I met Andreea in her cozy design studio in Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg. She is sharing the space with other creative minds. Andreea offers me a cup of tea and asks “Do you want to hear the whole story?”. And of course I do!
Andreea came to Germany when she was a teenager. She studied in Canada and in Germany and was offered an internship for the label Martin Magiela while she was still in university. She lived in Paris for 10 years and is fluent in four languages. Now Andreea is the mother of a cute three year old and just started her own fashion label producing leather bags in Berlin.
Okay, let´s take a deep breath. She is human and she is a woman in business. I can´t wait to hear more about this lady – so I start my recorder.
When did you come to Berlin?
3 years ago. Just after arriving in Berlin I gave birth to my daughter. She gave me the idea for the name of my brand. “Lilou in Berlin”. But I recently found out that “Lilou” as a brand already exists. And adding “in Berlin” does not count as a brand name in Germany. That´s maybe useful to know for other entrepreneurs. (giggles) Now I will have to change everything. From bank accounts, to official papers and my branding. This will be a lot of work.
Do you know how you are going to change the name of your brand?
Yes, I will change it to my name: Andreea Tavitian.
I am happy this problem came up now, when I am just getting started. It´s all very new and I learn every day.
When did you know you wanted to start a company?
Actually I made the first bags when I was living in France. I did a couple of different bags – for fun. For myself. And friends started asking about the bags. They wanted to have bags as well and encouraged me to sell them.
Then I thought “OK, it would be interesting to produce a whole collection and to start a company.” My goal is to be creative. That´s what I want. I would not have minded to work for a brand where I can be really creative. I don´t feel the necessity to expose myself or do something for my ego. I just want to make nice things and spread them. But it came down to the necessity to start my own brand to be able to do what I want. To be able to live the creativity I want.
Can you describe your experience working for a company?
I have worked for some fashion brands in the past and for Peclers, a trend forecasting studio. Working for Martin Margiela in the beginning of my career was a great inspiration to me. I did not only learn about design and esthetic aspects but also about the workflow and organization of a collection. I was able to experience first hand how a brand organizes itself. It was great!
How come you decided to move to Berlin?
I have family here. And from the moment I was expecting my
daughter I thought it would be a big help to live closer to my family. And of course because I know the city, love it and find it affordable. Berlin is giving me the opportunity to build something. It makes it possible for me to have a work space and build my brand. In Paris for example everything is very expensive and it´s rather difficult to build a company there by yourself.
How did your environment react when you first came up with the idea of starting a business?
I don´t have people who try to discourage me in my environment. I carry full responsibility for my business and am working hard for it. I am financing everything myself and I am not asking anybody for money. So actually I don´t care about other people´s opinions. (smiles)
Is your family encouraging you and your plans?
I get help from the parents of my husband who take care of my daughter sometimes. Thanks to them I can focus on my business. But I am carrying 100% of the financial risk.
So how are you planning your time? It seems like you are doing many things at once: being a mom, wife, freelancer and building your own fashion brand. I am not even doing half of these things and can get overwhelmed by it sometimes.
How do you do it?
It´s not easy. I am not an organized person and have never been. But I have to say: If you are well organized you can do lots of things. And that´s something that I´ve learned.
But I am not in a rush with my project. In the beginning I thought I would have to work like big fashion brands. You know, produce new collections twice a year.
The fashion business is very cyclic. And you have to respect it. It´s like a big machine. You step on it and have to run. It never stops turning. With every new collection you have to do all the shows, the marketing, fairs and so on.
The buyers are often only looking at your stuff for 2 or 3 seasons until they decide to buy something. You need enough money to survive a few years. That´s the way it normally works. I knew that. And in the beginning I was very stressed by that idea.
Sounds like things changed now. Did you find this to be true for your brand?
Yes, it is true. This is the fashion reality. And maybe I live in a parallel reality.
Because I do the things even though I know I can´t feed this machine the way the industry wants me to. I don´t have the financial power that is needed to do so. I do the things in the rhythm I can do them. Not being able to conform to the system as I maybe should be would not stop me from doing what I love.
That realization gives me so much power. I had to work on this mindset to understand it. I am doing something I really love to do. And even though it does not pay very much at the moment I believe in it.
You mentioned you work a lot on yourself. Can you tell us more about that?
When I came to Paris I was introduced to a Buddhist practice called Sōka Gakkai. It works a lot with mantras and positive affirmations. There are many different kinds of Buddhism of course. But what I really loved was that the people there were so encouraging. The whole philosophy is to be happy. To do things that make you happy. And to succeed, no matter what. And by living your success you encourage other people. That way you spread the positive energy.
It was something that helped me a lot. When you start a business it´s definitely important to find and maintain a mental balance.
I am someone who always likes to grow constantly. I like to read books that help me uplift my spirit. I believe the balance and health of your mind is something I just have to do. It´s like brushing my teeth in the morning. You have to practice every day. It´s not just a one-time thing.
And the same I do with my bags. It´s my feelings that transform into colors, shapes and finally into the bags. My first collection expresses what I was feeling when my daughter was born.
Thank you Andreea – very inspiring. This also brings me to my last question. If you could give advice to the past you – let´s say 10 years ago. What would you tell her?
If I could give recommendations to the past Andreea I would not say anything. You need to learn by living your experiences. There are no mistakes and everything happens for a reason.
I´d tell her to include more consciousness in everything you do. Even during the day. Be more conscious about everything. But I don´t have any regrets even though my life was not perfect and is still not perfect. I believe everything in life has a rhythm. Everything comes to you in the best moment. You can always learn from a situation. Even if it´s an unpleasant one. It´s only the way you look at it that makes you happy or unhappy. When you made a mistake you can also look at it and say: “I am happy I made that mistake because now I am able to learn from it.”
Just look at the thing with my company name. 2 years ago I would not have been able to choose my own name for my brand. That´s why I created “Lilou in Berlin” and I used it to kind of hide behind a “brand”. It´s me but not me – if you know what I mean. I would not have had the self-esteem that I have now. But this year I developed a lot. I went to many fairs and expanded my marketing activities for my brand. I have a much higher self-esteem now. And now I feel able to really stand by my name. And it comes just in time I have to change my brand name. Sometimes the universe uses gentle force to make final decisions for you. All you have to do is to act upon it.
by Valeska von Mühldorfer, blogger and photographer
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