An Hour With ...

Thomas Gfeller, Founder of Thomas Jakobson 

Thomas Gfeller, Founder of Thomas Jakobson 

Thomas welcomed me into his world of concepts, creativity and design. He is a poet of our time, an optimist with a strong ethic. He believes in a colourful and aesthetic world.

Thomas, tell us about yourself?

I have always had a creative mind. In highschool, I was highly interested in arts. I was not sure which career path to go, however it was really clear to me that I did not want to become a teacher, like the rest of my family. And guess what ? I became an elementary school teacher. As expected, it did not fulfil me and I had to go back to what moved me when I was a child: creativity. The change process was tough for me. At the time, I was lacking self confidence and did not believe that I was good enough to become a designer. Despite all this, I gathered the courage to create my portfolio required to apply to Zurich University of the Arts - ZHdK. I got accepted and studied a BA in Product and Industrial Design with a Specialization in Style & Design. This gave me the opportunity to work with concepts and create a world around each project. Funny enough, all these projects were geared towards fashion.

How did the Thomas Jakobson's story start?

I have always been a sock lover you could even say a sock freak. From a very young age, I started collecting socks. Diving into this world was natural. I have to admit that I have an obsession with matching my socks with another piece of my outfit. I went for bow ties because I find the distance between the feet and the neck interesting and I think ties are extremely boring. I took the opportunity of my Bachelor thesis to start up Thomas Jakobson. I searched for a production site in Germany, Portugal and Turkey. Thank god they had a minimum order which was way too high for a student start up like mine. As it was meant to be, I found a small factory in the Eastern part of Switzerland, which accepted to produce only 100 pairs. The original concept was called Twinset by Thomas Jakobson, meaning that you could only buy the socks with the bow tie. This did not work so well because it was too restrictive and it excluded women as they do not usually buy bow ties. I rectified the concept for the second collection where bow ties and socks could be bought separately. Later I started an internship at Hugo Boss in Germany in the creative department for Boss Green. This was super interesting but at the same time I launched my first crowdfunding campaign to start my first real collection splitting socks and bow tie.

Would you have any words of wisdom for fellow designers willing to launch a crowdfunding campaign ?

It is perfect for people like me who do not want to take credit and do not have rich parents. You need to have a solid concept, good pictures, and an attractive video prior to starting the campaign. As soon as it is launched, you need to activate your social media, talk to the press (magazines, regional newspapers, radio stations) and market your story to everybody on the planet. Why would strangers give you money and on top through the internet? Networking is key. I even talked to people on the street. You have to know that it is really hard work and time consuming. It quickly becomes a full time job. I ran two campaigns and clearly the second one was more successful: I took lessons learnt from the first one, I had the contacts and changed provider. The second time I used wemakeit, they are based in Zurich and have a bigger network. They have a database of thousands of subscribers and send newsletters.

If I am not mistaken Thomas your last name is not Jakobson?

(laugh) No that's right but Gfeller is not the most suitable nor the most salesy. My second first name is Jakob so here you go.


Why did you decide for a web shop rather than a brick and mortar shop?

First of all, it is way too expensive to open a shop. 
I would love to open a shop but with much more than just my products. It could be a sort of concept store with a bar during the day and a night club. The issue is afterwards when do you get the time to work on your designs?
I like working with small shops/stockists that can tell their clients about the story of my brand, where it is produced etc...I am not interested in Globus or Manor. My online store is my shop window and the place where only my bow ties are sold. This way when someone buys socks with one of the stockists, I can get the backflow traffic on my website for the bow ties.

The Socks

Any tips for setting up an online shop ? 

Think of the right web provider, it is always difficult to change. Think of shipping. Invest in good pictures - so many online shops have great products but the pictures do not do them justice. And last but not least, think of packaging: How do you picture the moment when the online shopper opens his or her parcel? Between the moment the clients have placed their order and the moment they receive my socks, a few days have passed. They have to wait and are looking forward to receiving their parcel. So I always try to add a little something, the unpacking moment needs to be special.

My parents understood really early that I needed to fulfil my thirst for creativity and they always supported me..”


Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur? 

Always no. However it was clear that I would do something that I love. My parents understood really early that I needed to fulfil my thirst for creativity and they always supported me. 

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I am browsing concepts from other small brands. I look at people in the street all the time, ok sometimes I admit I am starring at them (laugh). I am attracted by aesthetics. I travel a lot. I love both cities and nature. And finally, music. When I listen to music I create worlds in my mind, I have feelings, moods.

The Bow Ties

What type of music inspires you?

There was a time when I would only listen to hip hop but now my taste is extremely eclectic: I listen to indiepop, synth-pop, electropop, but also gypsy music and I love "chansons" like France Gall and Stromae.

How was it like to see your first creation come to life

That was certainly one of the greatest moments in my life. It was during my bachelor thesis. I went to my manufacturer, I input all my designs in a special computer program, waited seven minutes and then the socks were ready. Thomas Jakobson was written on them. I was so proud. You know this moment is still great even after a few years. Each time I have a new design, I am there in the factory, go through the computer procedure, wait and I feel as excited as the first time. 

Which famous person would you like to see as the ambassador for your brand?

Stromae. I love his style, his brand, really colourful. He creates worlds and I admire him for this. We could do a really cool collaboration together.

What motivates you on a daily basis?

To create pretty things. To create a world of colours and to hope  people are happy because they wear my socks and my bow ties. To pass on my philosophy of a sustainable way to work in the fashion business: produce regionally, use organic fabrics.

Favourite online shop? Colette
Favourite App? during the summer and Whitagram all year round
Favorite Instagram? @desoleepapa
Favorite Blog? Fucking Young
Where is your favourite spot in Bern? At the Aare river! It’s best for sports, to hang out, to let your soul be free, to swim, it’s just a place where you can take energy for you and your work!
Favourite Quote? I have it as a tattoo: Sourire - chanter - vivre


How do you see the internet of tomorrow?

A lot more faster than it is at the moment. More pictures, more videos and less text. People become lazier and busier. It will also become more diverse as everything will be digitalised.

What is next for Thomas Jakobson?

Next is to get into a fashion business rhythm. Now I am a bit behind. I am also on the search for designing men fashion even though I would like to keep it unisex. I am thinking of  shorts, sweaters, caps. For the next 2 years I will focus on enlarging my presence with the socks and bow ties in Switzerland and then I will go international, in more fashionable cities where I think my bow ties will get a good echo. I see my brand in an urban, avant-garde environment where slow fashion matters.