An Hour With ...
Family business are successful because they drive forces in the same direction. What stroke me when I met Isabelle and Katharina is that it is more than just a business. They have the same values, a unified vision and they know exactly what their goals are. All ingredients are gathered for success - #brandtowatch.
Katharina, Isabelle, Who are you? What are your backgrounds?
Katharina: First of all, we are sisters and really close. We somehow always knew that we would use this excellent relationship outside of the family circle and join our forces to build something together.
Isabelle: Our heart and mind have always been in the fashion industry, but our initial professional career started in the banking and telecommunication industry.
How did you come about the idea of INA KESS?
Katharina: Two years ago, we realized that the market was missing sportswear for everyday, functional clothing that brings you through the day regardless of your activity: doing sports, being in the office, boarding a plane. Women want to be stylishly dressed at any moment of the day. Isabelle: It was actually one of our needs. We like dressing well without having necessarily an outfit for each occasion. Katharina: we also believe that less clothes is better especially that nobody has time for neither washing nor ironing. It is paramount for us to create easy, good looking and functional clothing for active women.
Would you say that you are into trends?
Katharina: No, what is important to us is to respond to what women want and need. Women want to invest in clothes that you can wear several years, regardless of the season; clothes that fit your complexion; clothes that are made of fabrics that feel good on the skin. The market does not offer enough slow fashion brands. Brands that do not care about seasons but do care about quality. Our clients actually confirm it. Isabelle: We also pay special attention to the cut to ensure figure flattering clothes rather than trendy cuts and trendy colours. We study women's bodies and think through where the pockets should be placed, the height of the waist, the length of the trousers. These details are what make the difference in the overall appearance of women wearing clothes. Katharina: We have the example of these track pants that we sell to all kind of women, would they be short or tall, voluptuous or skinny. Each time our clothes fit all body shapes, we are thrilled. Women do not need to have an athletic body to look nice. It's true that there is an athleisure trend at the moment which says that it is accepted to wear sportswear during the day. But we also want to pass on the message that wearing functional and comfortable clothes should not be trendy, it must last. Isabelle: Whatever makes the life of women easier and more enjoyable cannot be a trend but a must.
Showroom in Zurich
How do you manage to design clothes that fit all?
“ Whatever makes the life of women easier and more enjoyable cannot be a trend but a must.”
Before we went live with our collection, we invited a few women to do some live test trials: all age range, different backgrounds, women who do a lot of sports, others that are rather into chilling out. We got their feedback on how they felt wearing INA KESS clothes and adjusted the cut and design accordingly. What was clear though was that none of these women were ready to compromise functionality on style or the other way around. That gave us a hint that we were going into the right direction.
Where does the name INA KESS come from?
Katharina: I initially started the brand so INA is a short name for Katharina and KESS stands for sporty in German. INA is feminine and KESS is tough.
What has been your biggest highlight so far?
Isabelle: Definitely when we went online on December 6th last year. It was the accomplishment of 18 months of hard work. And since we are perfectionist needless to say that the nights before the go-live date were short.
Katharina: That's true we are so detail oriented: be it for our clothes, our logo, our flyers, our website. However at one stage we had to press the button. It was a moment of truth: how would people react to our work ? Was it worthwhile quitting our respective jobs? Was it worthwhile having no spare time?
Have you always wanted to become entrepreneurs?
Isabelle: Even though we have always known that we would do something together, the idea developed over time. Once we started our "career" in the banking and telecommunication industries, we realised that it was not fulfilling for us. We were raised by entrepreneurial parents who had a different approach to work. Their focus was less on work life balance but rather on having a job that makes you happy and a job you do not need holidays from.
Katharina: That's right. There are never any Mondays; we actually often wonder which day of the week it is (laugh). I read an article recently that Switzerland is the country where people think it is the most difficult to be an entrepreneur. Not many Swiss people are risk-takers. When we started there were many people around us trying to discourage us. They meant well. They just wanted to protect us from an unknown future.
Where would you say this risk-adversity comes from?
Katharina: I would say it comes from the press. You can read everywhere how important it is to have a work life balance and that having a burn out is the disease of modern societies. Stress is always associated with lack of time and nobody talks about positive stress. We are stressed quite often and at the same time we cannot wait for the next adventure. Recently, I met a friend of mine that I had not seen for three years. She told me "You look younger and fresher than ever" and I have never slept so little (laugh). It is all about the inner positivity.
Isabelle: Sometimes we do not even dare saying that we are having fun in our jobs. It is as if it was not accepted. When you listen to the radio you can hear "Come on guys it is Thursday, one more day to go...".
Any words of wisdom for budding entrepreneurs?
Isabelle: Do not ask too many people about their opinion before launching your project.
Katharina: So many people will try to take you down so listen to constructive feedback but do take the negativity out. Try to surround yourself with positive people, it is always an enrichment.
How was it like seeing your first design come to life?
Katharina: A wise designer said to me once "do not expect your first design to turn out the way you had in mind". She could not have been more right.
Isabelle: Our first prototype was ready for pick up at the post office and we were so excited - we should have made a movie - and then it was the biggest disappointment. The pockets were in the back instead of the front, it had the lowest cut you can imagine, it was too long (laughing)
Katharina: Now it is way better, we can do the prototypes here. We learnt a lot for example how the fabrics behave etc...and now when we receive our products it is like a dream come true.
Isabelle: We have developed true partnership with our producers. They know that we can design and that we are fully in control of what we are doing so it became an investment for them to support us.
Katharina: There is a cultural aspect that should not be underestimated. For example, getting the prints in exactly our desired colour was quite difficult. Portuguese people are a bit more colourful than we are (laugh). Where we meant black, they saw purple.
Have you ever met someone that is not family nor friend wearing INA KESS?
Katharina: We haven't. Just friends texting us saying that they had seen someone. It will be super exciting to meet the first person outside from our inner circle wearing INA KESS on the street.
What keeps you motivated on a daily basis?
Katharina: Each day is full of surprises, you never know what to expect and I love this. We only work with people we like, people that are inspiring, positive and love their own lives.
Isabelle: We learn every day and our decisions have a direct impact on our label. We feel free.
What is next for INA KESS?
Our other sister will be joining us soon which is awesome. Further, we will be attending fairs in Berlin and Paris. We are also going to expand our presence in shops like Jelmoli in September. This is super exciting.