Alina Villasante is the kind of person you just want to be around: she’s good natured, effortlessly happy and genuinely kind. Not only is she interesting, she’s interested in the world around her. It’s part of what makes her growing fashion empire, “Peace Love World,” so successful.
I was reminded of her effervescent qualities a few weeks ago, when I met up with her at one of her boutiques in Aventura. We talked about how far she’s come and how far her passions have pushed her. She didn’t wanna just chat about herself, though; she questioned me about my life, what I loved and the demands of my career. I found her enchanting, sincere and amazingly grounded, despite her awe-inspiring, incredibly quick rise to fame in the fashion world.
It’s hard to believe, but Alina started her brand just six years ago (as a hobby.) As legend has it, her passion for fashion began with an annual girly get-together she hosted called the “Love Party.” During the event, Alina would gift each of her gal pals yummy material t’s with personality. Not only did her friends fall head over heels in love with her comfy creations, they wanted more. Viola! The idea for “Peace Love World” was born.
It all happened pretty fast, relatively speaking. I’m not saying there hasn’t been a lot of hard work, dedication, blood, sweat and tears involved in bringing Alina’s business to life. Matter of fact, she’s worked her butt off (and then some) to make it happen. What I am saying is – it usually takes brands decades upon decades to achieve the growth, notoriety and loyal customer following “Peace Love World” has garnered in a short amount of time (in fashion years.)
There’s absolutely no denying Alina’s vision is the exception to that rule. Her cool, comfortable, causally chic line has not only blazed its own trail, it’s caught on like wildfire. It’s worn by some of the richest, most famous and fashion-forward people on the planet (Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Halle Barry, Pharrell Williams, just to name a few.) It’s also adored by normal people, too, who just want their clothes to make them look good, feel great and give them a positive sense of well-being.
Alina’s entire approach to life is about good energy and karma (putting out into the world what you want to get back) and choosing happiness. She takes those messages and beautifully brands them (with positive affirmations) on the likes of t-shirts, sweatshirts, jogging-suits, hats, purses, scarves and more. Every single garment she creates is literally infused with love; with eight embroidered red dash-marks, one dash for every letter in the world “love” and the word “amor.”
I admire Alina for so many reasons, but mainly, because there’s a lot to be said for someone who goes out of their way to bring people joy by lifting the human spirit/condition with positive, feel-good sayings. It makes a difference in this crazy, chaotic, stressful world we all live in. It reminds me of the saying: “Every little bit counts,” because it does.
If you’re having a bad day, why not slip on a shirt that reminds you to love your life and to choose happiness. You may not be jumping for joy afterward, but the self-awareness, positive thoughts and self-healing energy can indeed help. It’s been proven (by scientists at Yale University and University of California, Berkley) you are, indeed, what you think. So why not coach your thoughts, in all aspects of life; including your wardrobe.
While interviewing Alina for Deco Drive (for her television story that coincides with the blog,) I asked her some really tough questions (ones I wouldn’t normally ask.) In all honestly, I wanted to know the answers for myself. It’s not my usual approach, but she’s the type of person you can really learn from if you listen carefully. Her outlook on life holds an incredible amount of wisdom.
What’s more, she’s soulful and unafraid to engage in deep, textured and meaningful conversation. Some of those questions lead her to share a heartbreaking story about a young, terminally-ill girl who wanted to meet her before she passed. That meeting changed Alina profoundly. She didn’t say as much, but I saw it in her eyes and I also heard the gratitude in her voice as she relayed the story.
Tragically, the young girl died, but despite the devastating outcome, Alina was able to find the beauty and love in their short-lived friendship. I imagine she also brought peace to her friends’ little soul as she drifted off into heaven (wearing one of Alina’s yellow jumpsuits with the positive affirmation: “I Am Happiness.”)
It’s moments like that that make Alina’s vision all the more profound and quite frankly, it makes me wonder why we’re all not trying to spread a little more *Peace and *Love in this *World. In the meantime, Alina keeps blazing her big old beautiful trail based on being a good, kind, decent human being and believe you me, there’s no stopping someone who has good karma on their side.
Last year, not only did Alina branch out big time by hooking up with Oprah, this year she has more incredible things to come and she can’t wait to share them with Shireen’s Favorite Thing’s fashionistas.
Shireen Sandoval: What is the concept of “Peace Love World”?
Alina Villasante: Peace Love World is a luxury lifestyle brand; its mission is to spread peace, love and happiness wherever possible. It’s about wearing your heart on your sleeve. Connecting fashion with a positive message.
SS: You started your line in 2009: how has it evolved?
