LABELS TO MEET: NEUN SINNE

After more than 30 years in the development of high-quality women’s and men’s fashion, founder Harald Schönach has fulfilled his dream of owning a label with NEUN SINNE. His aim: to emphasize the personality of women with excellently designed clothing without disguising her. The trousers, skirts, dresses, blouses and jackets in sizes 34 – 44 flatter the female body by combining the greatest art of cutting and the finest fabrics to create a total work of art of the highest comfort – which shines in everyday (office) use as well as on fine occasions.

In our interview you will learn more about Harald and why every woman will fall in love with his collection.

What was your childhood dream?

Becoming a designer and doing fashion was definitely my dream. When I was a little boy, I enjoyed shopping with my mom and advising you. When my big brother’s girlfriend did an apprenticeship as a tailor, I soon sewed a lot for my siblings and family. I was increasingly interested in fashion and then went to the super great Avantgard fashion shows in the German Museum in Munich. A tailoring apprenticeship and a visit to the master school in Munich were the result. I still love fashion and I am glad that I have chosen this path because it is my passion.

 

How did the foundation of NEUN SINNE come about?

In 2000 I started my own business and worked as a freelancer for many high-quality fashion labels. But after they also produced more and more in Asia and low-wage countries and the quality became worse and worse, I wanted to start creating something of my own with high quality and fit. Another reason for me was to do the production in Germany and to strengthen the few companies that still exist before they have to close because the price war with the Far East and the nearby foreign countries is very high. Unfortunately, “Fast Fashion” (Pronto Moda) is also produced in old Italian textile factories at the cheapest prices in Italy, which were taken over by the Chinese. This is something I do not want to support because the workers are not paid and treated fairly.

In addition, more and more companies that I have worked for have filed for bankruptcy or moved development abroad. For me it was a sign that I was creating my own label. If not now then when? I had experience in some areas and was able to learn a lot of new things.

 

What makes the NEUN SINNE collections so special, especially for business women?

I know some business women and can put myself in your skin. It is important that you feel good! Especially after a long day of meetings and trips, you may have a meeting for dinner or a social event in the evening. However, they do not always want to change their clothes or do not have the opportunity to do so. So it is important to make fashion that can be worn during the day as well as in the evening, which can often only be replaced by details such as shoes or trousers with a skirt and thus gives a new look. The silk that I process has many great properties that are very often appreciated. I am currently in a new development of blouses that support the immune system with components in the fabric, which is often useful and balanced in a stressful everyday life. I’m currently testing this on myself and various people. If everything goes well, I will offer a small selection in autumn.

Our silk fabric prints are all developed in-house and manufactured in Como in one of the best printing companies that also print for Etro, D&G, etc. The basic goods for printing are supplied by us and therefore have an influence on the quality. Our prints are colored indanthrene and the print goes through and through. So there is hardly a difference between inside and outside. Very few substances have these characteristics.

 

You took the plunge into self-employment after 30 years. Would you jump again?

After 20 years of experience as a freelancer, it wasn’t a big step. Of course, you have left safe waters, but it is also important to get out of the comfort zone and get involved in something new. The build-up phase is not very easy because the price pressure and the competition is very big. Of course you can find similar products cheaper elsewhere, but this is not about disposable items. Our selection of materials, ingredients and also the cut and the processing is absolutely high quality, many other labels cannot keep up.

 

What are the advantages of self-employment for you?

There are currently hardly any advantages. It used to be easier. I have been working mainly from home since I was self-employed and could also spend more time with my family during the day and then work when the children were in bed. Now I work almost around the clock and hope that it will get better soon.

 

What are the most important marketing tools for you?

I’ve tried a lot but haven’t found the one that’s right for me. This year I wanted to try something new, but everything was canceled and canceled due to Corona. Because of sustainability, I didn’t want to offer my goods online and sell everything through retail. I was at trade fairs in Berlin and Düsseldorf, but retail is not ready for new things, so I currently only sell through my own pop-up stores and now with you through styles4work.com.

 

You primarily sell offline in pop-up stores and online via Styles4Work.com, what are the reasons for this?

I originally wanted to sell it in boutiques and go through retail. So far, it was important for me to feel the proximity to the customer or to find stores that have a good relationship with the end customer and advise accordingly. Now I do it myself in my own stores, with which I am always in different places. It’s great because you get to know so many nice and lovely people, whether you buy them or not. Very often it is interesting encounters that enrich life. I am lucky to make even small series or one-off productions and do not have to do as much in advance.

