Anila was only 17 years old when she began helping out at her parents fabrics shop in Fier, Albania. She traveled with them to shop for inventory in Turkey, Italy, and France where she was introduced to the textile industry and learned about fabric quality, colors, and textures. She was then introduced to some of the best dressmakers who shopped for fabric at her parents shop. When helping one of the dressmakers with an order, Anila asked her,
"Why do people go through the trouble of getting their clothes custom made rather than go shopping in normal stores?"
The dressmaker told her, "Many people here do not have the money to shop for the same dress twice. So they come to me, consult for the best quality fabric and design, and I make them a dress that will last them decades to wear to many, many events. Plus, it's a small town and people want exclusive pieces so they don't end up matching with anyone else."
Anila was so fascinated that she picked up one of her favorite fabrics and had her mom take her to the dressmaker to have her first custom dress made. It wasn't until seeing the dressmaker make her dress that Anila decided she wanted to learn the craft so that she could make herself any design that she wants. Anila's parents paid the dressmaker to train her on the craft and before she knew it, Anila's whole wardrobe was full of her very own designs. She then began to pursue her hobby professionally and open up her own dressmaking shop helping her clients pick the best fabric making one-of-a-kind designs matching each clients individuality.
Fast forward a few short years and Anila had two little girls, and an opportunity to move her family to the United States for a better future for her daughters. She embarked on the journey with her husband and two daughters, leaving behind a comfortable life, her parents, and the business she passionately built herself. As an immigrant in a new country, she struggled to learn the language, the culture, and new territory while raising her two kids. Although her life was now very different and less comfortable than before, the thought of her daughters having more opportunities and a better future kept her pushing through. She worked as a tailor at a local shop before she was able to open up her own tailoring business where she continued to practice her craft.
One day as Anila was working on the sewing machine making herself a jacket, she notices her 7 year old, Gerta, scavenging through her left-over fabric pile. Confused, she asked Gerta what she was looking for. Her daughter showed her the Barbie in her hand with one of the left-over fabric wrapped around as a dress, and said,
"I am making her a dress but I need more fabric for a belt to tie around her waist to keep the dress in place."
Anila walks over to her daughters room and finds Barbie's and fabric spread throughout the floor. Each doll is wearing dresses, tops, and skirts made from her left over fabrics.
She starts laughing and asked Gerta, "What happened to the clothes that the Barbies came with?"
Gerta scrunched her nose and said, "I don't like them."
As they grew up, her daughters would help Anila at her shop after school, which was conveniently right around the corner. Both girls loved picking out fabric Anila would have at her store and design all kinds of pieces for themselves which Anila would make custom just for them. As time passed, Anila and her girls made this their hobby where they would spend quality time together and create beautiful designs. They would go fabric shopping together, design pieces, go through fittings, and have their own little fashion shows at the shop. Gerta and Megi then moved away to college, but not far enough that they could not come home frequently and design with their mom.
It wasn't until they graduated college with newfound knowledge and experience, that Gerta developed a passion for business operations and marketing while Megi fell in love with modeling and advertising. Gerta completed a project for her sustainability course regarding the hazard fast fashion is causing to the environment and got the idea of creating a slow fashion clothing brand offering pieces made of quality, durable fabric that can be dressed up or down for any occasion. She looked through her closet at all of her custom pieces and realized that more than half were elevated basics. Because of these pieces, she never felt like she had nothing to wear and the fabric was like nothing she felt before at any clothing store.
Gerta met with Megi and Anila and told them her business idea of turning their hobby into a clothing brand embracing the traditional craftsmanship of dressmaking and offering chic, elevated basics made of premium fabric. The fabric they brought in from Europe was all limited edition, which gave Anila the idea that all pieces in the collection would too be limited edition. Some pieces would be completely one-of-a-kind as a lot of the fabric was made in limited quantities.
"This way we can give customers a unique design that no one else in the world has along with timeless, elevated basics made of the best fabric. " said Gerta.
"Ok but what will we name it?" asked Megi.
Gerta had not thought about the name but the first thing that came to her mind was a comforting memory of her childhood. She thought of her 7 year old self and Megi playing in her grandmothers garden while Anila and her mother organized fabric samples on the porch. It was the most clear memory she had of home before moving to the United States.
"What was the name of the flowers grandma grew by the porch in her garden when we were young?" Gerta asked Anila.
"She grew laurels, why?" answered Anila.
"Because whenever we design together, I get the same feeling I had playing in her garden when I was young.
What do you think about 'Dafina Company'?"