When I close my eyes and imagine where Volante Design will be in 3 years, it’s easy to think about where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. In 2013 I had no conception that we’d end up here, so now, I have to challenge myself to dream bigger. The difference between 2013 and now is that while I didn’t know where we might end up, I knew innately what our core values were and how I would make the decisions I made every day. Nowadays I’m not the only one making decisions and choosing directions, so it’s time we made a map. It’s time to imagine more, much more.
Importantly, my dreams for Volante Design are not just mine, not just David’s, not just the management team’s ideas. They are also ideas from our community and tentative but brilliant suggestions from staff, insistent comments from my mother, and guidance from mentors and friends with whom I’ve spent hours talking. Volante Design is greater than the sum of its parts and I hope that this vision reflects that.
This is a new sheet of paper, an untouched expanse, a land unknown to us. It is the future. Turns out there is no guidebook folks, only this rough map.
By December 31st, 2025 Volante Design will look, feel and be quite different than it does today. Here’s a snapshot of our future.
Because we’re designing the future of fashion. We have been able to boldly stretch our wings and make show stopping pieces in small 42 piece batches. These Designer’s Workshop pieces have become the testing ground for our new products. Real creativity is about pushing boundaries and not replicating what others have done. Some of these new ideas turned out to be exceptional, functional, and work for our customers while being scalable at a reasonable profit margin. Others did some of these jobs well, but not all of them. To preserve our creative spark it’s crucial that we can play and release products that are essentially still in “workshop mode.” We have released about one a month. Women’s products and men’s products are treated separately, as we’ve seen that our audiences who identify in these groups behave differently. Because of the nature of these tests, we will can’t initially say if these products are coming back. There’s simply no way to know until we see how they perform. You, our community, will get to have a say in what we make here. Everyone who buys a Designer’s Workshop piece has been asked to participate in a survey and we include your comments in our product review. You will continually be part of making each piece better. Your voice is heard.
The best of the Designer’s Workshop products will go on to be Contenders. Contenders will test scalability, market hunger for the product, and staying power. The Contenders will be vying for a spot in the Champion’s collection. We’ll have gathered good feedback from the Designer’s Workshop phase and we will choose what to incorporate into the next version of the design. It’s unlikely that the Contenders will look just like the Designer’s Workshop pieces. We expect to release about 5-7 of these per year in batches of approximately 100 pieces.
We have a core collection of products that are evergreen, called Champions. These sell steadily and make up the core of our brand’s offerings. We endeavor to have these in stock all the time. These are the heavy hitters that appeal to our customer base the most, and are the most scalable, most perfected, most evolved that they can be. When a Contender levels up, it may depose a Champion product. We only have 10-15 Champion products to allow us to really focus on telling the story of those products best and to do them justice. Strategies are in place for each product to give it the limelight. These are the most popular pieces as they have passed through the gauntlet of the Contender’s ring.
We will be quite limited in the custom work we can take. I know this may be disappointing to some. We’ve expanded our sizing range and offer more stretch options for easier fitting. That allows us to help some customers who don’t fit easily into our current range and have taken the custom route for that reason. As for those of you who have a vision of exactly what you’d like to have made, we always cherish your creativity, your multitude of ideas and your imagination. You can always submit your ideas to us. You never know, it might become the next Designer’s Workshop. Or, you can always email us to get a recommendation for another trusted artist for your custom project. We know a lot of amazing makers. We know you’ll be excited by some of our Designer’s Workshops. We have delivered on our promise to make some pretty amazing things.
Our core purpose is to create the best thing for our customers. We make the opposite of apathetic fashion. We want to instill passion for self expression and style in others. You should feel confident and authentically yourself when you wear Volante Design. In the ideal world we inspire you to think more about your clothes--not just what you might wear and what goes with it, but about quality, longevity, sustainability, and fair wage practices. Yes we are that idealistic and proudly so.
Our products are designed with an enormous amount of intention and care. We hope that you find the path towards greater intention in your life. You are already extraordinary, you deserve to feel that way. Our mission to make you feel that way has always been about awakening you to your own awesomeness.
We have grown an exceptional leadership team who embody and enact our core values. They passionately believe in what we’re doing and they strategically hit or kick our goals into overdrive. This strong leadership team communicates our culture in everything we do. Our workplace is driven, diverse, accepting of dissent and discussion, hard working, and happy to make time for play when we’ve gotten the job done. We never hire anybody who is too cool to take out the trash or sweep the floor. There is no hierarchy of ideas. While we have a business structure in place for clarity and communication, everyone is respected, held accountable, and listened to. Each team member is clear about their mission and the path forwards because our leadership team is doing its good work. Leaders work within or under budget and the results of their department consistently wow the other teams. Our heads of departments are Marketing and Sales, Production and Operations, Design and Product Development, Finance, HR, and each department reports to the CEO weekly.
Volante Design offers a profit share to all employees who have been with us for 3 years or more.
We hire passionate, hungry, and focused people who strive to make the organization, product or project excellent. We put a great emphasis on people who want to learn, grow, and improve. Without great people we cannot make great products.
We believe that people count. We put people first in our production and design process. We put our customers first when we make decisions. We are as authentic and transparent as possible. This is an ongoing process. Because we put people first, that commitment dictates what sort of quality, fair, and equal employment we strive for in everything we do. We also seek to make sure our staff have ample opportunities to enjoy their lives outside of work. We have a 401k benefit plan, work a 4 day work week, subsidize dental and health care, and give paid sick and vacation time. It’s not enough to talk, we walk the walk.
