My name is Joanneke Raadsen.
A lot of people call me Jo. Which is much easier if you are not Dutch. I grew up in various European countries, and though I was not so happy with that at the time, it has resulted in feeling at home in a lot of places and with lots of different kinds of people.
I am the designer of LoFff and owner of the company Zazi Brands.
My start in fashion came quite late in life. In 1993, after a study of Economics and a few years working in various IT companies, I decided it was time to try something completely new. To be able to work independent and free, not being tied up in endless meetings, not being part of political but unproductive processes, and especially to be able to work with a tangible and beautiful product – that was what made me move out of IT. The move into children’s fashion was rather coincidental (I just had my first daughter). It could have been anything creative – ladies fashion was an option, designing furniture and lamps too. I even considered becoming a writer – but postponed that for another time in my life. And thus I became the first entrepreneur in the history of my family.
I had no experience in this field – the only thing I did do that was related to fashion was make nice stuff for myself from the age of about 15. And this was mostly because in those days it was almost impossible to find any nice stuff to wear for girls of 1 meter 85…. So I had to make them myself.
Other than that, no experience. But a clear view on how I wanted to start a company, and what a collection should look like, and how to sell it. Not going from shop to shop by myself, but straight from the start aim for professionalism. Make a couple of sample collections, find agents, participate in international fairs. So that is what I did, and 3 out of 4 agents did not sell one single piece of that first collection, but the 4th, from Belgium, did. And he believed in me, so he placed an extra order for his own wholesale company too, and rescued my first production with that. And from there on, I never looked back at the easy life in a corporate environment, where things are predictable and you receive a fixed salary into your bank account every month. This feeling of making something, that is appreciated, loved, and being able to live from that, is unique.
After this stage comes a long history full of details that are not so relevant any more. The heaps of mistakes I made in those first years, because of my lack of experience. The high end boutique line that I introduced, using fabrics that were a 100 euro per meter, that was sold in exclusive shops like Harvey Nichols in London. The private label line that we did, delivering major quantities to C&A, Natalys and the likes. The bankruptcy in 2001, the struggle to get back after that.. The buying back of all shares in 2010, making the company 100% mine again. All that is long gone.
From where we are now life looks good. I am not alone any more, there is a whole team both from Holland and abroad that together forms Zazi Brands.
There are people in my team that I have been working with for more than 10 years, there are factories in India that we have been working with for almost 10 years.
We are building long term relationships, and LoFff has got company now – our other brands are flourishing, which is good for the stability of the company.
And I get more and more time to work at the company and the future – being less involved in the day to day details. (mostly, that is, though there are times when I work alongside everyone else doing what needs to be done on time). And generating new ideas and plans is what I really enjoy.
Every company is like a living organism. You need to feed it, cherish it, take it along for a ride, give it new ideas, educate it, raise it… and enjoy watching it grow up!