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Elle AyoubZadeh has gone from Nelson to empowering women all over the world through high-fashion. Today, she heads up a luxury lifestyle brand with a social conscience in Canada. Kea takes a walk with Elle to find out more about life in this Kiwi expat's shoes.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Elle. Who are you and where are you from?
I’m a global citizen, adventurer and storyteller. I was born in Iran, grew up in Dubai and moved to New Zealand when I was thirteen. I lived in Auckland and later moved to Nelson, where my family still lives.

I’ve always been a proud Kiwi and love connecting with Kiwis anywhere around the globe. I’m a big fan of the All Blacks and try to never miss a game.

I founded Zvelle, a globally-inspired luxury lifestyle brand, to celebrate women through the stories we tell and creations we share. Our inspirations, designs and teams are drawn from around the world. We craft shoes for now, but watch this space!
How, when and why did you become an expat?
After studying at the University of Otago, I moved to Sydney and became an expat. I spent a couple of years working in investment management before relocating to Toronto. I’ve always wanted to explore the world and build something meaningful and impactful.

What are some of your favourite things about living in Toronto?
Everything you would want or need in a big city is here, including culture, art and food. I love how Toronto is a cultural mosaic. The only downside is how far it is from Nelson! 


Tell us about your work with Zvelle. What motivated you to start your own business?

Zvelle is a modern luxury brand that sells directly to our customers, exclusively on our website and in our pop-up boutiques. We produce timeless, classic and well-crafted luxury shoes throughout the year.

I founded Zvelle because I saw a problem I wanted to help solve. As a global citizen and a woman, I couldn’t relate to the way women were portrayed in fashion. I didn’t believe then and I don’t believe today that there is one standard for beauty, body or style that the rest of the world should follow.

I’m very purpose-driven and starting my own business was something I had to do. I’ve always been very entrepreneurial, even when I worked in the investment management industry.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?

In the beginning, our biggest challenge was finding the right factory and suppliers to partner with. I basically lived on a plane travelling to Spain, Italy and Brazil meeting with factory owners and touring factories. We have direct relationships with all of our suppliers and establishing this foundation was difficult. The way we overcome this was the way you overcome anything: by working hard, doing the hard things and refusing to take no for an answer.

Another challenge has been to remain focused as a purpose-driven brand and develop with the long-term future in mind. It’s easy to get distracted when you’re building a brand and getting lots of great advice that may or may not be relevant to where you want to go.


What advice would you give to fellow Kiwis building global businesses?

Think big and start small. Don’t hesitate to reach out to people or companies you want to connect with. And don’t let geography or mindset hold you back.

How has Kea helped you along the way?

I got involved with Kea during my first year in Canada. I met a fellow Kiwi who introduced me and I went along to my first event. Kea is fantastic at connecting Kiwis around the world and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some fantastic people through it.

I think there’s never been a greater time for New Zealand or Kiwis globally than now. New Zealand has a phenomenal reputation and one that is growing thanks to our brilliant Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. She makes me so proud to be a Kiwi.


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Born in Shiraz, Iran and settling in Nelson as a teenager, Elle has always been a citizen of the world. She is the Founder, CEO and Creative Director of Zvelle, a luxury lifestyle brand designed for the global woman. Elle’s work combines her passion for culture, design and craftsmanship with her nomadic roots. Based in Toronto, Elle is on a mission to transcend borders and transform high fashion.

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