On becoming a Product Design Entrepreneur in your 40s – Meet David Mateo

We asked David Mateo, Product Designer and Stylist at David Mateo Design how he made the switch from employed to self-employed. While we mostly thought about getting an insight into his daily life as entrepreneur, this interview turned out to be an inspirational guide for aspiring Design Entrepreneurs. So:

This interview is for (Product) Designers who think about starting their own brand. It's an insight into the advantages of designing for more than one brand, it's a motivational piece on becoming self-employed when you have gained enough experience. It's also a chance to get to know more about the creative man David Mateo.

Introduction

Your Job / Company Name:

Product Designer & Stylist at SARL DAVID MATEO DESIGN

Your Field of Profession:

Product Design for bags, shoes and eyewear.

Your Company (Idea) in 2-3 Sentences:

To be recognised as an expert in bags, shoes and accessories design and development. A long experience and a lot of projects in the same domain makes the difference. To make the smartest design and the most beautiful product. To understand the DNA of each brand and bring the appropriate design, at the right moment. To push the creativity out of the boundaries to innovate. To work as a team with the customers on all steps of the project!

Careerwise, what have you been doing before you got self-employed?

I started in the car industry as I love cars and transport design. As a surfer, I moved to the surf industry in 2001 to design bags, accessories, footwear and eyewear for 6 years at Ripcurl, 2 years at O'Neill and 5 years at Oxbow. These jobs left me with a lot of experience!

Before you started David Mateo Design SARL, you’ve been working as an employed Product Designer for more than 20 years. How did you move from employee to Entrepreneur?

I worked as a Product Designer for 17 years before I started my own business. Indeed, I didn't go from employee to entrepreneur straight away because I wanted to check if it was doable. I did one super freelance project in the same time: MUB was born. And then, Pataugas, a famous french shoe brand, were seeking for a freelance designer to create a bag collection. I made it! I was employed at Oxbow at the same time and I went to the far east to visit luxury bag factories during my holiday! Then, another project came and I left Oxbow.

When I had enough experience and an extended network to start, I started my own business. I wanted to work on different domains with different people.

How would you say did the freelance projects prepare for starting your own business?

I would always recommend to proceed so. It permits to test if it's works, if you can make enough money, get several customers while having the security of employment. 
But I would not recommend to do both for a long time; I remember I worked day and night at this time.


Sketch from David Mateo showing the shoe design process for Pataugas
PATAUGAS SHOE DESIGN PROCESS
© David Mateo

What advantages and disadvantages does entrepreneurship have for you in comparison to being employed?

The main advantage is the freedom to balance private and professional life the way we want. I can go surfing in the morning and work after diner instead. I have time to pick up my kids at school. The other advantage is the opportunity to work on different domains, projects and people, making my work quite varied.

The main disadvantage is the fact you never really know in advance how much turn over you can make at the end of the year. The advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages though :-)

Would you say it's advantageous becoming an entrepreneur 40+ than in your twenties?

For me, in my domain, in product design, it's crucial to gain experience first by being employed in different companies for a couple of years before you can start your own brand. Only through this you'll be able to learn from others and create a relevant network.

For many, the fear of failure is the reason not to start their own business. What would you say to someone to convince them to go through with it anyway?

The fear of failure is normal but I would say it's better to regret things we've done than things we haven't. Every success comes with a risk. It's worth the try!


Ashoka Paris X Pamela Anderson
© David Mateo

What’s the biggest reward(s) of having your own business?

To work on super cool projects! As the designer of Ashoka Paris, I recently created a handbag collection for Pamela Anderson in collaboration with Ashoka. I worked with her for 16 months and it was an awesome experience!


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The Power of Identity and Purpose at The North Face – an Interview with their Brand Experience Manager Marco Mombelli

The North Face is the largest outdoor brand in the world, not only in regards to their gear and products, but especially in terms of a strong identity. They are not plainly selling products, but have managed to create a voice that communicates their values of Authenticity, Empowerment, Perseverance and Environmental Responsibility. The North Face has been creating a brand experience which is involving their customers directly and invites them to live their slogan "Never stop exploring" instead of just reading or hearing about it.

One of the people making this possible is Marco Mombelli who is the Brand Experience Manager of The North Face. In his role, he develops and manages the brand experience strategy, especially by optimising their physical touchpoints to create a community and enable them to go outdoors. Furthermore, Marco is a great interlocutor and thus, has been up to an extended interview about his role and the very big topics of brand experience and brand purpose.

In this interview, we got insights into:

  • how The North Face's brand experience inspires, connects and enables their customers to explore and protect the Outdoors
  • why every lifestyle & outdoor brand essentially has to develop a strong identity and voice
  • how purpose affects VF Corporation and its brand The North Face and why to strive for doing good and doing well

As we talked to Marco back in the beginning of May 2020, we also took the opportunity to address the Covid-19 crisis and how The North Face managed to still enable people to explore in times of a lockdown.

When looking at your career, you’ve been working in the sports business since 2002 for different brands before you became part of The North Face in 2015. What has drawn you to work at TNF?

MM: I actually started working at VF in 2008 and recently celebrated my 12th anniversary which is amazing. How did I end up working at The North Face? Wow, where do I start? I mean, everything in my life has led me to my current role. My family used to run a small business selling building materials, and after studying accounting in high school I felt it was my destiny to do something entrepreneurial.  But I realized I had more to learn so, I decided to continue my education and  go to university, where I studied Communication and Public Relations. 

I started working in 2002 for Red Bull as a Student Brand Manager and after a year I was promoted to Assistant Brand Manager. At the time, I was still studying and I was in a punk rock band that was becoming popular - we had a video on TV and a second album due, which obviously took up a lot of my energy! I knew I was taking on too much, but I knew if I quit school, my parents would kill me! So, it was a decision between Brand Management and Rock’n’Roll.  I decided Brand Management could wait – and I chose school and rock’n’roll

And then?

MM: I kept studying and kept working hard with the band.  Being part of a band was a great experience, but I soon realized that Rockstardom wasn’t for me, so I got back on track.  I found a great job at Connexia, one of the biggest PR companies in Milan. After a few years there I was contacted by the Country Manager of Vans Italy and I started to work for Vans in 2008. I was the Marketing Manager in charge of pretty much everything - from athletes to PR to events. 

I was based in Milan for the role and although I loved the city experience I missed the mountains, the lake and my family. 

I was eager to move to the VF EMEA HQ in Stabio, Switzerland  which was closer to the mountains and closer to my hometown. Unfortunately, there were no positions at Vans, but there was a good opportunity at the Reef brand instead. At the time, my manager said, “It’s a small brand, but it could be a good platform for you to have a more European role”. Not a big team to manage, but I was in charge of the whole brand at the European level, which again was a great learning experience for me. After some time with Reef I realised I wanted to join a bigger brand, with more structure and when an opportunity to join The North Face came along I took it. 

The role was maternity cover, stepping in as Wholesale Marketing Manager in charge of Spain, Italy, the Nordics and the Netherlands. It felt very natural. Even though my previous experience was with action sports brands, I have a real love for the mountains and have snowboarded since 1991. I felt an immediate connection to the TNF culture and people and I knew it was the right step.

And how did you end up becoming The North Face’s Brand Experience Manager?

MM: Once the maternity cover position ended, I swapped roles again, moving to the Retail Team and working on retail transformation - shaping the way for stores to move from shopping spaces to brand experience platforms and finding new ways to interact with and to engage consumers.

Your responsibility is optimizing the brand’s physical touchpoints. How do you actually  improve the experience at a retail level?