Candor and creativity go hand in hand. Designs and products don’t pop out perfectly, they evolve. In order for them to be able to evolve we have to trust each other enough to share them, work on them, discuss them and tweak them. Only through candid and caring feedback can we engage with something as delicate as the creative process. We take this approach of self-awareness and reflection into all our experiences and are aiming to learn from every experience no matter how seemingly insignificant or disastrous.
David and Willow are busy designing a variety of products and styles of clothing. We are the dynamic duo at the heart of everything. We find ways to keep it fresh, we welcome ideas from the whole team, and we workshop each product with multiple departments to get feedback and make the best version possible. We have design assistants who work on sourcing and realizing the design samples. Every year we have a design contest and we spotlight other designer’s work in our team and in our community. We have just launched an internship program where emerging designers can work with us and learn about what it takes to be in a creative field.
Marketing and Sales
The Marketing and Sales department has grown to a 5-7 person team. Each member of the team brings a unique and valued perspective to the discussion. And everything is up for discussion. We have a visual content creator who focuses on the visual storytelling, a writer who tells the product’s story and reaches out to press, a social media and community manager who is making sure we’re always hitting the right tone for the moment that we’re in, a sales and data analyst who forecasts, reviews and implements new sales strategies, an e-commerce growth focused person, and a director who gracefully holds the whole department accountable and coherent. Some of the 5 people will do 2 of these jobs, some focus on one. We will have to see how things shake out in the people department.
Events is an important part of the Marketing & Sales department with its own autonomous director. There are 3-4 people who are representing Volante Design at various events all over the world. They are growing our audience and bring in sales from places that we might not normally see on our site. They embody the Volante Design story in word and deed all over the land and in everything they do.
We’ve explored new types of events, like Volante Con, fashion collaborations with other artists and brands, pop-up shops, and Renaissance faires.
Production & Operations
Volante Design has its own small factory and is leading a comeback in American manufacturing. Production is headed by an awesomely organized person who keeps the proverbial trains running on time. The production director is supported by a skilled floor manager who keeps the sewing team working smoothly and with max efficiency. We have 7-8 sewists who make our in-house production. We make 100% of our Designer’s Workshop pieces in house and many of the Contenders as well. Champion products are made out of house in collaboration with the best factories in North America. We personally review and assure each and every product meets the standards that Volante Design is known for.
We have a few fair trade certified factories overseas which brings the meaning of local production and distribution to a new level. Our overseas factories partner with a distribution center that makes our products much more accessible to local audiences. All our factories are focused on high quality ethically making our products. They are in Europe and Asia to better serve those markets. Our teams regularly do work exchanges so that we stay richly connected to the mission of Volante Design.
Operations is the drum line that holds the whole band together. We have an awesome director of Operations who manages the various priorities in each department and makes sure that everybody understands what’s going on and why. They understand the whole picture of how and why the company works and they are able to make the important daily decisions about how best to get things done.
Volante Design is making excellent profits. We routinely pull in 6 million a year in sales and at least 25% of it is profit. We are 100% employee owned and give an annual share of profits to every member on the team depending on tenure and job performance. We don’t have to exploit people or the planet in order to earn strong profits. Our community understands and values that we treat people fairly. Managers make a starting salary and benefits package of $60k per year. All staff members get a salary and benefits package of at least $40k. The founders make $75k at least.
We’ve got a year’s worth of operating expenses in the bank and we leave it there to earn interest. That’s our insurance policy.
We are known and respected for our design work. The press calls us regularly to hear about what’s coming next and we’ve been featured in the best gaming and fashion editorials. We’re not in competition with other companies because there simply isn’t anyone like us. We’ve always been “different” but now it’s the best thing ever.
We’re regularly called to do costuming in movies, shows and in-game character design. So often in fact that we pick and choose the projects that suit us best.
People buy things because they might not normally buy because they have our name on it. In this way we’re expanding people’s fashion horizons and it’s lots of fun. We often hear phrases like “I wouldn’t normally go for this sort of thing, but I heard it was a Volante piece and I tried it...Welp, I get it now and I’ll be back for more!”
At least one person has met their spouse by way of “Is that a Volante?” and we will be dressing them for their wedding.
We’ve gotten major press by dressing celebrities on the red carpet in something radically different than what is typically seen on the red carpet. Our designs have been featured on Star Trek and in movies. No matter how big we get we retain a DIY, grassroots attitude and ethos.
In 3 years we have filled out the space that we’ve got now, and we will have added suites across the hall. The east end of the Eastworks building will be all ours. We’ll have a conference room, a media and photo room, each department head has an office, and our space will reflect the diverse and colorful interests that our staff have. Board game nights have become a staple and our workplace culture is vibrant and playful.
Our community and customers are at the heart of our mission. They are always on our minds, we are always working to bring them the best experience, the best product, the best price, the safest community space and the most care that we possibly can. There is no Volante Design without our community, there never would have been. Our community extends to our customers, our staff, our friends who’ve believed in us, shared our work, talked us up, staffed our con booth, given out our business cards, and been there at all the most important moments. This is our journey. We couldn’t be more proud to have friends like you, and more humbled that our work has spoken to you. You are an engaged, interesting, diverse, talented, creative bunch who listen and encourage each other. We will always want more friends like you.
Our community has grown quite a bit. We have 8k folks on Discord, 100k people on our mailing list, over 100k on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We have a strong Youtube channel and we will be on other platforms that arise and fit our brand.
We have dressed 50k people by the time 2025 rolls around. Will you be one of them?Willow Volante, CEO