BABE #71: YONA LOVE,
Fashion Designer @ Yona New York
In addition to owning + operating Yona Love, a consulting agency created to expedite building code issues in NYC, Yona owns, runs and designs Yona New York, her very own plus size fashion line that specifically caters to the professional working woman (aka hustlin' babe.) With such a limited selection of business attire on the market for plus size women, Yona's work in fashion is so incredibly important and appreciated by the BWH community. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Yona! Keep being a babe.
Babe you admire and why?
Coco Chanel is my hero. She grew up in an orphanage, where she learned to sew. With her drive and determination, she changed fashion forever.
How do you spend your free time?
I love to read. I also enjoy shopping and spending time with my family.
Favorite app, website or blog?
Who What Wear is my favorite blog. I love scrolling through pictures on Instagram, especially fashion photos, and my favorite website has to be Net-A-Porter. I love seeing the trends and new styles.
Go-to adult beverage?
Wine - preferably Cabernet Sauvignon.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
@UrbanPops frozen treats - any flavor. Make that EVERY flavor!
Three things we can always find in your fridge?
Lemon water, romesco rolled cheese, Chobani yogurt flips.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Tell us about your hustle:
I design the entire line for Yona New York, a plus size fashion line for women. For my consulting business, Yona Love, I help get construction projects permitted and approved by the City. By using creative strategy, I resolve problems and costly delays. I am happiest when I make my vision for a design come to life in a finished sample.
What does your typical workday look like?
I am at my desk by 6:30am, and I prepare the day’s work for each of my staff members. As the day progresses, I check in with my team. We maintain a healthy flow of information to ensure that I am up to date on everything in both businesses.
How and when did you get into fashion? Is it something you always knew you’d do?
As a child, I constantly doodled sketches on bits of paper or napkins. I always knew that I wanted to be in fashion. Although my mother needed my help in the family consulting business, I also found ways to pursue my dream. Because it was such a challenge to find clothing that fit well and made me look good, I had to design and make my own wardrobe. When friends and even strangers on the street would ask me where I shop, I knew I had something special to share with other plus-size women.
What is your work environment and office culture like?
Both my office and my studio offer a relaxed and creative environment. I hire smart people who know what they're doing, so I do not have to micro-manage every project. I am attuned to my people’s needs and that makes them loyal to me and to my firms. I am a big fan of having a family life, so it is rare to find anyone staying late. Tomorrow is another day.
What has your journey/experience/inspiration in designing a plus size line been like?
This has been a real challenge to date, but I love it. Once you realize that you cannot please everyone, you learn to focus on the rewards of really helping people. I love re-imagining designs I find in straight size fashion, and making them work for a plus size woman. I find that other women love that, too. Seeing women feel and look great in my clothes is all the inspiration I need.
What is your approach to styling?
You have to feel great. Take a piece you love and feel comfortable in, and change the accessories. Throw on a scarf or a statement necklace, and some great shoes. You can be chic without trying too hard. Styling doesn’t have to be difficult. Have fun with it. Start with what you can, and in time, you will be able visualize the way to style an outfit before you even put it on.
What is your vision for how you want Babes to feel in your clothes?
Women are beautiful in every size and shape. They should feel stylish, chic, classy, comfortable, and most importantly, happy.
What are your thoughts about the current state of plus size clothing? Why do you think that options for plus size women are still so limited, even though the average size for U.S. women is a 16-18?
The options I have seen for plus size women are mostly available in cheaper, “trendy” fashion pieces. I believe that is because plus size women are hesitant to invest in their wardrobe, and are only buying throwaway clothing. When plus size women become more aware of luxurious fabrics and quality craftsmanship that define higher end apparel, I believe they will respond favorably and begin to spend like their straight size counterparts already do.
Who would you most like to design for and/or collaborate with?
It was a special honor to create a dress for Chrissy Metz of NBC’s hit show, “This is Us.” She helps change how society thinks about people of size. There are many celebrities for whom I would love to design, including Octavia Spencer and Adele, but I am happy to design for every woman.
What is your staple fashion item?
Anything leopard print. It’s always in style.
How would you say being a woman has affected your career/work/professional experience?
I enjoy being one of the few women in a man’s world (construction). Being a plus size woman also gives me a unique perspective when designing for other plus size women. I feel their pain, and I know exactly how to leverage their innate beauty.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
Being personally invested in everything I do is what makes me great at it, but that also means that I take things personally. It is still something I battle to this day, but a good support system helps to put things into perspective.
What kind of support system do you have behind you and your work?
My husband Victor works with me. He has been in the high fashion industry for decades. Our family is very understanding of my passion, and they all support me. My employees are also invaluable for keeping everything afloat.
What would you say is your biggest strength in your current role?
Being compassionate with my employees, or with my clients. Compassion goes a long way. I find that it also makes people more loyal to me when they know I care about them.
What would you say is the skill you most need to improve?
Being more organized.
Are you involved with any other community organizations or side projects?
I am involved in many charities and community organizations. I help young girls with everything from counseling to sheltering when they are in a bad situation. I donate money and clothes to families in need. I help find jobs for people going through rehab or transformation. I am involved with and help orchestrate charity functions. I find tuition assistance for families that need special care in private schools, I help raise money for weddings for orphan girls. I am involved in the Free Burial Society. Basically if someone needs help and I can help them, I will.
What advice would you give to a Babe trying to break into your industry?
You better have a lot of money!
What motivates and inspires you?
Well, being a CEO, I want to say it is about a return on my investment, but deep down, I know it’s helping people and overcoming challenges.
What does success look like to you?
Lots of people enjoying my designs and feeling confident in my clothing.
How do you find a work-life balance?
It was harder when I was younger and I had to do everything on my own. Now I have learned to prioritize and delegate.
What helps you wind down and manage stress?
A nice glass of wine, talking to my grandchildren, a book, and shopping.
What are some notable (funny, embarrassing, intense) experiences you’ve had on the job?
My wraparound skirt fell off in the middle of the street once. I stepped out of it, picked it up and kept walking.
What’s next for you?
I have a new high end line coming out later in the year, which I am really looking forward to. I was able to work with all the designs I have dreamed about, while using very luxurious fabrics like crushed silk velvet. It will be amazing!
What are your goals for the future?
I would love to be in New York Fashion Week, and to see more women in my clothing. I also want to help advance the narrative about fashion equality.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Your career is not always what you choose to do, but there is a reason for everything. Just keep your dreams alive and wait for your chance to make them happen.
In partnership with:
SPANX is a woman-owned company specializing in comfortable and slimming undergarments, with a mission to shape the world by helping women feel great about themselves and their potential. Founder Sara Blakely was named the world’s youngest, self-made female billionaire by Forbes Magazine and one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. (She's also an FSU alumna. Go Noles!)
*This is an affiliate partnership. That means when you shop using our links and codes, a portion of your purchase goes right back to us, so we can then roll out some awesome new things for you. Of course, we only promote brands and products we genuinely stand behind and know you babes will enjoy. x