MM: I was challenged to create the first TNF Community Program in 2016. We created the first one in London, using our physical stores as a Hub for the Community to meet up before going outside to explore, to meet for workshops and to listen to talks from our athletes. 

We now have 9 Communities across Europe and we engage with more than 20,000 Community Members on a yearly basis. The Community Groups take up most of my focus and I’m very proud of this. You really get the chance to have a positive impact on people’s lives. On a weekly basis, we offer sessions with personal trainers specializing in outdoor activities who lead either outdoor workouts or activities such as indoor climbing.   After London, we developed Communities in Munich, Berlin, Paris, Milan, Stockholm, Chamonix, Manchester, Bolzano – focusing on key cities and awesome outdoor destinations.

The North Face Shop in Soho, New York: An area to get inspired and hang out in the community
Photo Credit: The North Face/Sasha Turrentine

So, you’re saying that a shop is not a shop, but a place for a community to meet. Where they can exchange their minds, their opinion, just watch a movie together, connect.

MM: Yes! I could tell you a thousand stories of people making new friends through our Community Program!  In our Community Groups, you are sure to find likeminded people with whom you share the same passion for the Outdoors.

In the end, we are successful because of the passion of our Community Managers and Community Members. If you talk to someone who is a snowboard enthusiast, a skateboarder or an Outdoor person in general, they love (and will talk forever) about their passion, whether its hiking, climbing, skateboarding or snowboarding. This passion is behind every product we sell. Behind every jacket and backpack and shoe. It’s a culture, you know. It’s something that brings people together.

In you could put it as simply as possible, what does the term ‘brand experience’ mean?

MM: Our team of Community Managers and I take our inspiring campaigns and stories and bring them to life by providing a platform for people to participate. Without this approach, our consumers would be spectators, looking at pages in a magazine or films online. We want to enable people to actually experience our brand stories, The North Face brand, and in turn become a part of it.  I believe this is truly important. 


My generation were educated to be spectators. You watch a movie, and the actor is the star, right? The young people of today are different – they want to be the protagonist - the hero of their own story. They don’t want to only be inspired. They want to be enabled. I like that!

Marco Mombelli, Brand Experience Manager @ The North Face

And how does this affect the role of the customer and the brand?

MM: Brand experience is about enabling. In the early 2000s and in the late 90s, brands focused on inspiring consumers. You showed them an advert, they got excited and eventually they went and bought something. My generation, I’m from 77, were educated to be spectators. You watch a movie, and the actor is the star, right? The young people of today are different – they want to be the protagonist - the hero of their own story. They don’t want to only be inspired. They want to be enabled. I like that!

So how can we do that? How can I do that? I think the role of a brand is becoming more and more about enabling people to experience something. Especially, with an audience like today’s generation that have such a wide choice of options. 

How are you solving experiential marketing during the current COVID-19 crisis?

MM: Of course, in this moment, being in charge of events is not ideal in any industry! But we’re focusing on how we can make training accessible for as many people as possible, as responsibly and safely as possible. 

You have to be flexible and agile in these situations, so we moved our physical touchpoints to a digital channel where people who were locked down could have an opportunity to work out with our trainers. We are using our athletes, influencers and members to help keep our community engaged and inspired. Because as you know, in this situation, staying fit and staying connected is very beneficial. We are using technology to motivate them to be prepared for their next adventure, as soon as we can all start exploring again.

In your opinion, how does Covid-19 affect the outdoor industry in general? 

MM: Right now in Italy, we are in phase two*, where people are allowed to do sports outside the home. So I think for us, for the outdoor industry, it presents a good opportunity. Pre-Covid-19, a lot of people used to go to the gym for fitness.  Now, in my opinion, the trails are the preferable place to train, to re-energize, to experience nature, and all the while maintaining social distance. 

At the moment, we want to support people, driven by our purpose of powering movements and active lifestyles. So how can we enable people to escape the city by themselves? We have the platform and the knowledge. My goal is really to use the network that we have to inspire and enable people to leave the city. 

*Note from Editor: The interview was held at the beginning of May when Italy had just entered phase 2 of the corona lockdown restrictions.

The North Face is also communicating „We will weather this storm together“ through your online channels right now. What’s behind this?

MM: This is part of our Explore Fund campaign. We’ve launched a ‘first of its kind’ fund, with 1million euros available to charities and organisations in the UK, Germany, Italy and France to ensure they are able to support exploration when it’s possible again. 

Do you think that the desire to explore and to go outside does help to create an environmental consciousness in society?

MM: Yes. I see that, in general, the current generation is more environmentally conscious, compared with past generations. The younger generation values sustainability. They value having the least negative impact on the planet as possible. 

What is important to highlight here is that although I believe everyone has the desire to explore, not everyone has easy access or exposure to the Outdoors – especially people living in big cities.   I think it’s important that we make the effort to show people what the Outdoors has to offer and to enjoy the Outdoors responsibly.   

For example, what we do quite successfully in our community in Stockholm, is plogging. It’s a combination of jogging and picking up trash.  Maja Tesch, who is one of our Community Managers there, is a leader in the plogging movement in Sweden. I see this as an important trend. It’s an activity that matches physical performance and doing your part. 

The result is impressive after one day of plogging / trail running with garbage collecting by The North Face Trail Academy

If we talk about sustainability, we should also take a look at purpose since brand management strategies in the 21st century often revolve around those two topics. What does brand purpose actually imply?

MM: That’s a very good question. One of the things that excites me the most about purpose is the chance of doing good and doing well - at VF we call it the power of „AND“. As a Purpose Led company, our focus is running a healthy business with a return for its investors, and at the same time, working for the betterment of people and planet, having a positive impact on our society. With a company on the scale of VF, with thousands of employees and touch points all around the globe, we can really enable people to do better. 

Nowadays, being a brand is more than a logo on a T-Shirt. Being a brand is a representation of a culture with rituals and with values. It is about having a strong identity. When you walk around with a The North Face T-Shirt, you are communicating what kind of person you are. If you take a look at VF’s brands, at Vans, The North Face, Timberland, you’ll immediately understand the lifestyle associated with them.

I don’t want to imply that brand management is becoming more and more important to guide society. But for sure, it’s one important factor. Brands have quite some influence, but also a lot of responsibility. We better find the right spot in between doing good and doing well.

How do you define The North Face’s brand purpose?

MM: Our brand ID is: „We dare to lead the world forward through exploration“. So, when you see our logo, you will immediately think of exploration. It’s not limited to physical and outdoor activities, but actually includes a state of mind. 

For me, exploration is the sum of curiosity and courage. Curious people daring to ask „Hey, what’s next?“. Explorers strike out in new directions, with curiosity, but also courage, pushing them further. Exploration has always been essential for human progress.

So, to simplify you could say that The North Face’s purpose is to completely embody exploration. We want to improve the world around us and find new ways to do so. But again, you need curiosity and courage to get to know what’s behind what we know already. It means embracing the culture of failure. How many times do you need to fail before you succeed? 


Take a look at the relevance of sustainability. Today, brands need to be sustainable or else you’re out of the market. Being purpose-led is probably the next determining factor. You need to have a voice, an identity. You need to generate disruptive change. I think the consumer is asking for that from a brand.

Marco Mombelli, BRand Experience Manager @ The North Face

Why do you think purpose is becoming such a big topic today among so many brands? 

MM: Take a look at the relevance of sustainability. Today, brands need to be sustainable or else you’re out of the market. Being purpose-led is probably the next determining factor. You need to have a voice, an identity. You need to generate disruptive change. I think the consumer is asking for that from a brand.

What role do you feel brand experience and purpose play in the internal culture of the North Face? 

