An Hour With ...
Splitting his time between developing editing techniques and conducting the quality inspection and production, Andreas took the time to explain how engineering and fashion are at the core of SELFNATION and how important it is to have high quality standards if you want to be successful.
Andreas, Who are you? What is your background?
I grew up in a very small valley in the center of Switzerland, surrounded by mountains in the canton of Uri. When I was 18 I moved to Zurich to start and follow my passion of engineering. I have always wanted to build things, to make them better, with higher quality. I was into building machines, which I think is not the opposite of handmade. Producing something with your hands or with a machine comes from the same root. I studied mechanical engineering in Zurich.
How did the story of SELFNATION start?
The idea developed while I was still studying. We were shopping with girlfriends and we had a hard time finding a fitting pair of jeans. We realized that our girlfriends were not the only ones hopping from shops to shops searching for the perfect fit. Did you know that in average women try on 20 pairs of jeans before they finally buy one? It was then high time to put an end to this misery! (laugh)
How did you come up with the word SELFNATION?
We are a nation of individuals, so we came up with the phrase SELFNATION. Meaning that we are all connected - our customers, our friends but at the same time we all look different so why should we all wear the same? We all have a passion for individual things, we do not want to be standardized by the industry.
Factory in Mendrisio in the Ticino region
“ I am completely convinced that having an easy way to buy a good pair of trousers that fits perfectly, that is high quality, that does not travel the world and that has a fair price has to be the first choice.”
Have you always wanted to become an entrepreneur?
Thinking about it, I believe I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Back in highschool, I was already selling small things to have a bit of money to buy candy. I was looking forward to working to get myself new stuff, like a new bicycle. It is also not a suprise that I ended up working with friends as it was already the case back then.
Would you say that to be successful it is important to be surrounded by a good team?
Absolutely. You have to be surrounded by two types of people:
- The Expert: People that are very good at what they do - it is crucial not to waste time especially at the beginning because if you are weak you are going to die faster
- The Sportsman: People that are passionate and have faith that it will work
Where are the trousers made?
We have high standards: not a single pair of jeans, chinos or shorts is the same, it is produced individually for every single client. To meet these standards we rely on traditional craftsmanship. This is why our unique trousers are manufactured by highly skilled workers in our production sites in Germany and Switzerland.
It is also important to know where the fabric comes from. For example, with jeans the denim itself is a product. One thing that differentiates us from the rest of the denim companies in the world is that all the material used to produce a garment comes from local traditional factories: buttons are being produced in a factory that has been existing for 170 years, denim comes from a 5th generation denim mill in Milan. There are stories behind our story.
What keeps you motivated?
I am completely convinced that having an easy way to buy a good pair of trousers that fits perfectly, that is high quality, that does not travel the world and that has a fair price has to be the first choice. Right now, obviously not everyone knows about us but when the world will find out we exist, SELFNATION will for sure be a tremendous success story. Today, SELFNATION has an extremely low return rate and a increasingly number of recurring customers. It clearly motivates us to keep on.
How do you manage to guarantee satisfaction of your customer?
We are in regular contact with our customers and we are always seeking feedback. We take into consideration any improvement suggestion.
If by any chance, our customers are not entirely satisfied with their trousers, they can contact us within 14 days of delivery of their jeans, chinos or shorts via email or telephone.
With a few short sentences explaining what the issue is about and sending us, if possible, pictures of themselves wearing their trousers. It is important that we are contacted first. Depending on the issue we can offer you the following:
- Small adjustments up to 40 CHF (EUR 35 / GBP 35) can be made at their nearest partner tailor and will be paid by Selfnation.
- In case of small adjustments a complete new production of their Selfnation trousers is possible upon consultation with Lena.
- The third possibility is the refund of the full purchase price and return the pair of jeans back to us.
Where is your clientele based ?
As a Swiss brand, the majority of our customers are based in Switzerland. However, SELFNATION started to attract clients from Germany, France, the UK and Scandinavian countries.
What has been your biggest highlight so far ?
The three year anniversary last November (2016). We launched a party expecting 70 people and over 200 came. Every single person that supported us from the very beginning was there, and also providers, clients, friends and family.
The team and I really felt the support and it is helping us to keep on improving, innovating, believing for another three years.
What drove your decision to open a webshop rather than a brick and mortar store?
It definitely costs less money. If we offered our products in a shop our customers would pay 60% more. It was very important for us to focus on the product, production is made with high quality materials. The rest of the costs is either eradicated or kept to a minimum so that we could offer our customers a tailor made product at a good price. Having our own shop could be an option...why not in the future.
Do you have any words of wisdom for budding entrepreneurs willing to launch an online shop?
Try to do something special and not another T-Shirt company that does not have a story. It can be special for its quality, its fabrics. People want to experience new things otherwise they go to a shop that already exists.
What was it like to sell your first pair of trousers to someone that was not a family member nor a friend?
We were thrilled because at the beginning we met every single customer and their feedback were extremely positive. We actually still invite our customers to come and visit us. It is paramount for us to keep this relationship with the end customers to ensure we are still meeting the highest quality standards.
How do you see the internet of tomorrow?
I see it going more and more towards mobile phones. Whatever makes people's life more convenient and more efficient will remain. We are still in the trial phase of how we connect everything in our life: calendars, fridge etc... However, we are on the edge of loosing part of our privacy and I think that there is going to be a movement against the internet.
What is next for SELFNATION?
We continue expanding the product collection. We have a lot of ideas playing with styles, colours and fabrics like cotton wool. We will also continue expanding in Europe, other continents will follow but step by step.