Entrepreneurs talking business during the COVID-19 virus
Photo by: Dorina van der Graaff
Tosca Otten has thirteen years of experience working in fashion and just launched her own brand TOS Gallery.
How is she handling business in these uncertain times?
What measures are you currently taking?
Since last week I work only from home, luckily for the moment my laptop (and coffee) is all I need. Because we are all hit by this, I try to think along with my clients, relations and fellow entrepreneurs to find ways to keep going, together, to help each other to take steps that might help their business and brainstorm to find ways to not completely freeze everything. To put our minds together and find opportunities and initiatives that could also help others in our direct business environment. Also, when I started working for myself, I wanted to keep learning new things so that I can spread my chances and keep developing my skillset.
Fashion as an industry is pretty risky, so luckily I like to learn many other things that I can now put to the test. This is helping me in the situation we are in now, the ‘don’t put your eggs in the same basket’ idea. Even though my expertise is to design, I also developed skillsets that are linked to this, like creative directing. I learned from scratch how to create a fashion brand, with all the different subjects in it, and now I can use my own experience to help others take their first or next steps. I know my own strengths very well, and have the right network to fill up the parts that aren’t my strongest. This is something I can also deliver to other brands and it’s a great way to help others grow but also to keep learning.
Because TOS gallery is an artistic slow fashion brand, I have the freedom to focus on different projects and find opportunities in a broader sense. I really enjoy diving into another brand’s perspective and find opportunities with them, it creates a sense of ‘togetherness’ instead of the primitive ‘eat or be eaten’ spirit. This is for an old generation of fearful egocentric individuals, and in my vision this mindset has absolutely no future.
How do you handle your supply chain?
Currently all my supply is online, and once it’s out of stock there will be a waiting list, unfortunately. I don’t pre-produce high quantities, because I don’t want to create deadstock. Next to that my manufacturers are all in France and Italy the lead-times are good. I mainly create unique pieces, handmade items or made to measure designs. For the more commercial items, there are a few pieces in stock and after that, they would be made to order. Private orders that were in the making are still being made, but new ones are on hold for the moment, as there would be too much contact and by that too high of a risk. Thanks to platforms like IKIGAI LABELS, we still offer our collections, and now also with special offers to support institutions that are fighting the virus.
How do you arrange everything with your staff?
My assistant left Europe thanks to this virus (she is Taiwanese), which I am really sad about, as we did every project together since last year. I chose for TOS gallery to be a conscious artistic slow fashion brand, of which I can do most work myself, so there is no other personnel involved. I do work with a fixed team of freelancers with whom I follow up on my own projects as well as projects for other brands and businesses. We share a certain perspective on the world, fashion and society and because of that, we work together really well with a lot of enthusiasm for fellow-minded projects and brands. We all care about our freedom and yet we have a very strong team spirit, I’m very happy I found them all!
What opportunities do you see at the moment?
I see chances in networking! We’re all cut from what we love to do, nobody wants to do nothing or sit still. I’ve seen loads of beautiful initiatives last week and people are open to talk to each other and find solutions together. The sense of Togetherness is very present, even if we can only connect digitally, and this makes me imagine that there will be collaborations built for the long term as well. We are all looking for chances in each other at the moment, which is great! On top of that, the focus on nature and sustainability is increasing and might push us all even more to dive into this subject and understand that we together can definitely stop the world from getting worse in the future.
This ‘unplugging’ proofs that we can, and the question that needs answering is ‘how’? With so many creative initiators at home, dying to put their skills into work, I’m sure we will find many ways to create a different business-environment, on a global scale.
I also see chances online for people to really connect, like online group meditations or group brainstorms. Facebook groups like ‘Creatieve Freelancers Amsterdam’ are now more than a platform to offer and find workspaces and clients, because we are now also looking for ways to help each other out. In the end I think this shows us how much we want to work together and how much social interaction defines us and our economy. That no matter what happens, we still look for opportunities and we can now take a deep breath and take a clear look into what’s really important.
I think it would be nice to help others in these times of ‘house arrest’ and to help you with thinking creatively about your company, brand, strategy or other creative plans!
That makes me genuinely happy, and good energy is more than welcome of course.
I have 13 years of experience in fashion, at home and abroad, both independently and in paid employment, and I do creative directing (figuring out how to make your brand one whole, checking whether your product / service matches your visual communication), come up with ideas for your campaign / insta visuals, think along in sampling and how not to increase your production costs, photography ideas, etc.), styling, visual branding, concepts and fashion design.
Maybe I can also bring you in contact with suitable copywriters, web builders, sampling workshops or others in my network?
That way we can maybe help each other a bit.
I am available for (obviously digital) brainstorms of an hour per session, for a mini-covid19 price of, yes, 19, – (ex VAT).
So send me a quick message, I would like to meet you! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Positive thought to conclude with:
This is temporary! And it’s a reboot that I think we needed, as humans but also as a world. As a world we weren’t going anywhere good, and now we can take a breath and take steps that support a better world in the future. We can see which parts of society are important, which people are in need of help, what initiatives come out of this and that we aren’t that different from each other after all. Of course, the question is if we will drop those old (damaging) habits and find new and improved ones, but I think many of us want to put our focus and energy in something that actually adds to the world, instead of destroying it. The virus hopefully kicks the ass of the ‘eat or be eaten’ mentality! We’re in this together and we make each other stronger, which is pretty awesome to see happening all around.
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