Elle at the Zvelle factory located in Italy. Photo Credits: Zvelle.
Eloise Somera is a 3L JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Alessia Monastero is an Associate Lawyer at Bhole IP Law and a Deputy Editor for the IPilogue.
On April 19, 2021, Canada’s Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland donned a new pair of shoes to announce the annual federal budget, as per tradition, this time from the Toronto-based artisanal shoe company Zvelle. In a recent interview with Elle AyoubZadeh – the founder of Zvelle, – we talked about all things fashion, trademarks, and women empowerment.
Elle always knew she was a purpose-driven person. While she started her career at a global investment management firm on Bay Street, Elle left her corporate lifestyle to start what would be her first entrepreneurial venture, a concept store that combined luxury retail products with wine and skin care. In all of her roles, one thing that stood out to Elle (and likely, to a number of women), was the unreasonable and unattainable standards set by the fashion industry. As a result, Elle married her passion to redefine the story of women with her passion for well-crafted products, especially shoes, to create the Zvelle brand. Thus, the phrase “Walk How You Want”, awaiting trademark registration as of publication, was born.
What goes into a brand name? Elle told us that she wanted something unique and distinctive. Luckily for her, Zvelle fit these criteria. “This brand was bigger than me and so, I did not want to just use my name”. Elle knew that if she was to build a company as successful as Zvelle is today, she had to consider certain brand elements early on in her business. When considering brand names, she and her lawyer came across an existing retailer which could have potentially caused confusion between the two companies. When they came across this roadblock, Elle was at the stage of her business where rethinking her brand name was a viable alternative. This challenge ultimately led to the creation of the Zvelle brand.
Elle noted, however, that when it comes to intellectual property protection, the fashion industry can be a difficult space. “It is rare to be the first creator of a piece and its design. Fashion brands get their inspiration from one another, whether they are aware of it or not.”
As a result, Elle focuses on ensuring that each of her handbags and pairs of shoes has the “Zvelle touch”, consisting of high-quality materials and impeccable crafting. By ensuring that each Zvelle product is special and unique to the brand, Elle is confident that competitors will always have difficulty copying her designs and convincing consumers of authenticity.
Photo Credits: Zvelle.
During our chat, Elle left us with three valuable lessons.
First, Elle’s journey to create Zvelle consisted of many life-changing moves. Elle reminded us that where you start is not necessarily where you will end up. To all the new and experienced lawyers alike, this is a great reminder to continue learning and exploring our interests in the legal field.
Second, to those interested in entering the fashion industry and starting a brand, Elle emphasizes the importance of being realistic and coming up with a feasible legal plan. Like Elle’s approach with Zvelle, it is important for entrepreneurs to prioritize their brand’s survival and reputation while planning a realistic intellectual property strategy. To Elle, a brand is not just what you wear, or the physical products created. What others say about your company is often one of the most influential aspects of building a reputable brand. The Zvelle brand, for example, empowers women and encourages women to move through the world in their own way.
Finally, Elle encourages intellectual property law students and lawyers to not only be experts in their field to assist clients, but to also develop an entrepreneurial mindset to better understand a client’s business model.
After speaking to Elle and learning about her business, we can confidently say that the Zvelle brand fully encompasses and encourages consumers to walk how they want. With a brand so aligned to its fundamental values, it is no wonder that Elle continues to grow and build out the Zvelle community far beyond the world of shoes.