How A Young Fashion CEO Recharged This Chic Hungarian Brand

How A Young Fashion CEO Recharged

This Chic Hungarian Brand

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When Vivien Lászlóffy puts her mind to something, she excels.

After becoming the CEO of fashion brand, Aeron, at just 24 years old, Lászlóffy has catapulted the business into fast, far-reaching growth, siting a “learn by doing” approach throughout her impressive, still unbelievably young career.

“I have high energy,” says Lászlóffy. “I love doing a lot of things and I love doing them the right way, so I just took it as a challenge. I really had nothing to lose because they gave me that trust and I knew I was going to follow my instinct. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but I haven’t looked back.”

The Budapest-based brand, which was founded in 2012 by Eszter Áron, who serves as Aeron’s Head Designer, is positioned as a luxurious contemporary label defined by unique fabrics, classic silhouettes and unexpected details. For Lászlóffy, it was a perfect match.

“I right away fell in love with the brand. It was totally my aesthetic,” says Lászlóffy, who worked at Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Diesel, Roberto Cavalli, and Maison Margiela, Cartier US and L’Oréal Paris before Aeron. “The approach to it is quite minimal. We only use innovative fabrics, like organic suede or luxurious fabrics like French lambskin. Our brand is not about defining an age. It’s about a character, so it’s really someone who has an edgy, cool, artsy, confident look. All our pieces are simple but often have an interesting detail to them. It’s always super effortless. It’s a hidden elegance, and you are dressed for every occasion.”

Ranging from $150 for knitwear to $1600 for leather pants, the line has taken off in terms of popularity, thanks to Lászlóffy’s leadership and vision.

The Start

After meeting Eszter through a family friend two years ago, Lászlóffy started helping grow the brand as a consultant, going back and forth to Budapest from London where she was living at the time. After having spent most of her career working for large firms, she says the time was right for a change.

“I wanted to do something different; either start my own brand or build a tiny brand; something that was more mine and more rewarding,” said Lászlóffy, who was just featured in Forbes Europe’s 30 under 30 for Retail and Commerce 2017. “If you work with a big corporation it’s a fantastic school but you’re not going to have that input and the responsibility.”

Lászlóffy said after starting she realized she had no other choice than to jump into the role head-first, and taking each challenge as it came through a step-by-step approach.

“At first we were a small team and it was really about redefining every angle of the business; from the production to the design to the sales to the marketing,” says Lászlóffy, who is of German and Hungarian descent. “We had something that was already really great but we had to nail it down. For me at first it was about understanding all aspects of this business. I had no idea about how the production cycle works. I’d never done that before and it’s so crucial.”

Her stint with Aeron wasn’t her first time having to grow up fast. At the age of 12 Lászlóffy traveled the world alone with her tennis coach competing. When she turned 19 she moved to the US with a full scholarship to Boston University.

“I never dreamed I would be a CEO at 24,” she says. “People always say to me, ‘you were so young.’ I say yes but age has never been a thing for me. From the age of 10 to 18 I was traveling the world playing professional tennis. I was number one in Hungary, and the top junior player in the world.”

“You grow up very quickly.”

Company Growth

The company, which has doubled each year in sales since Lászlóffy took the helm, has also expanded in terms of a retail footprint, namely across Asia, which she said was completely unexpected.

“It was honestly at first sort of a luck thing because it was obviously not our plan to specialize in Japan, for example, which is known to be one of the most difficult markets to enter,” says Lászlóffy, adding that the buyers of some of Japan’s largest retailers, including Ron Herman, Isetan and Tomorrowland, all bought the collection and then there was ‘a chain reaction.’ “Asia is the biggest market. Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, China are really crucial markets for us.”

Although Japan  is very different then the rest of Asia, according to Lászlóffy  the country serves as the front leader in terms of fashion. After excelling in Japan, next came Korea, Hong Kong, and China.

“It was really about us saying ‘we see it working; They like our design, they like the products so we need to get the right partners in there,” says Lászlóffy. “So in November we signed the biggest trading company in Japan, which gives us a partner in a market that we are now able to monitor. It’s really exciting. It’s such a huge area and it has so much potential.”

According to Lászlóffy , when she came to Aeron, the brand was in about 30 wholesale accounts globally and now it is in about 110 accounts, across 15 countries. With more than 15 employees, the company employee base doubled in just two years.

“The other day someone said to me ‘you should do an MBA; you’re the perfect candidate,’” she says. “I told them I’m doing a real life MBA. There’s no case study that will tell you how you’re going to react when the whole house is on fire and you have to calm down your investors, make sure that your suppliers are still on board, that your distributors are still there. That’s the biggest learning lesson ever.

As the brand continues to grow, Lászlóffy says it is a personal goal to keep all production for the brand in Hungary, where Aeron was born.

“We are based out of Budapest, it’s our home,” she says. “Hungary has a long-standing manufacturing history and a lot of the top brands, like Stella McCartney and Moncler, are produced in Hungary. It’s a bit of a responsibility not to walk away and produce somewhere where it might be cheaper. We wanted to be a leader in that. I’m happy to say we are still there and I hope we will continue.”

The brand’s newest collection, which was inspired by the region around Lake Balaton, which is located an hour from Budapest, is meant as a homage to the label’s birth country.

“We included a color palette that evoked the emotions and feelings that the lake brings out, which is what originally inspired the collection,” Lászlóffy has said of the collection. “We also endeavor to reinvent tailoring techniques and reinvigorate folk themes, based on traditional Hungarian clothing that has now been completely modernized.”

Another future goal for the young CEO is smart hiring, identifying hungry young executives who want to follow in her footsteps.

“I always look at experience and not education, because if I look at myself or a lot of amazing people around me, it was the journey that defined us,” Lászlóffy says. “I want them to be hungry to learn and to be open, and to be part of this journey. Every time I meet someone I know right away if I throw her into ice cold water she will survive and thrive from it. Above it all, I think that’s the most important thing.”

The Quick 10

1. What app do you most use?
Instagram.

2. Briefly describe your morning routine.
After waking up, I always make myself a cappuccino first and check my emails that I received from my oversea partners. After being up to date what I missed overnight, I hop in the shower and never need more than 20 -30 minutes to be out the door. My office is a 10 minute walk away that I love in the morning before the craziness starts.

3. Name a business mogul you admire.
Phil Knight-Founder of Nike. I fell in love with his book Shoedog that everyone should read.

4. What product do you wish you had invented?
The Iphone.

5. What is your spirit animal?
A horse.

6. What is your life motto?
Live life to the fullest, you can only do it once. Live without regrets, there is no such thing a bad experience.

7. Name your favorite work day snack.
Avocado.

8. Every entrepreneur must be what to be successful?
Passionate, kind, and open-minded.

9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?
Japan.

10. Desert Island. Three things, go.
My favorite book, a sound system, because we need to music to survive; and a cashmere scarf to stay warm and cozy.

Belisa Silva

Belisa is an editor with more than 10 years of experience. Prior to SWAAY, she worked as freelance writer, covering lifestyle, fashion and beauty industries. Belisa was a Market Editor at Women's Wear Daily for five years, where she interviewed rockstar business women like Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Lopez and Iman. Belisa also contributes to Cosmetic Executive Women, where she highlights female executives making an impact in the beauty industry.

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