International Women's Day: KOIBIRD

Q&A with Belma Gaudio, founder of KOIBIRD.

Tell us about your role and business… 

I am the founder of the multi-brand concept store KOIBIRD. Our aim is for the store to add a sense of joy to the shopping experience and encourage customers to express themselves through their clothes. KOIBIRD has a physical store on Marylebone Lane, as well as a growing e-commerce business. We seek our brands from all over the world and really try to act as an authority in terms of introducing unknown brands that aren't widely distributed in the UK to this market, whilst also uplifting them on a global scale via our e-com platform.

What inspired you to found KOIBIRD? 

I travel a lot, and to me one of the most exciting things about an upcoming trip  is the packing and putting together interesting outfits that will make me feel special and sets me apart on my travels. I like to be prepared and pack well for trips, and I theme my wardrobes around the destinations I go to. I also gravitate toward a curation of labels that aren't too exposed, and love finding new unique pieces that will make me stand out. This is such a special ritual for me and so I really wanted to build a space that consolidated all of these brands and concepts into one place and offered other women that chance to be able to do the same.

What do you think are some of the main contributing factors that got you where you are today? 

A specific point of view. A very honed eye, and staying true to my style, view and taste. Confidence helps.

What challenges have you faced along the way? Any particular challenges as a woman in your industry? 

This is my second career, and one that is a lot more favourable to women than my last one. I used to be a bond trader in one of the largest hedge funds in the world. I was the only woman on the trading floor for the 8 years I worked there. I was lucky to work in an amazing company where I didnt feel second rate to the men but I know that elsewhere it was very prevalent. Currently, I actually feel very empowered in my role and in my new industry and definitely feel very respected. I think for women, the world is finally our oyster and the fashion industry is one of the best examples of where we dominate. My most obvious struggle is simply that I've had to fight very to get to where I am today. Not against men, but everyone. I fled my home in former-Yugoslavia during the war in the early nineties as refugee, but since this point I have never let people's prejudices affect my goals or my output. I've always tried to be grateful for everything that I have in my life and have done my best to prove my worth on my terms.

What motivates you? 

Striving to always be the best version of myself. I'm constantly surrounded (well, not at the moment) by lots of hardworking, creative women who are also constant sources of inspiration to me.

What  women  inspire you? 

My mother inspires me for raising me on her own in the Middle East while working long hours as a Radiologist in what was a difficult society for foreign women. My parents were together but lived on different continents due to us being refugees at the time. Other women that inspire me are Benazir Bhutto, Carol Rama (a very controversial artist of the early 20th century) and Madonna for her creativity and her consistent ability to re-invent herself (she is definitely a KOIBIRD icon).

Do you have any advice for other women looking to get into your industry? 

wasn’t trained in fashion, and after my career in finance the only way I could get into fashion was through starting my own business as I was essentially un-hireable given my lack ofbackground or formal experience within the industry.  But I love the industry, I always have, and have dabbled in it in various ways. I have a very strong sense of my own style and decided to share that with others and just go for it. Show people what you have, what you can do for them, and just give your dreams a go. And stay determined.

What does International Women’s Day and this year's theme Choose to Challenge mean to you? 

I’ve never felt more hopeful for women in 2021. At every corner, we are truly crushing the rampantly grossly misogynistic notion of 'the weaker sex’.

I am so proud of what the world has collectively accomplished over the last few years through the various movements, education platforms and efforts that have made such excellent strides to move things forward. This last year during the pandemic we all were reminded just how mortal and fleeting life can be. It really has been the great equaliser. I truly feel there is no greater time to be a woman and the time is now to seize the day, live our lives and fight for what is right. I have spent the last year analysing myself, my thoughts, my beliefs and seeing how I can do and think better.

Why did you choose Marylebone Village for your business? 

It is my favourite part of London, it reminds me of Greenwich Village in NYC. It's cute, quaint and trendy, with great restaurants and shops and has a very quaint atmosphere that so many areas in London do not. It is both small and impressive, and a real neighbourhood of impressive people.

What is coming up for KOIBIRD? 

Well unlike our past edits that were heavily themed around specific destinations, we have decided to re-pivot our concept for this upcoming season and listen to the world around us and what our customers need right now. Because of this, we are launching KOIBIRD Breaks a Sweat” at the start of March and are offering an array of athleisure essentials that really play to Koibird's signature sense of fun and escapism. This means lots of bold hues, tie-dye prints, fun sporting accessories and a whole host of wellness products. We've really wanted to keep this as meaningful as possible, and so the majority of the buy consists of largely female-owned labels that are working to contribute something towards the activewear category, be it through charitable efforts, technical prowess, design or sustainability.

Where is your favourite place/what is your favourite thing to do in Marylebone Village? 

Shreeji News for some good old fashion mags, with the cutest homewares selection by The Artichoke at the back of the newsagent. Monocle next door also has the best Matcha Latte and some of my favourite cinnamon rolls!


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