MM: We have five internal guiding principles.  I have listed them below and explained what they mean to me personally and in my role.   The guiding principles are not part of a marketing campaign, but rather part of our brand purpose.  Whether you work in Finance, in Customer Service, in Sales, the principles are same for everyone. 

The internal guiding principles of The North Face:

  1. Love wild places.  Of course, we have to explore and protect our playground. If there’s no outdoor, there’s no outdoor industry. 
  2. Spark curiosity. It’s important to be curious. It’s an attitude, a state of mind, which is instrumental for exploration.
  3. Dare to disrupt. The North Face has always been bold. You can’t be a brand that pleases everyone. If you want to be authentic and true to yourself, you sometimes need to be disruptive. People sometimes need to be shocked about what you do.
  4. Create Community. And this is particularly meaningful for me. The power of being together.  In this time of social media, especially in big cities, people don’t talk to each other as much anymore – especially new people.  Instead we spy on each other through a screen. Through the TNF Communities, we have the chance to connect likeminded people on a regular basis, to actually spend time with them and to make new friends, to go outside, socialize and just connect. That’s something strong. That’s what I am really proud of. It actually gives me goose bumps to talk about it.
  5. Integrity. Very important. It’s self explanatory. 

Should employees or candidates thinking about applying at The North Face have an affinity for outdoor sports, for purpose, sustainability?

MM: To be honest, I think that if you work for a lifestyle or outdoor brand you should have passion for what the brand does and represents. In my opinion, only then, will you be able to fully contribute. If you’re not passionate about the outdoors, action sports, or whatever each brand embodies or represents, it’s not going to work. Either way it is a cool job, you work for VF, it’s a great company, it treats you well. But if it’s just a job for you, you can work for any other company, for example a bank. I mean, maybe you have a passion for banking and that’s the way to go. But if you want to work for the leading outdoor brand, you need to have passion for the Outdoors.


The North Face® is part of VF Corporation one of the world’s largest apparel, footwear and accessories companies connecting people to the lifestyles, activities and experiences they cherish most through a family of iconic outdoor, active and workwear brands including Vans®, Timberland® Eastpak®, Kipling®  and Dickies®

Our purpose is to power movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and our planet. We connect this purpose with a relentless drive to succeed to create value for all stakeholders and use our company as a force for good. For more information, please visit vfc.com.

Entrepreneurship 40+: Alain Marhic from MARCH LA.B

Introduction

Your Job / Company Name:

CEO, Alavie SAS (March LA.b)

Your Field of Profession:

Luxury Goods & Jewelry

Your Company (Idea) in 2-3 Sentences:

Simple elegant affordable watches made in France

Careerwise, what have you been doing before you got self-employed?

I was a business unit manager in the Quiksilver group.

What was your motivation to found your own business?

I could not see my product vision anywhere in the watch business as this kind of product range had not been fulfilled yet, especially not in the way that I was thinking, so I wanted to bring it alive. Also, I was frustrated by the lack of vision and missing reward and recognition with my ex-employer. Having this outlook, I was thinking that my passion and vision should be used for myself instead of someone else who does not care enough at the end of the day.

How did you move from an idea to a business success?

Well, let' say 10 years, minimum. With baby steps including lots of meetings, little successes, big failures, and a huge amount of work and positivity.

What, in your opinion, makes a successful entrepreneur?

Someone who listens a lot and knows his own weaknesses. Someone who moves fast and stays focussed on his primary vision.

How do you think is it different to start an entrepreneurship 40+ than in your twenties?

Well, family and kids increase the pressure to succeed. But 40+ is probably the best moment to start your own business as you combine experience and network. And you are still full of energy to conquer the world! 

For a lot of people, the fear of failure is the reason not to start their own business. What would you say to someone to convince them to go through with it anyway? Which impact did fear have on you?

I never really had any fear to fail. Leaving your comfort zone is the best thing you can do as far as your personal evolution is concerned. You learn so much and stay so much younger in your heart, body and mind at the same time.

Saint Augustine said something similar. It goes somehow like "The fear to loose what you have should not prevent you from becoming who you are."

How is your daily life as an entrepreneur?

Coffee at 7:30 in Paris to talk to people, handle some work before the team arrives at 9:30, and then managing my team and meetings all day long with a lot of shops to stay close to the market.

What’s the biggest reward(s) of having your own business?

That's easy! When people are sending me messages saying how happy and proud they are to wear my watches! After 10 years, it is still a very intense feeling. Those words give meaning to the whole adventure.

From Athlete to Marketing Director: Meet Hanane Sabri from Kipling

Hanane Sabri, Marketing Director of Kipling, part of VF Corporation, in Hong Kong, has been working in the sports & fashion business for more than 20 years. While this is impressive on its own, it is even more so considering Hanane’s background: Before starting her business career, she used to be a French athlete who participated in national & international competitions. She was crowned as champion of France in the 1,500 meters in 2001 in Saint-Etienne and competed in the 2001 World Championships in Athletics in Edmonton. At the same time of her athlete’s peak, she started her career in the sporting goods industry, making her a great example of mastering a smooth transition from sports to business.

And there’s still more to her story. Hanane has reached the highest level in a sport practiced in shorts as a Muslim woman and today, has achieved a top management position in a men’s dominated industry while being a mother of two. She’s challenged the assumptions about female roles in sports and economy and proved that, indeed, women can have it all.

So, what can we learn from her success about progress, resilience and purpose? Tracing her career as an athlete, marketing professional and mother, Hanane Sabri shares with us an insight into her own history, her values and a lesson on hard work.

SJ: You started your professional career at the same time as your athletic career and continued with both for almost 8 years. How did you manage to bring the two together?

HS: I come from a family of workers, so hard work was a primary aspect of my education. My parents were forced to work in very difficult conditions in the North of France to support our family. So, they gave everything at work, never complaining when they returned home. From an early age, I understood that to be successful you had to work hard and be persistent to achieve your goals. My athletic career has also taught me that. I have not been champion of France in the 1,500 meters by snapping my fingers and no other athlete either, not even the talented Usain Bolt!

It’s simple: to succeed in your professional career you have to work hard, to succeed as a mother you have to work hard, to succeed as an athlete you have to work hard, to succeed in your life in  a relationship, you have to work hard and so on! For everything in life, you always have to give your best and above all be attentive to others, but also to your body, to achieve performance.


"I understood that to be successful you had to work hard and be persistent to achieve your goals. I have not been champion of France in the 1,500 meters by snapping my fingers and no other athlete either, not even the talented Usain Bolt!"

Hanane Sabri

SJ: Are you proud to have started your professional career like this?

HS: Of course! It was an intense period, just like my whole life. In fact, I don’t really know how to stop because I’m a chronic hyperactive [laughs]. In addition, Adidas was a very good school for my early career. I had a CEO, Antoine Sathicq, who was a very inspiring manager and who managed us perfectly. I was able to learn a lot in finance, project management and marketing through my various positions at Adidas.

SJ: You are currently Marketing Director at Kipling. Has your athletic background helped you get here?

HS: Totally! My life as an athlete has allowed me to understand three things: The first is that you have to work hard to achieve your goals.

The second is resilience. The ability to keep moving forward despite obstacles, energy shortages, etc.

The last one is empathy, listening and connecting with others. You never succeed alone.

Even if I have practiced a sport that is described as individual, for me it is still a team effort. I had my physiotherapist, my trainer, my hares, my relatives, etc. It was them who helped me, in part, to reach the world championships in Edmonton. For me, it is important to move forward with a team that we respect and with which we feel connected.

In addition, my parents taught me the values of respect, sharing, empathy and performance. The notion of performance is ingrained in me and that is what brought me to where I am today whether in the sports industry or the fashion industry.

