Erika Alvarez

MSc in International Fashion Marketing 2014

Founder and Creative Designer at KOUA


In the British capital of fashion we sat down with rising star Erika Alvarez, a GCUL graduate and businesswoman who is making waves in London with her luxury designer items. Her creations are infused with a vibrant Mexican style and each purchase gives something back to the producers from communities in South America

What made you choose GCU and your specific course?

I came from a business background: my first degree is in Business Administration. I’ve always wanted to do something related to fashion but I didn’t want to be a designer because I think I’m more orientated as a businesswoman. When I found this masters programme, I was having a look at lots of options and this was perfect. I’ve always had a dream since I was a child to own my own fashion brand.

At the beginning it seemed impossible but when I started looking at the masters programme I could feel that this could give me the right knowledge to start. The most important element was practical as well, it wasn’t just theory.

Are you glad you came to GCU and if so, why?

Yeah, it was a fortunate experience and a good investment. Fashion is a difficult industry which is changing really quickly so they were teaching us the newest strategies.

Also GCUL is where I met my best friends who have become my family in London. I love GCUL because it made my personal life in London and also my professional life.

If I could do another course there I would, it is a really good university.

How has your career progressed since GCUL? Did your GCU qualification aid you?

After graduation, I created a business plan first of all. Having the business idea in your head sounds amazing but it needs money, among other resources. So I went back to Mexico for one year. Whilst doing the business plan, I was travelling to meet all these ethnic groups so I can contact people directly to establish producers and items I knew could fit into the UK market.

I started analysing all of the competition in London and wanted to do something different. Of course I love my country and I am very proud to be Mexican. In Mexico we don’t have a fashion brand that stands out around the world. So I believe London is the city to start building a reputation as a fashion brand.

Social responsibility is an important part of it all. The indigenous people make the embroidery of the bags and the clothes that I am selling. I mix it with design, something creative with a Londoner touch. So it could be a mix of Mexican and Londoner brand - this is the main identity.

Read more about Erika here

What are your favourite memories from GCUL?

There were around 40 people in the course from all around the world which was really cool because you could learn from other cultures and their fashion industry.

We had teachers for every subject and they were all really useful for what I’m doing now even though I couldn’t see it that much when studying because I just wanted to pass them. Most of the subjects are based on marketing with a focus on the fashion industry. You get to learn about how to manage a fashion brand by analysing all the big ones like Burberry. We looked at brands with a strong heritage so for me I think that was something that was really useful because as a consumer you don’t initially see everything.

One time we went to Brighton to the fashion week. I remember watching catwalks inside a church. It was so much fun just learning how brands had been created. Also, I have good memories about the teamwork. One task was to create a fashion brand: we started blogs to build a creative brand identity.

What is your proudest professional achievement?

I think there is still a long journey to go. I haven’t achieved what I want to achieve which is like to be really well known at least in the main fashion capital. But I think I am having a really good feedback in terms of productivity and offering something different. I can really feel the power of social media, I can see people liking, commenting and buying from me from different parts of the world which is amazing.

I’m really proud about that. I’ve been doing this for two years, all the brands are contacting me to collaborate with them. This is one of the things that I feel proud of. I think it’s a brand that can be different from others.

What are your future plans?

I want to create a powerful brand to begin with. I can also help those small brands in Mexico expand into the UK market while also keeping my social responsibility of providing work to ethnic groups in Mexico.

I also want to increase my product range, not just handbags but also shoes and accessories. The main goal is to be compared with the giants like ASOS and expand my brand to other fashion capitals like Paris, Milan and New York.

In my personal life, I am very goal orientated. I want to look after my family and business at the same time.

What advice would you give?

My main advice would be, do the masters because you can pick up a lot of knowledge there. Especially the dissertation, I would say to have something in mind that you would like to do. If you are interested in a topic in the fashion world then do something related to that so you can have more knowledge and gain some insight into other brands and their strategy.

I think the most important point is the strategy. You can’t have everything, all the skills – I am not very good at maths. But you need to be very passionate about what you’re doing and your idea. Be patient because big brands like Burberry didn’t take two years to get to the top. Just like believe in your idea and work really hard.

If you are doing the masters then do as many internships as you can. I think one of the things that helped me a lot is that I did four non-paid internships. I took a lot of knowledge, especially from the small companies because you know how they start, how they manage every single area in the company. So I was doing digital marketing in wholesale and luxury concierge management. This is how I got started with my businesses by not being very scared of the real world.

Check out her KOUA collection


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