AV: I began designing clothing as a hobby. Each year, I would host a Love Party where I began making shirts, pajamas, and jewelry for my closest friends and the special women in my life. Everyone went crazy over the designs and I felt that there was more to it, even though I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. While we were in the process of selling our aviation business, I founded the company Peace Love World, continued designing and manufacturing t-shirts, hoodies and sweat pants. Once the sale closed, I moved our offices across the street and launched the website and opened our first retail store later that year. My kids were growing up, we sold our business, and this was the chance for me to turn my life-long love affair with fashion into a business. It was not planned, it just sort of happened when I started following my dreams. Today, we’ve grown to operate a robust e-commerce division, eight stores in South Florida and one in Hong Kong, and we’re sold in over 2,000 boutiques across the country. We’re in major retailers including Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, Kitson and Colette Paris, with global distribution in over 18 countries.
SS: What is your favorite positive affirmation?
AV: Love the people around you and be happy.
SS: What gives you PEACE?
AV: Balancing everything in life is difficult; I could use an extra 12 hours in the day! But the most valuable thing to me is to find time to give each person in my life quality time and the feeling that they are the only person in the room.
SS: What do you LOVE most in life?
AV: My best friends, my family, they are the people that surround me every day and inspire me.
SS: What is your wish for the WORLD?
AV: World peace! http://peaceloveworld.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=%22world+peace%22
SS: What’s the best part of having your headquarters in Miami?
AV: This is where I belong, where I call home, it’s a cultural melting pot. This is the place that made me who I am today. Miami is the gateway to the world and I have been fortunate to travel to many places that inspire me. I love to travel but I’m always very happy to come home. Also, I have the gift of working with my family everyday, including my father and my three beautiful children.
SS: Last year you worked intensely with Oprah and her team on tour. What was the experience like personally and professionally?
AV: Amazing! It was the best experience of my professional life. The energy of the people – their positivity and encouragement – was unlike anything I’ve experienced. I miss everyone on that tour so much everyday.
SS: What’s the first thing you ever designed and do you still have it?
AV: Oh I do: our classic peace, love and happy symbol on t-shirts and hoodies. We made 3,000 of each in every size in black and white. I always think of this design when I reflect on how far we’ve come.
SS: The rich and famous love your clothes. Do you have any special customers that you adore and why? They don’t have to be rich or famous.
AV: I love our customers. Every time I see someone wearing our clothes it’s exciting. Oprah has been a very special customer as well as an inspiration and partner. Her support has been a game-changer.
SS: What is the one must-have fashion item from your latest collection the Miami fashionista needs to own STAT?
AV: A piece from my first namesake collection, the Alina Villasante Collection. The silk blazer you layer over your favorite Peace Love World tee, for example, with your favorite jeans and stilettos and a fabulous purse. It’s an extension of who I am. It’s a representation of how far I have come as a designer, and at the same time, a response to demand from our customers.
SS: What’s next for “Peace Love World”?
AV: We’re launching the “I Am Gentleman” collection this year, inspired by my father’s kindness and other gentlemanly attributes. We’re continuing to grow our team apparel category. Also, we’ve had such a tremendous response to our product designed exclusively for the Miami Heat that we are now delivering to more and more NBA teams and also designing for the Dallas Cowboys and some hockey teams.
SS: You’re such a happy, incredibly well-adjusted human. Is this a self-taught behavior or innate?
AV: I feel that being happy is a choice one has to make everyday and I hope I can help people do that through fashion. Sometimes you may not feel “happy,” but if you put on an “I Am Happiness” hoodie and make a conscious decision to choose happiness, it can help turn your day around. And you never know if by wearing it, you can affect someone else who may need that positive influence.
Strangely, during the time I was shooting/writing/editing and trying to complete this blog for Deco Drive and the WSVN website, I had a massively bad week, both professionally and personally. My workload was severe, I had a falling-out with a friend and someone in my life was acting extremely passive-aggressive.
As a result, I found myself feeling suffocated, overwhelmed and anxious. Then I spent the afternoon with Alina. She reminded me of why I love what I do, as her genuine passion for her loved ones, life and career are true inspirations. Alina also gave me advice (unknowingly) about how to handle difficult people and tough situations.
First and for most, she reminded me of how lucky I am to have people in my life that care about me and I for them, but she also said: “You can’t control what other people do and how they act, but you can control your own behavior by choosing happiness and always coming from a place of love.”
Alina just gets it. Whether it’s innate, self-taught or a learned way of life, she’s pretty close to mastering what many of us struggle with on a daily basis. She’s a great example of how we should all strive to be and that’s why channeling a “Positively: Peace Love World,” mind-set will always be one of my favorite things.
Blog wardrobe www.peaceloveworld.com
FB: Peace Love World
Photographer: James Woodley
Hair & Make-up: Odette Hernandez
Editor: Matthew Auerbach