Meet Feben Teffera: "I am a maker and my soul is happy"
A little over a year ago I was working as the Retail Manager at R.Riveter. Our customers were pretty awesome and I loved talking to them about the brand, where they were traveling from, or how long they lived in the area. On this day a beautiful and fashionable young lady came in named Feben. I knew we would end up chatting for some time because I just knew we shared a loved for quality and clothing. I couldn't take my eyes off the vest she was wearing. It was gorgeous and so well made. When she said she made it herself I was blown away. As a fellow military spouse, I wanted to support her company in any way I could. We constantly ran into each other so we always had a second to catch up. When she said her and her family would be moving to California I knew it would put her in a great place to make her brand even more successful! After being in touch for some time I had to pull the trigger and get one of your vests.
Feben is the owner of FabyDesigns, a hand-made women’s coats, leather bags, and accessories company. She is now based in San Luis Obispo, CA and has been in business for a year. Her background is in IT and she worked as a Systems Manager for a large firm in New York City for over 10 years. Once “life took a complete turn” as she says she is now doing what she has a true passion for.
What was your defining moment that made you go for it and start your own brand?
I have always loved unique things. I shopped at random places and if I didn’t find what I liked I modified my purchases. I would usually add something or another to a shirt or a jacket and give it a new personality. But I would say the defining moment was when I had a child, a boy, and I had a hard time finding clothes I liked for him. The selection for girls clothing was a lot larger than boys and I was not happy with that and I figured I can make my son’s clothing unique by adding and modifying his store bought clothes. I would add, for instance, a giraffe made out of felt on his t-shirt and a giant heart on his pants or a yellow triangle on his jacket and people would ask where I got his clothes and I knew I was into something. I decided to go to school and learn how to make clothes. I was extremely fortunate to be living at savannah GA at the time and I heard about the Savannah Sewing Academy. The gentleman who owns and runs the place, Mr. Jim McFarland, is a master tailor, pattern maker, designer, sewing instructor and clothing manufacturer, has been active in the garment industry since 1961. He changed my life. I studied under him for a year, spending all my spare time in his studio and learning about sewing, life, and everything under the sun. He is a storyteller, a mentor, a great cook and more. I gained a lifetime of lessons being around him and just working in his studio. He would always say, if you can sew it you can sell it, and it took me a long time to really understand and live by that motto. He taught with passion and was very serious about the workmanship, if you make a mistake you are taking apart an entire piece to correct the mistake, no shortcuts. After leaving Savannah and moved to Southern Pines, North Carolina, I was moving away from kids clothing and fully embracing women’s clothing. And by the time I decided this was going to be business, I was nervous as I was not certain it which way it would go, I was not very well versed in the business world and I am still learning but I knew I loved what I was doing and I was going to give it a go. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else for so many reasons.
As we all know starting a business takes a lot of time and dedication? What drives you to keep going?
I think what gets me going, for the most part, is the love of creating. I enjoy the physical part of making something, I love seeing the end result and it makes me happy whenever people appreciate or something I made. Long story short, I love creating and the love is what fuels me. As far as time, making anything by hand takes a lot of time and dedication and everyday I feel like I don’t have enough time to finish my many unfinished projects but right now since I work from home, I feel I have flexibility. I also feel like, if it’s something I love, I make the time.
What is the inspiration behind your designs?
People, I love meeting different people and learning about what moves them. I also love foreign films, old books, books stores, the theater, anything vintage, and coffee. I am also a big fan of the opera, ballet or any other performing arts. I am make an effort whenever possible make it to live performances and in addition to the talent, I admire the costumes and get inspired.
I see design inspiration in everything, especially in nature. I feel, nature provides unlimited numbers of shapes, colors and textures to inspire anyone.
What gives FabyDesigns it's uniqueness?
FabyDesigns is unique because I don’t have a standard and I try to always have a beginner’s mind when I make something. I don’t make assumptions and rule out some designs, fabric or other material because ‘it might not work’. I don’t like to follow rules even when I shop for myself. I would purchase a piece I like no matter the size or the color etc. I worry about the details later and it always works out. I feel like rules limit your creativity. I like to ignore ‘rules’ rather than follow them and that always serves me well.
When it comes to identifying your customer who do you think they are?
I was once at an event, and within an hour, a 16 year old purchased a FabyDesigns coat, it was what she wanted for her 16th birthday and another customer who was turning 80 purchased coat, both the same design. So I would say with most of the pieces I make there is a wide variety of customers that style my pieces very differently and appreciate and love my pieces because it moves them individually.
In 5 years where do you see FabyDesigns?
I hope to still be doing what I am doing now in 5 years. By that I mean, I still want freedom to create what I love and not have to keep to a standard. At the same time, I would like to stick to a few core pieces and just make those on a regular basis but also allow myself the creativity to expand with niche pieces when I am inspired to make them. Right now, since I am a small business, I have a lot of freedom as far as branding. In five years I want to have established a brand and stick to it, but again also create new things even if it strays from the brand image.
What advice would you give to women looking to start their own business?
I would say, if it gives you satisfaction, go for it. I read a lot of books on business advice, especially the creative business and the common message is that it takes a long time. If you do what you love and if you are happy with creating sooner or later others will appreciate and even purchase your work. The key is knowing it might take years but if it’s something you love that won’t stop you. Also I believe in showing the progress of your work. Whatever creative realm you are in, pursue it and share the process and your story. Many people draw distinct lines between their beginning and current work but the process is interesting. I don’t have to remind people of the financial part of any business, everyone knows it a risk, and it’s a risk you have to be willing to take.
It was great getting to know Feben and FabyDesigns!
Here's how to keep up with Feben:
If you're just as obsessed as me with FabyDesigns, don't forget to mention MARZ sent you!
Stay tuned, I'll be sharing how I styled my FabyDesigns Vest on Friday!