Tina Bhojwani CEO of AERA New York On the Power Of Networking and the Potential to Save the Planet
April 14, 2023
Tina Bhojwani is the Co-Founder and CEO of AERA New York. Prior to that, she held key leadership roles at global brands Donna Karan and Theory where she played an integral part in international business development. Her most recent corporate role was as President & CEO of Dolce & Gabbana, North America.

Throughout her 20-year career, she has seen the impact of the fashion industry on people and the planet and recognizes the need for change not only as a business imperative but more importantly a deeply human one. She built AERA as her contribution to address these environmental and social challenges, with the hope of making its practices the new normal in fashion. With AERA, she aspires to show consumers that style, design and quality can go hand in hand with sustainability. Most recently, Tina spearheaded the opening of a pop-up retail space in Soho called Figure Eight, inviting an array of eco-conscious luxury brands to showcase and sell products that share a similar vison and ethos.

Why did you start Aera?

I have spent most of my career working for incredible companies such as Donna Karan, Theory and Dolce & Gabbana. And, while feeling most grateful for the experience gained throughout my career, I felt it was time to pivot and take a leap of faith and use that experience to do something mission driven and entrepreneurial --with the dream of creating positive change in the industry I am so passionate about.

What did your background in fashion teach you that you had to unlearn as you focused on sustainability?

Throughout my career I witnessed firsthand the social and environmental impacts made by the industry and once I started to research and better understand the issues, I knew that it was time to try and rethink the existing business models.

For me it was less about unlearning but addressing traditional, unsustainable models such as seasonality, over production, opaque supply chains, and traditional materials. And, to take a new and modern approach with seasonless collections, transparency, next gen materials etc. while respecting and embracing the long-standing luxury tradition of artisanal craftsmanship.

With AERA the mission is show that luxury and sustainability can go hand in hand; and that style quality and design do not have to be compromised in the name of social and environmental welfare.

What do you believe are the biggest trends impacting fashion that will benefit the planet and our community?

Vegan and sustainable luxury fashion is a globally growing trend, driven by the consumer.

Sharing some extremely encouraging statistics about the consumer: 75% of fashion consumers view sustainability as extremely important. More than 50% of consumers plan to switch brands in the future if another brand acts more environmentally and socially friendly than their preferred one. And, more than a third of consumers report that they have already switched from their preferred brand to another that credibly stands for positive environmental or social practices.

Younger customers (gen Y & Z) are driving the shift towards sustainability and will make up 70% of the personal luxury goods market by 2025.

The global vegan women’s fashion market size was valued at 396 billion when we launched AERA and expected compounded growth is 13.6% from 2020 -2027.

What are your top lessons for being successful that you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

The importance of community is the most important lesson that I have learned as an entrepreneur.

I would like to take a moment to share a little bit about our community approach to fundraising. Traditional early-stage fundraising does not typically serve companies committed to steady, thoughtful growth. We knew we needed to think differently and wanted to align with investors who embodied our same ethos. That’s why we’re pioneering something new with the establishment of The AERA Family, a collective of influential and impact-focused women funders with shared values and a long-term approach to growth who actively work to amplify our brand and mission. Together this impressive group of women bring varied backgrounds and careers, diverse experiences and perspectives, and hail from all over the world. Nothing great can be done without community and I am so grateful to this group of women.

Also, the realization that being an entrepreneur is not a linear path (in any sense) is a big lesson – in order to be successful, one must constantly adapt and be flexible while always keeping the mission or “the why” as the overarching guiding light.

Finally, patience and perseverance are key!

Who are women you admire?

There are so, so many --- so I will share a little about a couple who have inspired me personally and professionally-- I have great admiration for my mother who has inspired me the most to become who I am today, she taught me gratitude, humility, and the power of unconditional love and was an artist and happens to have great style. She has also always encouraged me to follow my dreams – one of which was to work in fashion. And she supported my decision to work for Donna Karan, woman who I admired as a student at Georgetown University.

I vividly remember Donna’s powerful “In Women We Trust” campaign portraying a woman for president – to me she was prescient and understood the need for women’s political empowerment in the early 1990s. Also, the idea of empowering women and using fashion as a tool was fascinating to me.

I also admire Dr. Jane Goodall for her impressive, life-long commitment to a better future for humans, animals and our environment.

Ultimately, any woman who stands up and supports others, especially those less fortunate, or fights for a more just and equitable future are to be admired.

What should executive women be thinking about as they consider the growing climate crisis?

I believe everyone should be conscious about this existential crisis we are facing and never believe that their individual or organization’s contribution are too small to matter. Going back to Jane Goodall she explains “I think the important thing is realizing that thousands or millions of people who make even a small ethical choice every day cumulatively will make a real difference.” It is the collective of many small actions that will bring about change.

Executive women can use their respective platforms to act and inspire others to be mindful of this simple realization that we all have such power and that it matters.

What’s one thing you can’t live without?

My faith in humanity – often when we read the news and see what is happening in the world it is easy to feel overwhelmed – same goes when becoming an entrepreneur and starting a business that is going against the status quo– but my belief that ultimately the good outweighs the bad is what keeps me optimistic. This type of positive outlook helps bring out the best in me even in challenging times.

Do you have one great piece of advice on networking that you’d like to share?

Genuine connection comes from being human and humble; and vulnerability is often a strength. Also, networking is a two-way street – we often get what we give and vice versa.



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