ever received.
First of all, you should always place your mental and physical as your top priority in your life. It has taken me until now and being burnt out over 100 times to realize that you cannot place your business before you. The other thing that is very important is to balance emotions and logic. When you have partial extremes, the business will always be unbalanced. I have always believed that your business is an extension of you and as you grow and change, your business will grow and change.
The way you treat, respect, and appreciate yourself is exactly how you will treat, respect, and appreciate your team.
Has the pandemic and transitioning into mostly online shopping affected your company positively or negatively?
Isabel Varela: The pandemic helped my company in a positive away because most of my business is online. I was also able to pivot into what I have always wanted to do which is to help others and the environment.
As a life coach, I am able to speak to my students on Zoom or over Facetime. I am able to connect to more people globally and build a strong community of women looking to change their life. I have been able to do even more speaking engagements online and focus more on networking on LinkedIn with people I would have not been able to prior to the pandemic. The pandemic has also helped me to open my business to new territories in the digital marketplace such as online courses and e-books.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Isabel Varela: My company stands out in many different ways.
First of all, NO ONE is speaking on the truth of fashion addiction. It is a topic that is not taken seriously that continues to have major effects to our consumerist society and our planet. The addiction to buying more things has contributed to climate decimation. You could almost say I am David fighting against Goliath a.k.a the retail and fashion industry.
The other way my company stands out from the competition is how I use vulnerability as a super power. It makes a bigger impact on story-telling and inspires people to take real actionable steps to change their own life.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Isabel Varela: Showing empathy, clear communication, and setting boundaries have been instrumental to my success.
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Isabel Varela: I wish I would have listened more when my mentors would say that who I am as a person is what will make your personal brand stand out.
The more you are authentically who you were born to be, the more people can relate to you. Once I understood this, everything in my business made sense. I also wish I would have listened when others would tell me to narrow down my niche and to have a mission bigger than yourself.
How would you define “leadership”?
Isabel Varela: Being a leader is someone who empowers others to be leaders. Leaders are able to encourage their team to use their strengths and to highlight all of their amazing talents. A leader always leads by examples and shows empathy.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Isabel Varela: My mentor always says, “If you try, you will succeed, and you deserve it when you earn it!”
The only way you could ever fail is by not trying at all. This quote is my mantra for living my life. I am always willing to try even when I am scared and unsure because I will not resent not trying whenever it is my time to go.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Isabel Varela for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Isabel Varela or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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