Behind Milla; Eva Donders Harkema

“I don’t describe myself as a girly girl. I wanted to become a criminal lawyer". - Eva

In this blog Eva Donders Harkema, 32 years old, tells us all about Milla and how it started 6 years ago. A lot has changed since then, and I am dying to know about everything that has happened in the past few years.

As we know Milla has been here since 2014. However, this wasn’t what Eva had in mind to be her future job. She actually studied law and business administration for four years. “I don’t describe myself as a girly girl. I wanted to become a criminal lawyer. I was looking for that excitement, that challenge in life. I always saw myself walking through prison defending a criminal in court”. She explains laughing. After a while she knew this wasn’t what she wanted to do. She still finished her study because she thought it would come in handy in the future. After her study she did not know what she wanted in life. So, she started working at her parents’ company. “They had their own business in waste disposal. They we’re working on a new project that turned waste into electricity that could be used at restaurants, hotels and other local businesses. It was really interesting actually but too plain for me”.

So, Eva decided to take a turn in life and to do something she had always dreamt of doing; starting up her own brand. “After I knew I didn’t want to work at my parent’s business anymore I decided that it was time to go for it. I started designing my own collection for the first time. I was presenting my collection at the Modefabriek, a fashion fair in Amsterdam, and just let it happen, whatever that was. I did not even have a clear vision for the brand. It was learning by doing actually. During this process you learn a lot about yourself. As an entrepreneur, you find out what you can’t do. Don’t look at this in a negative way, because this is how you know what kind of people you need around you to make it a success. You should know that as an entrepreneur you do not know or need to know everything about the business”.

Of course, as a starting entrepreneur, and even as an experienced entrepreneur, you experience some setbacks. But how are you handling these situations as a starting entrepreneur? What gives you the motivation to keep going? “It’s really important to have dedication in this business. You got to have patience with the process and accept it won’t be a success all out of a sudden. Besides that, it is very important that you love what you do. It gives me joy and energy to see Milla grow”.

Eva sees the setbacks as something good. It gives her motivation to do better the next time and it makes all the good moments even better. At the beginning of Milla, Eva was just trying and testing everything to see how it goes. In the past few years she and Milla grew and she gained a clear vision for Milla as a brand. “I want Milla to be a combination between tough, strong and feminine. I want to offer a full collection that you can wear any day. For example, you will have a suit that you can wear to a meeting in the morning, but also to a night out with your friends

In the fashion industry everything changes constantly. As a fashion brand it is your job to be on top of every trend. How do you keep up with the trends? “Of course, we are looking at trends and, in some way, we apply this to our collection. But what is important for us, is that everything matches with Milla and its style”.

Not only in the fashion industry everything is changing, but also in the social media industry. How do you apply these trends to Milla? “We recently started up a new social media strategy. We hired people to help us with this so that Milla will also be available for everyone active on social media. At the moment we are most active on Instagram, here we will be updating you about our upcoming collections and campaigns. We are currently busy preparing everything for the high winter collection that we will launch in October. Everything about our collections will be posted on our Instagram and Facebook as well”.

With all these exciting new strategies and plans we can expect a lot of changes for Milla in the upcoming years. Where do you see Milla in five years from now? “If everything goes on like this and we will keep growing, then I think Milla will be a known concept in Holland. From that moment I want to expend Milla to see if we can go international. By doing this we will keep growing and be able to create amazing things in the future”. 

What we can learn from Eva her story, is that having a fashion brand, or even your own company is about falling and getting back up on your feet. For Eva as well it was a long journey to come where she stands right now. “The most important thing when you start a business is that you really push through. You’ve got to realize, that it all seems fun and games, like you’re a professional sporter, but you should not forget that it brings a lot of stress and hard work if you want to become that professional sporter. It is a life you choose for, and you will get there by learning from every mistake you make”.

To see how Eva will evolve in the upcoming years you can follow @evadondersharkema on Instagram, or @millaamsterdam to be updated about our collections! 

XX Milla

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