SJ: In 2018, you arrived in Hong-Kong and joined the Folli Follie group. Why did you leave the sports industry to work in jewelry?

HS: Actually, I first came to Hong Kong out of love. I wanted to learn Mandarin and take care of my family. As I could not stop working, I joined the Folli-Follie group and discovered the world of jewelry because I wanted to learn and discover new things on the Asian market. I really liked the learning process. After 3 years, I had learned a lot, but I wanted to take on new challenges. So, I applied to VF Corporation. It was not easy but after some interviews, I was recruited! Today I am very proud to work for this brand which immerses me in the world of lifestyle and millennials.

SJ: What inspires you at Kipling and what are your goals in this business?

HS: When I arrived at Kipling I was in observation mode for 3 months. This is a rule that I have always imposed myself in any new mission because you must first understand the company and the brand for which you work. The collections, the market, the brand’s consumers, employees, the functioning of internal but also local teams, cultural differences, company values, objectives and finally the strategy put in place. Beyond the specific objectives of the company, my priority remains the human being and the relationship with others in order to ensure team cohesion and the establishment of common objectives. I love to grow and see others grow. For me, the manager / employee relationship is a win / win relationship, based on respect, listening and performance.

Why did I choose Kipling? I really got hooked with the new managerial leadership in place and especially their objectives and the new vision of Kipling. Today we want to reach millennials by transmitting the message of exploring the world with curiosity but also of lightening their lives thanks to our inspiring and functional products. I totally find myself in this message. In addition, I like to work on new concept stores to offer a real experience to our consumers, be it in store activations or through merchandising visuals, but above all to communicate with Asians using 80% of the digital world. And this may include the entire strategic approach of online distribution for our own sites kipling.com or on our Kipling Store on Tmall platform [the largest E- commerce platform in China and in the world] without obviously forgetting the importance of social networks such as WeChat, Weibo, FB or Instagram, etc. All these subjects are challenges to be met in a disruptive and specific way to create a real competitive difference.

SJ: After such an inspiring journey, do you have any advice for students and recent graduates?

HS: Do everything to achieve your dreams and never give up! For me, nothing is impossible. I am living proof! I have reached the highest level in a sport that is practiced in shorts while I am a Muslim. I have always worked in men’s professional circles when I am a woman who comes from a working-class family and I have done very well. Again, I emphasize the concept of resilience which is very important throughout our lives without forgetting human values such as respect, empathy and listening.


"Do everything to achieve your dreams and never give up! For me, nothing is impossible. I am living proof ! I have reached the highest level in a sport that is practiced in shorts while I am a Muslim. I have always worked in men's professional circles when I am a woman who comes from a working class family and I have done very well."

Hanane Sabri

One of my daily motivations is to ask myself: which actions can I take today that could have an impact on the world, on my family, on the ecological level, and at work? I am a great player and I always take the example of dominoes, because every little gesture can have a huge impact on our lives and the lives of others. Even a smile, a moment of listening, helping someone in need even if he is a stranger to us, and so on! These little actions can give hope. And we have to share this hope because that is what makes us build a better world in the end.

This also applies to the global scale about ecology: I believe in humanity and if everyone makes small gestures, we can build a society more respectful of our planet Earth and leave a legacy for our children.

More about Hanane Sabri

Hanane Sabri joined VF as Asia Pacific Marketing Director of Kipling in Hong Kong HQ in May 2019. She has more than 20 years of experience in the Fashion and Sport Retail industry.

Based in Strasboug, Hanane joined Adidas France in 2000 as a Finance Controller. During that time, she was also a national athlete representing her country in international competitions. Hanane Sabri became Strategic Planning Director in 2004 and took the role of Senior Sport Marketing and Communication Manager in 2006, specializing in Event activation plans, production planning, finance and market analysis. She oversaw international sports events such as the Olympic Games in Beijing, Athens, Vancouver and London, and was directly in charge of the French Olympic Committee and 18 national Federations for 8 years.

Between 2006 and 2015, the highlights of Hanane Sabri’s achievement involved managing contract negotiations with athletes and celebrities for adidas performance & Original, including the renowned Rap Singer Akhenaton , the two times Olympic Champion Teddy Riner in judo and multiple times gold medallist Nikola Karabatic and olympic champion in handball.

Prior to joining VF Corporation, she worked in Folli Follie in January 2016 as their Asia Pacific Marketing Director, developing leading design teams, product management, marketing and communication for 7 countries and more than 150 stores in Japan and China.

Her financial expertise also plays a key role in her success in managing P&L on multi-million budgets across several product lines of the business. Hanane has a Master’s Degree  in  Corporate, Finance and Securities Law at the EM Master Strasbourg Business School and also a BBA and MBA in Finance at Bowling Green State University in Ohio US. She is currently living in Hong Kong with her husband and two children.

© Portrait of Hanane Sabri by [email protected]

About Kipling

The Kipling success story started in 1987 in the heart of the fashion capital of Antwerp (Belgium) with crinkled nylon bags. By injecting our creativity and out-of-the-box thinking into developing thoughtful designs with a casual coolness, Kipling products are created to inspire mobility and enable you to Live.Light. As more than a bag brand, Kipling represents a positive outlook on life, a light-hearted mentality, free spirit, and inclusivity. Today Kipling’s well-known bags and accessories are available around the world in 436 stores in 80 countries and can be found in more than 7500 shops, and on kipling.com.

Today Kipling is part of VF Corporation. Founded in 1899, VF Corporation is one of the world’s largest apparel, footwear and accessories companies connecting people to the lifestyles, activities and experiences they cherish most through a family of iconic outdoor, active and workwear brands including Vans®, The North Face®, Timberland®, Napapijri®, Eastpak® and Dickies®. 


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Entrepreneurship 40+: Meet Anthony Cazottes

Entrepreneur over 40: Anthony Cazottes

Trust in your experience. Make your vision come reality. Be brave to start your business over 40.

Our Entrepreneurship 40+ series introduces you to personalities from the sports industry who followed through with their ideas to start their own business.

In our third interview, we spoke to Anthony Cazottes from Biarritz, owner and founder of the agency French Albion. When he lost his job in 2015, he was shocked at first, but then realised the chance to finally be free to create his own future. A vision he already had for almost 10 years.

Introduction

Your Job / Company Name:

Founder of French Albion, based in Biarritz (France)

Your agency French Albion in 2-3 Sentences:

French Albion is a forward thinking agency focused on introducing Outdoor & Lifestyle brands from overseas to the European market through an innovative hybrid business model.

Careerwise, what have you been doing before you got self-employed?

I started my career in 1998 in the Action Sports industry working for Quiksilver in the UK as a visual merchandiser, then went on to become a sales rep covering menswear in London and looking after a selection of key accounts. In 2002 I came back to the Quiksilver HQ in France to look after the off price business for the Na Pali group. Then in 2004 when Quiksilver bought DC Shoes I was named Sales Manager for France. After 10 years working for the group I sailed off to NIXON in 2008 and directed sales for 4,5 years, this time on a European level. But the biggest opportunity of my career came in 2013 when I was promoted to EMEA General Manager of Electric Europe, a company then part of the Kering group.

Anthony Cazottes Career Path from Quiksilver to French Albion

What was your motivation to start your own business?

I realised over the years that no matter how good you are at your job and how much you represent the brand you work for at the time, you always leave with a hand shake and you never take a piece of the company with you other than memories. In my late 30s I felt a strong need to create something of my own, something I was passionate about and that I would be able develop with my life philosophy in mind, not following someone else’s strategy. In 2015 I lost my job and although it was a bit of a shock to the system it was a relief at the same time, I was free to create, to innovate, to think out of the box… That is what motivated me to create my own business: freedom to think.

