Hers is a story of great struggle, determination and success. Andrea Vance looks like a successful businesswoman but her success is only as a result of being driven to truly make a difference in the lives of women. She related her story to WE Mag, “I did not know how strong I am and how much I could endure. I had no idea that one pair of jeans could change my life in this way. I became a businesswoman just after my son was born because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of so many women. I wanted women to feel a sense of confidence, sophistication and uniqueness like none before.”
Armed with that yearning, Andrea, who comes from humble beginnings, started off a business with a few hundred dollars. She had no idea what she was going to do but she just knew she needed to build a business that would help women to feel confident. On one of her trips abroad, the mother of one came across a pair of jeans and was in total awe by the way she looked when she wore it. The jeans seemed to lift her butt and give her an extraordinary shape. She felt like the sexiest woman alive. Wanting every woman to feel that way, Andrea and her husband used whatever little money they had and bought 12 pairs of jeans.
She got back to Trinidad, bought a Styrofoam cooler, papered it with beautiful contact paper and put it in her car. Out of the trunk of her faithful Yaris, which she named Step One (representing the first step she took out of poverty), Andrea went from south to north, east, west and central. “Those first 12 jeans were the hardest to sell” said Andrea. “Sometimes customers even joked with me asking if I was selling drinks out of the cooler.”
Andrea got many rejections and she was also dealing with postpartum depression. Still, she did not let that stop her. “My husband knew how passionate I was about this dream and every opportunity that came our way, we took it.” Andrea and her husband found the companies abroad which would help them in their venture. After the first 12 jeans were sold and word spread about the miraculous fit, the demand for it rose. In a short space of time, she sold so many jeans, that she was able to open a store – Step One Clothing, so named for good reason.
The jeans fit her customers so well but after having a plus-sized customer cry in her store, Andrea noticed that many Caribbean women had a little trouble in the tummy area. She was determined to fix that. Thus, inspired by her great grandmother years ago to do sewing, Andrea used that knowledge and began designing jeans suited for every customer.
“For my first design, I took the style, details and comfort into great focus. Taking into consideration the body types and lengths, I was always specific with the quality of the fabric and the details even down to the buttons and zippers. I was not creating a masterpiece only for myself but for lots of other women who were seeking comfort in them” she related.
It was done and Andrea celebrated her new collection – Chris Jeans. “I have since designed seven collections including compression leggings” she related. Her first fashion show was truly a success in collaboration with her distribution partner MODA 21, who played a significant role in introducing the jeans to the national, regional and international markets. The businesswoman, this year held her third fashion show – The Dream Collection.
Andrea says that her journey is far from finished. “There were days when the challenges were so real,” she said. Asked about her greatest challenge, she stated, “Postpartum depression is no joke. I understand women who go through this horrific event after giving birth. It is a battle between you and yourself. The mind is such a strong element, but I have learnt that with prayer anything is achievable. It was the most I have ever prayed in my life. I begged God daily to preserve my sanity. It was a real challenge but I got through it by his grace. It was sufficient for me.”
As for why people keep returning to Andrea, she said, “Our style and approach is unique and different. The fact is that all women, including myself, struggle with some kind of insecurity about themselves. What I offer provides a difference that creates confidence and that look and feel-good experience which one would never acquire from regular clothing. Why be regular when you can be extraordinary? An original copy of you is always better than an imitation of someone. If I can, then you can. Everyone has the potential to do something great in this life. #ALWAYSORIGINALNEVERACOPY.”