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Designer builds brand from Greensboro

by Jordan Green

‘ jordan@yesweekly.com

Lauren Watts has encountered some setbacks lately, but you wouldn’t know it from her disposition. The slender, young woman with luxuriant, blond tresses readily owns up to the adversity in her life, but maintains an insistently positive attitude and a sense of gratitude for her blessings.

That spirit translates with Watts’ fashion accessory company, Valentía Ifuerza, which celebrates the inner and outer beauty of women.

The name is derivative of the Spanish phrase “courage and strength,” and helps project an international fashion capital brand for Watts’ product line of sleek handmade purses and clutches, jewelry and spa products such as aromatherapy neck wraps and eye pillows.

“For the past six years I’ve had a debilitating illness,” she said. “I’ve been to Wake Forest, Duke and the Mayo Clinic. I actually lost my job because of my health situation. I had to put all my ducks in a row or my eggs in one basket and put everything into this company.”

She has been partially diagnosed with Celiac disease, which is associated with gluten intolerance. Almost everything she eats makes her feel sick, Watts said, and she experiences significant fatigue. Sometimes she finishes a day that anyone else would have called in sick and goes to bed at 5 p.m. Watts said a portion of the proceeds of her sales are donated to an organization that researches Celiac disease.

The Winston-Salem native, who studied interior architecture at UNCG, launched her business about two and a half years ago. As a child, her mother wouldn’t let her near a sewing machine, but Watts started making prototypes and gradually settled on her designs through trial and error. She said she has now sold her products in 22 states through the internet, and has made gradual progress getting her products placed in spas and retail stores in the Triad.

Progressions Salon & Spa in Greensboro commissioned Watts to specially produce neck wraps that don’t mildew. Samantha Woodroof with the spa said clients have raved about the neck wraps and eye pillows in online reviews. Jade Aveda in Greensboro also uses Watts’ neck wraps and eye pillows.

Valentía Ifuerza neck wraps are made with a satin cover that is stuffed with flax and French lavender that produces natural moisture. “A girl likes to feel pampered,” Watts said. “She doesn’t want some-

Valentía Ifuerza products can be found in Jade Aveda and Progressions Salon & Spa in Greensboro, and Evy’s Gifts in Greensboro and Kernersville. To browse and purchase online, visit valentiadesign.com.

thing that feels like her kid’s diaper around her neck.”

The eye pillows should be stored in a freezer and can be used for headaches and other ailments.

“All of us women have problems with dark, puffy eyes,” Watts said.

“With that cool temperature, it’s unreal how good that feels.”

Valentía Ifuerza handbags and clutches have a sleek, unfussy look.

Watts uses Burberry-style fabric, vinyl and genuine leather. She said she has established a partnership with a local Italian leather importer to supply material.

“I like a clean and sleek style,” Watts said. “A lot of fashion has too many bells and whistles, with fringe and buttons everywhere. But I do like buttons. I think every little girl has that part of her that wants to be a princess bride.”

Watts said she wants all of her products to be affordable. Evy’s Gifts, with stores at Jefferson Village in Greensboro and downtown Kernersville, recently agreed to carry Valentía Ifuerza handbags, jewelry and spa products.

“She’s a local craftsmen who does good quality work and she not charging an arm and a leg for it,” owner Joe Attayek said. “I was really impressed with her designs and her pricing.”

Watts has embraced Greensboro as a geographic identity for her company, using local models wearing clothing from Songbirds Consignment at sites such as Syn & Sky and Greene Street in her fashion shoots.

“Greensboro has a lot to offer, and I think we sell it short,” Watts said. “There is no reason we can’t create something just as fantastic in Greensboro as Paris. It’s just the way you spin it and sell it. Even in New York, where they have everything, they’re always looking for something fresh. Most people’s take on the Southern states is that everything is tractors and cows, and there’s no fashion. My role is to challenge that.”

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