How did you move from an idea to business success?

In my case things came naturally, first I was consulting for companies who wanted to come to Europe and through that process I realised there was a need to propose a solution that was different from the classic models of distribution. Once I had the model figured out we managed to attract brands that we chose carefully in the Outdoor & Lifestyle market through my connections in the US & Canada. The first clients are always the hardest to get but once you have a proven track record companies reach out to you for business regularly.

What, in your opinion, makes a successful entrepreneur?

It’s a combination of different things of course but in my opinion motivation, commitment and rationalism are the key ingredients. An entrepreneur also needs to be able to mitigate passion with reality and try not to get too carried away by things he likes doing vs things that need to be done.

How do you think is it different to start an entrepreneurship 40+ than in your twenties?

If you have a brilliant idea in your twenties but you don’t have the experience to bring it to life then you would probably have to rely on other people who can help you make it a reality. Less expertise means the idea needs to be even stronger and innovative to be successful. Starting a business in your 40s is definitely different, you are mainly relying on yourself and the baggage you have cumulated throughout your career. Your contacts, knowledge of the industry and experience are the fuel to your idea.

For a lot of people, the fear of failure is the reason not to start their own business. What would you say to someone to convince them to go through with it anyway?

The risk depends on the business idea and the means to bring that idea to life. If the idea is weak but the means are strong it’s likely that the success will be minimal, if the idea is strong but the means are weak success will come by finding investment which is always easier than finding a good idea. Rather than speak about fear I would prefer to call it doubts, I think all entrepreneurs have doubts, doubts fuel the mind to be better at finding solutions and are therefore good companions to entrepreneurs. Don't be afraid of doubts, if you are convinced about your business idea and you are fully committed then you will be successful. However, my advice would be to ask friends, family and a consortium of industry experts for their opinion before you dive in. Also don’t give up everything you have before you see traction in your new venture. Last but not least, don’t force yourself into an entrepreneurial career out of desperation, becoming an entrepreneur should be a natural path you follow.

How is your daily life as an entrepreneur?

It’s fascinating, the world is your oyster, the opportunities are huge and anything is possible. Of course the reality hangs over your head and acts as a hand brake to funnel your enthusiasm but the balance of the two is what I find the fun part. Being free to decide, working with people I love, no politics, is how my company is run everyday. My daily life as an entrepreneur resembles a lot to my daily life as a person.

What’s the biggest reward of having your own business?

Thinking of an idea, putting it together and launching it successfully is very rewarding in itself but being able to employ people and giving them long term projects is probably what I take most pride in having achieved so far. Also, when brands you look up to contact you through your web page to start a partnership is a great reward.


Interested in meeting other entrepreneurs over 40 from the sports business? We are publishing new interviews regularly in our series Entrepreneurship 40+!

Entrepreneurship 40+ in the sports business: Meet Alban Le Pellec

Sport Business Entrepreneurship 40+: Meet Alban Le Pellec

The sports sector is entrepreneurship to its core. As a quick evolving industry, it is marked by innovation and change, an ideal breeding ground for new business ideas.

Even though the sports sector is known as quite a young industry, with a lot of entrepreneurs being in their twenties, there's actually a significant number which is older than 40. To give you two well-known examples: Dietrich Mateschitz founded RedBull with 40. Bill Bowerman was 53 when he co-founded Blue Ribbon - which became Nike when he was 60.

While we associate young minds with freshness, innovation and braveness, all key factors for creating something new, middle-aged people tend to bring qualities that younger ones lack. Because experience counts. Entrepreneurs who have worked in the same field as their start-up were found to be 125% more successful than those without a background in their chosen sector. Not only do they have the skills and the network, they have the vision and experience on how to lead a company in the right direction, how to obviate classical pitfalls and how to make a tough decision when it is needed. 

We feel that it's time to introduce you to more entrepreneurs 40+ in the sports industry which is why we started an interview series with different business founders on their career and their views on entrepreneurship.

In part one, we would like you to meet Alban Le Pellec.

Introduction

Your Job / Company Name: 

All-Seasons. I’m the founder and General Manager.

Your Field of Profession: 

I have 20 years of experience in Marketing, Sales, Management and Top Management.

Your Business (Idea) in 2-3 Sentences:

All-Seasons offers expertise in Consulting, Distribution and Services for sport brands willing to develop their European business. We’ve got internal and external experts to establish and expand your brand awareness and sales. 

Careerwise, what have you been doing before you got self-employed?

I started my career in sports marketing before changing to Sales. Then I took my first step in the outdoor industry where I gained a lot of experience thanks to eight years at Millet, and after that evolved in the American group, Wolverine Worldwide and its sports division represented by Saucony and Merrell. For more than 9 years, I held several positions as Key Account Manager, Sales Manager France, Country Manager, and at the end, European Strategic Director.

During the last period, I served as President of the Outdoor Commission of L’Union Sports et Cycles, the French Sport Industry representation.

When I got the opportunity to work as CEO for an eye-wear company, I made the transition from sports to fashion. A position I held for two years. During this time, the desire to return to the sports and outdoor world got so overwhelming that I took part as a Mentor in the world’s first innovation hub Le Tremplin (Paris&Co). Then very spontaneously, in January 2020, I decided to set up All-Seasons.

What was your motivation to start your own business?

All-Seasons was born out of a need to support sports brands which have the wish to develop in the French and European sports market in a very pragmatic way. Concretely, All-Seasons takes its roots in years of exchange with Mick Midali, my partner in this adventure. There were needs and missing solutions in the market and we have decided to respond by combining our skills.

With cash being the key, it is important to combine the strategic vision with a rapid but sustainable implementation. And it is on these axes that we position ourselves. Nowadays companies must operate with agility and All-Seasons is there to help them succeed. We are guiding companies in their development of Sales, mostly in France and Europe, but also in North America thanks to our partnerships with Global Sales Guys. At the same time, we guarantee to respect and maintain its brand values while aiming for a higher profitability.

How do you move from an idea to a successful business?

With more than 20 years in the sports industry in different job positions, I know this market quite well, so the idea was evolving for years. To move from this idea to the launch of an actual business, that’s a question of developing a concrete business plan which helps transforming the idea to reality.

Now it’s up to us to convert this into success, even though the recent crisis [Covid-19] might jeopardise our agency's growth. But we think that the economical change happening due to Covid-19 can also be an advantage for us, showing brands that they have to rethink their current business model, their structure, their offers. And our expertise can help on this new journey.

What, in your opinion, makes a successful entrepreneur?

I don’t think I can explain what makes a successful entrepreneur, because I am only at the beginning of my story. But in my humble opinion, I am sure that expertise helps a lot. Commitment. Vision. Also, a clear positioning. Those are key elements.

How do you think is it different to start an entrepreneurship 40+ than in your twenties?

It’s clearly a different situation. At 20, your start-up is based mostly on ideas. And you can start it carefree, because normally, there's no real financial risk. 

At 40, with a family to take care of, you take bigger risks, but you have one strong advantage which is experience. And the success percentage is often higher for experienced people which researchs confirm.

For a lot of people, the fear of failure is the reason not to start their own business. What would you say to someone to convince them to go through with it anyway? Which impact did fear have on you?

Fear is an unpleasant emotion that emerges when you are worried or threatened by something dangerous. That’s why when you start your project, a solid business plan is mandatory. If your plan is well prepared and financial forecast not too optimistic, more realistic, you know where you’re going. The danger becomes smaller and fear vanishes.

However, the fear is always present, it’s a motivation for an entrepreneur. You convert it into motivation.

