Cara Bartlett & Vanessa van Zyl are the co-founders of VETTA, a 5 piece women’s capsule collection that can be worn thirty ways. VETTA is made in responsible factories from eco-friendly materials.
Growing up I really wanted to be
Cara: A country singer, but I’m from California so I didn’t have that southern twang. My second choice (in 8th grade) was to start my own fashion brand.
Vanessa: A clothing buyer/store owner.
My most-used emojis are
CB: The heart eyes, the dancing girls, and the crying laugh.
VV: Dancing girls, senorita, heart eyes.
I don’t know how I ever lived without
CB: Google maps. I may be the most directionally challenged person that has ever lived.
One thing people don’t know about me is
CB: I’ve lived in 10 cities over the past 12 years, including Granada, Spain; Santa Monica, California; Kona, Hawaii; Chennai, India; and New York City.
VV: I live in South Africa, am married to a South African and I love this continent!
My real life hero is
CB: My mom is one of the most creative and giving people I know. She taught me to sew, paint, cook, build furniture, make jewelry, decorate cakes, and the list goes on. Most importantly, she taught me to love unconditionally and serve selflessly.
VV: My Grandma Annie who grew up in Germany during WWII. Her family suffered lots of persecution for being anti-Nazi. Her second cousin offered to give her a new start in Chicago, so at 18 she left her close-knit family and moved to the USA without knowing the language. She didn’t see her family again for 9 years. She taught me that life is whatever you make it, and it can be truly adventurous and beautiful. She inspires me daily.
What I love about my work is
CB: Everything. Getting to use my right and left brain, having the autonomy to create something meaningful, learning how to run a successful business, making it easier for women to get dressed by providing go-to items for their wardrobe, getting to make a difference in the lives of garment workers and reduce the environmental impact of fashion, and working with my best friend on something we’ve dreamed about for almost a decade.
VV: There are so many amazing people that have a part to play in creating a garment. I get to work with each one — from the textile designer, pattern makers, graders, seamstresses, production managers, to the photographers. They all have such unbelievable skills and talents.
The hardest thing about my work is
CB: Being separated by an ocean from by business partner (and BFF) Vanessa, who lives in South Africa. I wish we were closer!
VV: Working overseas. Currently I am living in South Africa and Cara is in the US. Living in different countries can be really challenging, with the time difference and bad internet connection.
How I got started with my current career
CB: I have always made my own clothes, and knew I wanted own my own business and do something that helped people. I started out studying business and accounting, then worked for a non-profit, and then went back to school – to Parsons in NYC, where I studied Fashion Merchandising. After graduating, I got a job as a merchandise assistant for the women’s buying team at Saks Fifth Avenue. I later worked as a buyer for RueLaLa. At the end of last year, I left my job to work on VETTA full time!
VV: I got a job after college with a non-profit called Invisible Children. I was hired to start a handbag project that would rehabilitate women who had been abducted and abused by a rebel army in Northern Uganda. Teaching sewing construction and designing handbags with these women — who were so different from me, and yet so much like me — changed the course of my career.
The dumbest thing we did when starting out was
CB: Underestimate how much things really cost, and how long things really take.
My typical day looks like
CB: I wake up around 7:30, feed my cat Moose, make tea, and go on the balcony to journal and do my spiritual devotional. I then make a list of priorities for the day and check my emails. Every day is different, I could be sewing preliminary samples, making a bank transfer, talking to Vanessa about design ideas, ordering boxes, working with the web designer to update the website, going to the factory, or meeting with fabric suppliers. Usually I stop working around 6:30, make dinner and hang out with my husband when he gets home, and then go back to work on my computer around 8:30 while we watch TV or a movie.
VV: First thing coffee! My husband and I start every morning with our coffee and rusks (a South African biscotti). While we enjoy this goodness, we read our bibles and surrender the day to our creator before we tackle whatever is to come. I’ll usually do an hour workout whenever I can fit it in, but this is a must for me! Typically, I start with emails and then write a list of priorities for the day, which may include exploring new textiles, researching and designing a new collection, collecting social media images, planning photo shoots, dreaming up collaborations, visiting the factory, marketing meetings. Then I go home to make dinner for my husband and we go for a beach walk with our dog Nala.
I used to think success meant
CB: Doing what you love, while making a difference in the world.
VV: Having your dream job and being one of the best in your field.
My current definition of success is
CB: Loving God, yourself, and the people around you. And secondarily, doing what you love and making a difference.
VV: Finding contentment and joy in life no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
An example of when I had to push through my insecurities/fear of taking risks was when
CB: We launched VETTA in March. Putting your ideas out there, and not knowing how people will respond, can feel really vulnerable and scary! But it’s worth it.
VV: When we launched Vetta!
Cara + Vanessa