Luxury fashion, with purpose and meaning

LBS alumna, Nina Briance – a profile on the founder & CEO of Cult Mia

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Managing a business and chairing your first board meeting while also caring for a newborn is exhausting, or perhaps one should add the qualifiers, ‘might be’, in the case of Nina Briance, founder and CEO of Cult Mia.

Calmness is the word that comes to mind when speaking to Nina, and the LBS alumna (MBA, Entrepreneurship and Luxury Strategy, 2019), serenely registers the observation and, finding nothing much to challenge in the idea, notes that she has always had thoughts of starting her own business.

“I was one of those kids who always had a lemonade stand. I was always trying to start my own mini business.” 

Armed with a BA in International Relations; Management Science & Engineering from Stanford, Briance initially went to work for Goldman Sachs in a private wealth role. “I wanted something more stimulating that touched on my personal values. I moved to Geneva and drew on my study of international relations by working for the United Nations’ Women & Trade Program. I began to work with a lot of female-owned enterprises and was exposed to the concept of ethical fashion. The bureaucracy and pace got to me in the end, but the core of the work stuck.”

Briance’s next career move saw her working for the Investment Banking Private Markets arm of UBS in London, covering private equity, private debt and real estate across Europe, Latin America and the US.

Nina then embarked on an MBA at London Business School where she seemingly seized upon everything and anything that might refine, clarify and accelerate her entrepreneurial DNA, joining the School’s Women in Business Club, working as the club’s Head of Entrepreneurship, while participating in the LBS Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Equity (IEPC) Launchpad Start-Up Accelerator, first achieving Runner-up in 2018 and then becoming Winner in 2019.

“My LBS experience gave me a safe space to experiment with my business. I suppose I was sheltering myself to a degree, to develop and grow.”

Briance’s experience at LBS proved “really positive”. “I now fully understand the value of my time at LBS, perhaps more than I did at the time.”

Given Nina’s MBA concentration was in Entrepreneurship her next move was perhaps less surprising, although still amazingly courageous in terms of it proving to be a complete pivot away from the world of finance and banking. Choosing to work for online luxury fashion platform, Moda Operandi, Nina helped to develop the company’s e-commerce experience, before shifting to business development in London, structuring the brand's first customer loyalty programme.

It was while she was at Moda Operandi that Nina had a “lightbulb moment”, noting that a number of emerging fashion designers were selling as much as the big brands. “There was a recognisably growing demand for non-high street designers who, in turn, were struggling to access the right sales platforms.”

There have in fact been three proverbial ‘lightbulb moments’ in Nina’s professional life, eventually giving rise to Cult Mia. The first, the previously mentioned time spent with Moda Operandi, proved to be a revelation when she witnessed the power of the many opportunities presented by innovative, non-high street designs. 

The second ‘moment’ came at the UN when the chance to support independent fashion designers came into sharp relief. The third was Nina’s own experience within the high street environment, drawing on encounters with people who noticed the clothes and jewelry that she wore that were handmade from different parts of the world and looked excitingly new and fresh.

Eventually deciding to strike out on her own and launch a business, Cult Mia began as an enterprise that had an ambition to identify designs that demanded attention, feeding the appetite for independent fashion.

Four years on since its launch, Cult Mia has expanded considerably, with the company’s community growing to above 100,000 members by the end of 2023 and achieving a seven-digit turnover figures.  In October 2023, Cult Mia raised an oversubscribed seed round with prominent industry backers including leading marketplace VC, Fuel Ventures, the prestigious financial sponsor Morgan Stanley, and David Wertheimer from the Chanel Family who Cult Mia sees as fashion royalty, to name a few. 

More than 40 per cent of the products listed on the platform can only be found at Cult Mia. Exclusivity is a byword, with the company exploring new ways for customers to benefit from Cult Mia’s commitment to innovation, delivering exciting new brands and designs. 

Environmental sustainability, and lifting local communities, are also core to the company’s ambitions, and Cult Mia now boasts top sellers from Ukraine and Lebanon. “We want to support values that both we in the business, and our very special community, care about.”

“If you’re onboarded to the platform, you become family – we’ll help you,” says Nina, adding “Cult Mia is very much a personal mission for me, and my team are very united on this mission - everyone goes above and beyond and are keen to find real purpose and meaning in their work.”