For sure, you feel it stronger some days, and it’s not pleasant, but it magnifies your happiness once you succeed. Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.

How is your daily life as an entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur doesn’t really have regular office hours. There is so many things to fix, so many projects to follow, so many issues to resolve. We think, we live, we dream with our business in mind all the time. Our days are all different, so organisation is important and finding the time to step back to take in the overall situation is essential. An entrepreneur has to switch from one topic to a totally different one all the time.

Personally my office is at home, so I’ve dedicated a room to work away from my kids, and spend hours on visio-conferences. The days I am not sitting in front of my laptop at home, I am traveling to visit my teams, partners, fairs or retailers.

What’s the biggest reward(s) of having your own business?

The reward, the recognition, is something personal. Each person has different goals in their life. For an entrepreneur every single success of the company feels like your own. It’s the advantage of this position.

For myself, I set up my agency to have the liberty to choose the brands I want to work with, I want to share the same values with my partners, and have more freedom in my day to day job. My biggest reward would be to work with great sustainable brands and make them successful. It would also help a bit to protect our planet.

What does it take to be a Flagship Shop Manager? An interview with David Brown from Timberland

There’s three things about working in retail that you can learn from David Brown:

  1. Managing a retail team only works when you see yourself as one of them
  2. The right attitude is more important than experience 
  3. Purpose in your career can influence your whole life

As General Manager of Timberland’s new Purpose-Led Flagship Store in Carnaby Street, London, David Brown is responsible for 241 square meter retail space and managing a team of 24 to ensure the smooth operation of the daily business. To maintain this, his management and interpersonal skills need to be over-the-top - and here’s why: A flagship store is the leading store of a brand. Even though the typical KPIs like sales or turnover do matter, the main focus of the flagship store is on drawing attention and visitors. Thus, transforming it into a showcase with an extraordinary shopping experience. 

On one hand, this is achieved through a special interior design and a wide range of products. On the other hand though, the realization happens thanks to a high-quality team which also act as ambassadors for their brand.

The store and its employees are so to speak a prototype of retail, making David an experienced and valuable interview partner to get an insight into the career of a Shop Manager. 

In this interview, we talked with David about his work at Timberland’s new Purpose-Led Flagship Store, his managing skills and - important enough - purpose. 

Dear Readers, please meet David Brown.

So, David, you’re managing quite a big team. 

I’ve got a team of approximately 24 at the moment. 4 of those are managers as well, so making sure that the  delegation is handed out to the right managers in order to keep a smooth running operation of the store. Everyone is working on specific job roles that are required to complete a regular working day.

And what makes your team stand out? How would you describe it?

It’s very important for it to be family-orientated, because if you’re spending up to 40 hours work with certain individuals. You’re probably spending more time with them than you’re at home. The family atmosphere is very important, because I am a great believer in leading by examples. Whatever I do, I would expect my team to be up to the same thing. So family atmosphere is important. 

Talking about leading by example - which example do you give?

I love to give the most basic. We all use the toilet. We clean the toilet. I will mob the floors, so it’s never going to be something that I expect my team to shy away from. Because I am part of the team. So that is my number one example, it keeps a clear message that I am prepared to do anything that I would also ask them to do as well.

That is quite important and they probably appreciate it a lot.

I think it’s important because gone are the days where managing staff exempts you from doing the same work as the team. I am very much a team player and that is how we get positives on the day. And ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

Does it create a community?

Well, right now we have a big community in the store. We go out and work alongside charity shops, getting involved with any events that are happening in the local community. My role then tends to bring that community spirit within the store. If you lead by example, the team pretty much follow suit with that. 

It’s also something Timberland represents, the community spirit that the brand lives in their sustainability projects.

We live and breath that. Last night I was in my local area where we are re-greening the area. The turnouts of 500 volunteers turned up yesterday. And they finished it up with a live gig from which again brought a lot of the community together, so we can reflect that with the store as well.

Jumping back to 2015: What was the motivation back then to apply for the role as Shop Manager at Timberland?

I felt that I needed a change. I have been with my previous employer of work for 15 years. I needed to take on a challenge, and knowing certain individuals that were happy in a - we call it a big peoples-company - it’s.. you’re not serving kids, you’re serving professionals, you’re serving individuals from multiple components of life. And that really interested me. My aim was to go to a company where customer service was customer service. Being a manager you had the autonomy to do things in the store and be able to see the benefits from the work. And that’s what Timberland really stood out for for me. Also, being part of VF Group. Understanding how big the corporation was... we could literally do anything.

So did you find the challenge and the purpose in your job at Timberland?

Timberland has really opened my eyes in terms of purpose and how we bring it directly to the stores where we are selling on a day to day basis. And how we connect purpose to the customer.

Purpose has allowed me to switch from driving a Diesel Car to an electric car. My emissions is zero. And I’ve looked at my household where we have caused a minimum at emissions. We recycle. Food, waste, cardboard, plastic. So that’s some of the things that really have been influenced by working for Timberland.

Just to make a quick excursion, I had an interview with Alicia Pinckney, Designer @Timberland, and she actually said something similar: That she found a purpose in her job and a change in her lifestyle when she started working for Timberland. Which I personally think is amazing as it is something a lot of people aim for.

It’s definitely been life-changing because you’re comfortable, because you can see what the company’s philosophy stands for, where they want to take it. If I give an example, theres not one down-feathered jacket in my store and we have some fairly big jackets. It’s all recyclable materials.  So in-sync with what I do at home, what I do when I’m coming to work, what I do at work, for me, it’s like a cycle, for me being as green as I possibly can and Timberland has definitely kickstarted that.

And do you think you influence Timberland in return as well?

Definitely. I am in a unique position being in a flagship store. You’re able to talk to various levels in the business. They definitely listen, because it’s important. And if you feel that you been listened to, it also inspires you to do more things and to feel good by it.

Looking back on your own experience, if you had to give advice on how to achieve a career at a Flagship Store, maybe even as a Shop Manager, especially for Retail or Sales experienced candidates who would like to reach the next level. What would you say which qualities are absolutely essential for your job?

I think you need to be very open-minded. You need to come to a company like Timberland knowing that the level expectation that is needed has to be grown from within. You’ve got to be prepared to make changes, be prepared to evaluate what you’ve learned previously and how you can have the right attitudes which is what’s going to be needed.  And once you have that, you’ve got the foundation. 

Do you think a Shop Manager should always have been working in retail before?

No. I certainly don’t. That’s qualities that you can also bring even without the retail experience. And still can make a big difference in the store. I think gone are the days where one has to have 100% retail experience. It’s the right attitude and what they can bring to the team or to the store. You’ve got to be open.

Always. And good with people probably.

Yes, definitely. 


The article grabbed your attention and you would like to join the Timberland team? All jobs from Timberland can be found at their company profile and the Timberland career portal.

Editor's Note: Timberland is part of VF, the the global company behind around 30 of the world’s leading sports, outdoor and lifestyle brands.
Timberland ®’s dedication to make quality products is bringing outdoor adventures within your city lifestyle. A global leader in premium-quality footwear, apparel and accessories that is equally committed to environmental and social responsibility

How products come to life: An interview with Hermin Uzer from Napapijri

You might ask yourself: How exactly does a sketch from a Designer turn into a real product? As we just have a very general answer to this question ourselves, we passed it on to an expert in this field.
Hermin Uzer, Head of Product Development of Napapijri since 2011, translates design ideas and transforms them into three-dimensional products on a daily base, through all of the stages involved in developing outdoor apparel from concept to final product.

