“I arrived unemployed and homeless in Cardiff feeling like my life was over – now I run my own business”
Empowering women is the cornerstone of Cherie Arlett. The 39-year-old entrepreneur from Cardiff is the mastermind behind Shecan Closet, a clothing line that celebrates everyday women and encourages them to find strength through fashion.
The mom of two knows full well how empowerment can change your life for the better since her own life has taken a disturbing turn. In fact, Shecan Closet’s slogan – “She Can, She Did, She Conquered” – is a brief summary of Cherie’s heartbreaking, but ultimately triumphant journey to rebuild her life after fleeing an abusive relationship.
With two young children in tow, she found herself jobless and homeless in the capital and felt her “life was over”. However, determined and emboldened by her dreams of a businesswoman, she regained control of her life and this is how Shecan Closet was born. Through it, she urges other women to trust their own abilities, regardless of their circumstances – and finds this to be therapeutic for her own healing.
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As a black woman in a predominantly white fashion industry, Cherie’s fire is further fueled by a desire for equal representation and shows no signs of slacking off. Following the meteoric rise of her business, which took home the award for best female-led online retailer within a year of launching, Cherie set out to build an empire of other services with the same fierce message. and persistent empowerment that underpins every aspect of his work. .
Cherie dipped her feet into the fashion world in the early 2000s when she got hired at a London modeling agency while working as a singer. The “male-led and misogynistic” field prompted her to start her own female-led agency representing women “correctly” – but she didn’t get very far in her business.
After deciding to give up gigs and modeling altogether, she “stayed off the stage” and worked nine to five in the company – but during that time she was “still so focused on creating. of a business that would help women “.
For a long time her ambition did not come true – until several years ago when, living at this stage in England, she was suddenly forced to “leave it all” and rebuild her life.
“I had to quit everything – a really good job at a high end clinic in Birmingham; the children were in good schools; I had good friends there, a support network, ”she recalls.
“It was a really tough time – a really, really tough time for me. So I went back to Cardiff and knew I had to start all over again.”
She was placed in a youth hostel in the city, then later moved to a temporary apartment. Her main priority was to have a roof over her and her children’s heads, and she found a job in early 2020 as a reception job in a salvage yard – but her dream was still quietly smoldering in the background.
“I just felt like at my age, and what I had been through and my skills, I just couldn’t keep working for someone else and keep making so much money for someone else. someone else and not do what I felt I needed to do. “
Although she initially considered taking over modeling management, Cherie realized that she could reach a lot more women through her own clothing line.
“I was thinking about empowerment through fashion because it’s something that I love, it’s something that I’m not really represented in. [in terms of] mainstream fashion, and also I had to start my life all over again, ”she said.
“So I wanted to surround the brand with my story – and that’s the message: ‘She can, she did, she conquered’. So that women who have been through anything [know] that they can do it, they can change their lives no matter what, even if you think it’s the end. “
In October 2020, Shecan Closet was officially registered and Cherie took the risk of running the brand full time.
Operating only online, the store does not have your typical retail website. In addition to clothing and accessories sales, there is also a “Style and Empowerment” page with style and empowerment tips, a “Shecan Shape Indicator” to help customers dress to suit. their body proportions, a blog featuring guest bloggers, such as other businesswomen, and a photo gallery from the Shecan team, which visitors can join.
Cherie also doesn’t use modeling or casting agencies to find her models, but instead chooses “real women, real mothers and real people” from Wales who have never been a model before. She reveals that her relationship to her models is reciprocal, admitting that she herself draws inspiration from their stories.
Less than a year after “starting from scratch”, running the show on her own from home and sometimes with the help of her brother, Cherie has won the Llais Cymru Welsh Women in Business Award for Best Online Retailer of 2021 .
While she says it was “amazing” to be recognized in the awards, they made it clear how far behind their white counterparts when it comes to empowerment initiatives.
Out of 15 categories, Cherie claimed she was just one of three women of color to be nominated for the awards and the only woman of color to win one.
“I was expecting more than three women of color,” she said, adding: “There are so many black-owned businesses run by black women in Wales. felt like it wasn’t working. “
For Cherie, the lack of diversity in awards was added motivation in her fight to make women’s empowerment accessible to everyone through fashion. “This is the main reason I started Shecan Closet – because there isn’t enough representation for black women and empowering black women at all. And we can’t make a change. as long as we are not the change. So I cannot complain about not being sufficiently represented if I am not going to try to do something, “she said.
She continued: “[Most] management positions in fashion are held by white men. Black models are not represented equally, black designers are not represented equally. So what I’m aiming for is to be that representation and to be that platform. And I would love to be the UK’s premier black designer retailer. This is something that I am looking to do in the near future. “
Shecan Closet also collaborated with Jessica Dunrod, the first black children’s author born in Wales, to be the official seller of her book Oustanding, aimed at inspiring the next generation of women leaders in the world, and also sells others. pounds from it.
The author is also part of Cherie’s plans to host networking workshops in the near future – aptly called She Conquered – to support black Welsh businesswomen.
In addition to plans to launch her own style and empowerment workshops – named She Did – for women who lack self-confidence after surgery, childbirth, bullying, racism and other reasons, Cherie is also in talks with Street Life, a project of the Safer association. Wales, which helps sex workers, collaborate on similar workshops.
But her current labor of love is her own one-hour show on Radio Cardiff each week, called She Said It, where she talks more about empowerment through fashion.
“I just thought, ‘I need a fashion and empowerment show. They don’t have one on Radio Cardiff. So just let me approach them and let them know what I can bring to Table.’ And that’s what I did and I had a show, ”she said with a laugh.
Where Cherie is today is a far cry from just a few years ago. She admitted that she found it “unbelievable” and that “it didn’t really flow”.
“I just don’t believe it. And I don’t really think about it because I’m just on a mission,” she said.
The impact of her work is what motivates Cherie and has even helped her own healing journey.
“What keeps me going is empowering other women – that’s what really keeps me going. I would say it was my kind of therapy that got me through the aftermath of an abusive relationship.
“I know women who think, ‘I can’t just go and start all over again. My life will be over.’ And I think it’s so important for them to see me do what I do because they can. That’s why it’s called ‘Shecan’ – you can do it. You absolutely can. “
She added, “I’ve even seen people say they started their business because of me, because I inspired them, and it’s amazing. And that’s why I do it. C ‘that’s exactly what I’m doing it for. “
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