APRIL 29, 2022
Warriors to Watch: Joanne Black and Victoria Vromen
Find out what it takes to lead a path in sustainable fashion PR.
In this latest installment of our Warrior-to-Watch series, we shine the spotlight on women who inspire us in creating our own paths, leading, and #KillinItWithKindness. We had a lovely time catching up with Joanne Black (JB) and Victoria Vromen (VV), the power duo and co-founders behind LA-based agency AERAID PR. In between shoot calls and mom duties, these trailblazers opened up about how they became business partners, the strength of female leadership, and how women are taking up more space in sustainable fashion.
You both started early in fashion. Was it something you’ve always wanted?
JB: Definitely not. I was a student at art college when I was scouted for the college fashion show. I thought modeling would be a fun way to make money while I was a student.
VV: I was studying Journalism at Moscow State University and worked as a PR manager. I have always liked art and fashion, and the idea of trying modeling was always around. I started pretty late at 28 and signed my first contract with Uno Agency in Barcelona.
How did you guys meet? What made you decide to take the leap as business partners?
JB: We met at a fashion event hosted by a mutual friend. I had this idea to create a luxury sustainable showroom that didn't exist in LA. When I met Victoria, I found the perfect partner who shared the same vision.
VV: When Joanne came to me with an idea to open a sustainable PR agency, I immediately said yes. I felt like we can be great partners and friends.
You both have experience in modeling, pageants, and fashion styling. How did that help get you where you are now?
JB: When I won Miss Ireland, it opened up a lot of doors for me. I got to travel and meet so many interesting people. I think this is one of the reasons I wanted to live in America. The first time I saw New York I was like, “Wow, this was it.” I knew I wasn't going to live in Ireland again. I gained great experience from my time studying fashion and working in NY and London. This definitely helps me in my current business.
VV: For me, modeling was a great social school, an opportunity to learn and meet new people. When I started, I could barely speak any English.
Can you share nuggets of wisdom as women balancing family and business?
JB: I have a 4-year-old daughter that I had later in life, and for me the timing was perfect. I think you get your priorities right. We both work hard all day and then go home and have family time. We are lucky to live close to each other and our daughters go to the same school.
VV: We have a great system. The school is two minutes away from our showroom, our daughters are great friends, and our husbands are proud of what we’re doing and are always supporting us.
What’s it like working with celebrities?
VV: All celebrities are normal people who want to look good. It’s always good to see some of them supporting sustainable designers. We mainly work with stylists, and there are lots of fun people who love what they are doing.
AERAID is the first sustainable-fashion PR agency in the US. What made you decide to focus on this?
JB: I’ve been a stylist for many years and I work with [model] Petra Němcová, a close friend. She decided to go sustainable and become vegan. So I had to find brands that were sustainable. In the process, I got educated in sustainability and veganism. From that, I knew there was a great opening for a sustainable PR business because it didn’t exist yet. And as Victoria said, we clicked and got on great.
VV: Joanne educated me a lot about sustainability when we met. I have always liked brands and vintage clothes. I know how to take care of things and hopefully, my daughter will enjoy my beautiful vintage collection one day. I think the main problem is that people buy too much—things they don’t need or bad-quality products. It’s always better to buy one thing that will be in your wardrobe for years than to shop every month. Every sustainable piece I own has amazing quality and a unique design.
Can you share with us any challenges you encountered on the job?
VV: It was not easy explaining to people that sustainable vegan fashion can look amazing! We did so many placements with VEERAH shoes for instance, and celebrities couldn’t believe that vegan shoes can be that beautiful and comfy! Now they know.
In 2022, what do you think of the representation of women in sustainable fashion?
VV: I think in general, the world is going towards women's power. You can already see that there are a lot of women speaking up. In Russia, there is still a lot of male domination—it’s one of the reasons I decided to move because I didn’t want to be a toy, a beautiful girl married to a guy, or a mom sitting at home and raising the kids. In the US, there’s a lot of support for women in the business of fashion. For me, it’s easier to work with women-owned brands and it’s much more fun.
JB: My mother has always been a working mom. I’ve seen her be a provider, a wife, and a mother to six children. I guess that instilled in me a very strong work ethic. I feel like women have to go through a lot of things in life, but we are able to overcome all these and still be on top of our game and leaders in our field. My favorite is Stella McCartney—she is like the “godfather” of sustainability when back in the day no one was doing it. She’s a strong woman who developed an incredible brand.
What is your vision for AERAID?
JB: Our mission is to grow the sustainable business and influence the stylists and editors to push sustainable fashion on the red carpet and in the press, and on influential people who can help emerging designers. We look for sustainable luxury brands and help them grow their presence in the fashion world.
VV: After COVID, I think we’re getting even stronger with our business. All the events are happening again and we’re getting to grow our agency by partnering with more brands. Hopefully by next year, we can open up a new office in London because it’s another great market for PR.
Warrior Lightning Round:
Cardio or strength training?
JB: Both. I do yoga, pilates, and barre.
VV: I’ve forgotten the last time I went to the gym, but I love boxing and pilates.
Was it work or love that brought you to LA?
City you’d always go back to?
JB: Ireland, my home. New York, it has always been special to me and I lived there for three years. London because I lived there for 13 years.
VV: Paris, because this was the city I first traveled to with my parents. And of course, the city where I was born, Moscow.
If you had the power to change one thing right now, what would it be?
JB: I would like to be 21 again! (laughs) But truly, I had the pleasure of meeting Nelson Mandela as a participant of Miss World. I would have loved to bottle that up and share that with everyone.
VV: I will stop the war and make peace between people. A superpower to give people hope, to make them kinder.