We were lucky to have her give us passionate insights into her work at Napapijri, shed some light on what exactly product development is (and what it is not) and after all, how it brings the brand to life.

Sportyjob: Let's jump right in. I have to admit I always found it difficult to really explain what Product Development actually is. Maybe you can help me and the readers get a better understanding of it. What exactly is it that you do at Napapijri?

Hermin Uzer: In a nutshell, product development is making the garments three-dimensional. You know, we make the garments real. There’s a lot that needs to be done, so where we start is basically when we get the briefing and the target from our merchandising team where they note the retail prices, the line architecture, what kind of innovations or carry-over-styles we need to consider. What the general direction is. It’s the same briefing that the designers get.
Based on that, we deliberate who the right vendor would be. And after that, we would get the initial sketches and ideation from the designers and we would work with the raw materials team to arrange all the components that are needed to make the product real.

SJ: So it’s basically the entire journey from the product. And if you would break it down how your department develops new products from scratch to market, how would you describe it?

We would start with the sketch from the designers and create a technical description for it. We then send the technical sketches to the vendor.
So, we make detail sheets, we scan sketches for construction and design features that we have to specify. This might be a very specific sleeve-construction, a specific fit or functionality that we need to take into consideration. It's really about every single detail. The color, the applications, prints, specific stitches. Maybe other features or handcrafts. Completely sketch out every single thing and component so that it's absolutely clear what the vendor needs to produce.

SJ: And after that?

HU: For the second step, we actually visit the vendor and together with them look at how the construction came out. Is it nice? Are there limitations? Do we have to make some adjustments? And directly in the factory, we work together with those vendors, making sure that the design is something that we can realize in the garment.

SJ: What's the biggest challenge about it?

HU: Our most intensive work is maintaining the design integrity within the possibilities that exist. So, coming back to what I said back earlier, the target that the merchandiser's define is a very important factor in product development, but keeping the design integrity is even more important. Because that, you know, that gives the wa-woomm and the life and the DNA to the brand!


The target that the merchandiser's define is a very important factor in product development, but keeping the design integrity is even more important. Because that, you know, that gives the wa-woom and the life and the DNA to the brand!

Hermin Uzer

HU: Anyway, that’s usually the part where we spend 80% work time on, going back and forth to the vendors, working on the washes, applications, the sizing, the construction, the workmanship, the pricing, the fabrics and everything. It’s a lot. It’s basically everything.
That’s why I said in a nutshell it’s making a design three dimensional. It’s not just going to the vendor and a sample comes out. It’s really working in translating the inspiration from the designer, but maintaining the KPI from the merchandiser in order for them to place it on the market.
After that, we would get a first product, we would have a review meeting with both merchandisers and the designers to get their feedback on the execution, on the color, on the intensity, on the price, etc. And usually, we construct a garment further until we get to a second prototype. And so on until the final product comes out.

SJ: A very extensive process.

HU: We also have to take into consideration the testing part on quality: this requires testing of the fabric and the components, but also full testing of the garment - do all features and benefits work in construction, such as seam-taping, or wash details, colour migration? Does the fabric work in combination with the excecution – pilling, snagging, and so on. To make sure we deliver an up to standard product to the consumer, we have to look at each and every aspect while developing.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZwQ7uOoWik
Hermin Uzer goes into further detail on how she develops products for Napapijri


SJ: It seems like Product Development and the Design process are very entwined. You studied Design yourself at the AMFI. Does it come in handy for your position?

HU: I would say yes and no. It’s very difficult. I mean I started out as a Designer indeed. However, at the time that I started, Design, Development, Coloring, being responsible for graphics and production, was all-in-one.
In that period of time, you know, as a Designer, we were obliged to go to the factories and take care of the realisation ourselves.
And I clearly remember the moment it had changed when some bigger corporations came to Holland - that is in my case, as I work in Amsterdam - there was a moment when I had a talk with a large international company and they asked me „Ok, you have to make a choice. It’s either design or either development.“ And I was like „What do you mean? Design and Development is one and the same." But in this company, Designer's were in charge of setting up and designing the collection, but the developers were responsible for the realization of the product. That’s when I decided, I'd rather go into the product development side, because realization for me is more important. Because you can have a beautiful sketch, but then the outcome might not be like you imagined.
So I wanted to be as close as possible to the design. However, when I look at some of people that I worked with in the past who have been in my team of developers, you know, most of them they are younger and they didn’t have any design experience, but they’re extremely good developers. I think if you have a combination of understanding creativity, even though it’s not your own design, and understanding the DNA of the company and the creativity of the Designer, being able to translate it into a construction so that you don’t change the styles too much - that’s the most important asset you can have as a developer.


If you have a combination of understanding creativity, even though it’s not your own design, and understanding the DNA of the company and the creativity of the Designer, being able to translate it into a construction so that you don’t change the styles too much - that’s the most important asset you can have as a developer.

Hermin Uzer

SJ: That's incredible! I need to admit that I’ve actually never really distinguished between Design and Product Develoment.

HU: Honestly, I think you shouldn’t. Over the last 25 years, it’s how the development went. I am happy to see that nowadays, especially with the upcoming of digital design, the new master studies at fashion schools turn their focus on creating styles digitally. I see the fusion of Design and Development come back more and more. Because those students are obliged to really understand construction, pattern making, fabrics, applications and everything, whereas there was a time when design was only focused on creativity. Realization was important, but not in depth. I see that coming back in the newer generations.

SJ: Yeah sure, it is really important that the Designer's have an understanding of the overall process.

Yes! It is! In my opinion, designers and developers do have different strengths, but they should actually know exactly the same. It’s like your left and right arm. And without one the other would not function.

SJ: Let's finish with a personal insight. What is your favorite part of being a product developer?

HU: It’s being in touch with the product. Even though it’s something that I don’t design, it is designed in my brand, so it’s also something from me. Just having the challenge to realize that design and enable the adaption from all sides, from quality, execution, targets and design integrity. That’s - it’s always nice! It becomes your little baby. You’re responsible from Step B onwards - but even without Step A, it’s your little baby.



Editor's Note: Napapijiri is part of VF, the the global company behind around 30 of the world’s leading sports, outdoor and lifestyle brands.
With a finnish name, the norwegian flag as a logo and found in Italy, Napapijri represents a global mindset through the intersection of boundaries, culture, nature and art. The brand portfolio includes Menswear, Womenswear and Childrenswear.

Meet Alicia Pinckney: Designer at Timberland

Timberland Designer Alicia Pinckney

Passionate, creative and a very contagious smile: That's Alicia Pinckney. The Men's Apparel Designer of Timberland heritage talked to us about her career, what inspires her and the possibilities for sustainable solutions of sports fashion design.

Sportyjob: I've seen you had your 2 years anniversary these days. Congratulations!

Alicia Pinckney: [laughs] Thank you!

SJ: So, how have your last two years at Timberland been?

AP: I feel like these last two years have gone by so quickly! I've joined the team together with a bunch of new people, so in a sense, we kind of build the brand up again with a completely new team. With that in mind, there has been a lot of evolution, a lot of structure changes, just a lot of things happening in these last two years. So I think that’s what made it go by really fast! I’ve just been keeping up with everything that has been going on. I like fast pace and that’s what Timberland has been. It’s always been open for change and constantly evolving to something new. So it has been a very interesting time in my two years here, meeting different people, traveling to different places around the world.

SJ: Is it something that sparks your creativity, going so fast pace?

AP: I definitely think it is! Because for me, if I feel like I am stagnated or anything isn’t happening, my creativity can lie dormant. But if you have something that is stimulating you, like going to new places, being exposed to new cultures, that keeps the creativity and juices flowing. Whenever we design for a new season, we are always traveling - I can say that it definitely helps with the creativity.


If I feel like I am stagnated or anything isn’t happening, my creativity can lie dormant. But if you have something that is stimulating you, like going to new places, being exposed to new cultures, that keeps the creativity and juices flowing

Alicia Pinckney

SJ: Let's go back two years. Do you remember your first product that came to store?

AP: Yeah, actually! When I first joined the team in July 2017, I immediately started working on a collaboration project with Christopher Raeburn. Then, around June 2018, it was presented at the London Fashion Week. It was our first time having a Timberland product on a runway during fashion week. So that was something! I was like: "Wow, I just started and I already see my stuff!". Normally, when you start at a company, it takes a while to actually see your designs in action, because of the timelines we are working on.
Another few months later I saw it in our Flagship Store in London in Regent Street, which was very cool and very exciting! And when I went back home to America, I went into the New York store and I saw that we had a popup store based on showing this product, because this project was so significant for sustainability. You see, Christopher Raeburn is all about reuse, reduce, recycle and circular design. And our product was basically that. We made sure that all of our cotton that we used was organic, any part that is possible can be recycled. It was basically like a very closed circular collection. The intent was reducing waste and making use of waste, everything we used from very sustainable resources.

SJ: Talking about sustainability. Timberland has been doing a lot to reduce the carbon foot print of the fashion industry. One of their goals is to reuse 100% recycled materials until 2020. What is your role in reaching these goals?

AP: We’ve been training a lot on circular design. I am not sure if you’re familiar with that. You look at design in general, normally it’s very linear, we pick up a resource, we use it and then it’s wasted. And no one does anything with the waste. But the concept of circular design does. You start with the resources, make fabric from it which - after the consumer uses it - can be remade into something else and can go back to the beginning loop of the resources. It can be regenerated for something else. So, we should eliminate our carbon foot print, not have so much waste. A lot of our decision making also depends on: ok it can be repaired, so the customer doesn’t have to throw it away. Which is a big factor. Or we also can choose things that are already recycled, for example, companies using recycled nets from the ocean. It’s about doing the research, to take waste and making something out of it.  So it’s a lot of thinking what we’re doing and honestly, out of all the big companies that I’ve worked for, Timberland is the most aware in the details to help reduce our carbon footprint.

SJ: How does sustainability influence your designs?

AP: I feel that it influences my way of designing in the way that when people think of me as a designer or like when you think of the idea of any designer, you automatically think of fashion, trends, that’s it. But for me, I think, having this whole topic of sustainability in the forefront of my mind, I am not just chasing after fashion. I am chasing after what makes a change for the world. I know it sounds a bit cliché, but if you only stay relevant with what’s happening in trends, honestly, a lot of trends aren’t that great for the environment. So, it really changes my way of designing, because I am not really trend and fashion focused, I am more purpose and function focused.


I am not just chasing after fashion. I am chasing after what makes a change for the world

Alicia Pinckney

SJ: So, you don’t only have an impact on Timberland's design, but it also has one on you!

AP: Yeah, I can definitely agree with that. It feels like it gives you a sense of purpose. Because I feel that when you’re designing with not having anything in mind other than creating a garment that someone looks nice in, you kind of feel - I don’t know about anyone else, but for me - I kind of feel empty. Because this is what I am contributing to the world, that is my purpose.
When you look at the DNA of Timberland and the fact that we’re trying to do good for the world, while we also do this creative part of designing, you can feel a bit a balance of your fulfillment. Because you’re doing creative stuff, but you’re also doing something that is going to actually make a difference. Instead of just filtering the world or just oversaturating the world with garments, garments, garments, we’re trying to make a difference. Because of course, garments will always be a part of our life here, but if you can do it in a way you’re not killing the world, you feel a sense of purpose, of personal purpose.

SJ: Finding this fulfillment as an employee must be extraordinary for you, because before you were freelancing, you had your own brand GLEON 1938. It probably must have been a big change when switching from your own products to representing a brand. How is it different when working for a brand than doing your own products?

AP: I think it’s completely different as you are working collaboratively. Everything is build off of a team, from the initial ideation of the direction for the season to working with different partners to help to complete the collection. Whereas when I was working on my brand, I did everything on my own. I cut and sewed, and created my own patterns. I was connecting with different creatives, from my photographers to models and event creators for whenever I did fashion shows. At Timberland, we're involving another community of manpower to help get the brand globally reached.
But what I definitely think is the difference when you’re working for a brand is, not only do you have the financial support, but you can actually make a global statement when it comes to being sustainable.
But I really think you can take your ideas and your mindset from working  on your personal brand and bring the two at a larger scale when you’re working collaboratively with other designers. You can really see how it can become something big.

SJ: Would you say your old designs have become a part of your new work as well?

AP: I can definitely say that. For me, I have always been into function, as I mentioned before. Growing up, I have always been into maths and science. I was really into engineering throughout high school. And when I decided to pursue fashion design, it was another way to let out my creative side. So when I was designing personally for my brand,  I did a lot of things that required a lot of function. So, for me, I used that same way of thinking coming from Timberland. Whenever we design something, we always design with a purpose. Whenever we present something, we can’t just say „Oh I did this pocket, because it looks nice“. We have to have a true reason why we did it. Especially, for me working off of the heritage of Timberland, we defined our customer and our customer loves function. Our customer goes outside a lot. so, you know we need to be able to equip them with anything they'll need, whether it’s multiple pockets or a reversibility or whatever. Every detail that he can use when he’s outside. so for me, I was able to translate my functional way of thinking to Timberland.

SJ: Looking back, what is your favorite part of being a fashion designer?

AP: I have so many favorite parts of being a fashion designer  [laughs]. First, I would say the traveling is one of my favorite parts, because I love to travel and I am really really excited and grateful to have a job that allows me to travel. Seeing different cultures, seeing different things that help inform your collections.
The second thing I can say is when you actually get the garment, because you spend so much time sketching in 2D or sketching on the computer and then when you actually receive the garment that feeling to see it is just like „wow amazing!“. To see it transform from paper to an actual product is a very... it’s kind of like a confirmation.

SJ: Hearing this, you’re very passionate about your job. Which is great! You’d probably recommend becoming a designer.

AP: Yeah, I do!

SJ: If you would have to advice someone who wants to become a designer, which advice would you give him or her on how to achieve this career?

AP: I would definitely say, to surround yourself with people who you aspire to be. Getting to know other people that are designers. To ask questions. That way you can, you know, get advice from them. Also, be open to learn on your own. Do a lot of research. Like for me, I have always done a lot of research, I learned how to sew when I was 12. That was kind of a self-taught process. So when you’re open to researching, problem solving, anything like that that can really help you and boost you to becoming a designer.

Self-Taught Designer: All garments designed, cut and sewn by Alicia Pinckney for Vogue Italia's Call for Talents IV where she scored a scholarship for the Domus Academy's Master Fashion Design - © Vogue Italia

SJ: Did you already know that you want to be a designer when you were 12?

AP: Yes!!! I know, it’s so crazy. As i mentioned before I was really smart in school, like i was the valedictorian and the president of my class. I was really smart, I was like the mathlete nerd kind of girl. But at the same time, my family is filled with a lot of creativity. My mother works a lot with wood and my grandfather used to build with wood, too, he was a carpenter and a painter. And for me, just being surrounded by that as a kid was always something I also wanted to do. So I used to sketch all the time! I got my first sewing machine when I was 12. And from there, I used to make a lot of things, I made my prom dresses when I was in high school. So for me this was always a part of who I was, I’ve always known I wanted to be a designer since I was very young. And i just took the path to follow to get me to where I am now.