 

Where do you see NEUN SINNE in ten years?

If I’d know that? Of course I have a vision until I can see if this can be implemented in this way. In the current economic situation, no one can make a real forecast because so much depends on it. Of course, I hope that more and more customers will decide on regional goods and that a new awareness will set in.

 

What were your most important learnings from NEUN SINNE?

It is important to remain flexible these days, which I have managed quite well so far. Of course I gather new experiences every day and that’s good! Since I have been doing everything on my own so far, my tasks are varied and a lot of fun.

As a man you make fashion for women, so you’re not the only one. What are the advantages?

Sometimes I don’t know if there are any advantages in making fashion for women as a man. I have a good sense of proportions and the implementation from sketch to cut. It’s very often a matter of feeling and I’ve always had a good feeling about it otherwise I wouldn’t have been so successful in the past 20 years. There used to be a lot of male tailors, but today it is something special. There weren’t many in the master school either, but there were three in my year.

As a woman, you have a lot more advantages because you can often carry your own creations and market them better.

 

Fashion is a personal, emotional topic. What does it mean for you?

For me, it also means saying how I feel! When I wear a shirt that I really appreciate and like, you have a completely different posture and charisma than when I only see the shirt as a normal everyday item of clothing. Many only wear special and more expensive items of clothing on special occasions. I will not do that. I also wear them in the garden or when I don’t go out. I don’t do it for others, but for myself, because I am worth it. What good is a nice piece of clothing for me that I only wear twice a year and then only feel great twice a year? The purchase is not worth it. I think you should wear your favorite items as often as possible and prefer to buy less, but specifically and not large quantities that end up in your garment bag unworn. Above all, this would help the environment and also the protection of resources.

 

How important is the right business outfit?

It plays a big role to choose an outfit in which you feel very comfortable. That also goes down well with the other. One of my senses at NEUN SINNE is the sense of color. Here I go into which color you should wear for which meetings and events. Colors have certain properties and modes of action, which also affect the person.

 

Do you have any advice for women who are still looking for their style?

It all depends on the type. A lot of people don’t dare to wear colors because they could quickly become the focus. I think everyone should wear what they enjoy. In business there are often guidelines that should be followed. But they are also there that you can break something like that. It doesn’t have to be provocative.

 

Which social topic is close to your heart?

There are many overarching topics such as sustainability, energy, global trade. A lot is twisted by the media and every day we are shown what is the right way, which many take. However, there are various lobbies behind it, which you only see when you question these topics and make your own picture. It’s a lot about power and money. Very few have the time to question these topics. This is very important to me, so I would like to use my label NEUN SINNE to set an example that there is another way. Money and fame is not everything, happiness and health come from within.

Sandra Brammer – power business beauty coach

With Sandra Brammer everything revolves around styling – especially for women in business life. Because a harmonious and strong appearance requires not only a power outfit but also a power make-up!

The charming Sandra with the radiant blue eyes has been working as a make-up artist for years. In the course of time she has observed that especially women at work are very uncertain about the right make-up, hairstyle and job outfit. She saw a gap in the market and started her own business as a Business Beauty Coach, because finding support and help was difficult. These can now be found at Sandra. As the first and only Business Beauty Coach in Germany, she offers coaching with her extensive experience for companies and private individuals, in which not only make-up tips are in the spotlight, but individual beauty and personality are worked out. The self-confidence of the employees is strengthened and at the same time the looks correspond to the image of the respective company, which consequently become more successful – an absolute win-win situation!

Learn in our interview how Sandra works, what an efficient business make-up looks like and what her power business look looks like!

Sandra and influencer Petra Dieners

What was the trigger for your company foundation?

During my work as a make-up artist and hairstylist I was asked countless questions, especially by women about make-up, styling and the right hairstyle. I noticed that many women feel insecure about their job styling. Therefore I had the idea to offer my service directly as workshops for companies.

Who are your customers?

That’s very different. I look after hotel chains with whom I design various business beauty looks to match the CI of the company. In the same way, I am regularly in training centres of insurance companies and companies that employ a lot of field staff. For this purpose I developed a special two-day workshop on the topic “Self-marketing for women – It´s all about your image!”

How do you acquire new customers?

I regularly go to various women’s events and fairs, run social media and hold business re-styling events for women.

What makes your service so special?

It is a all inclusive service, from make-up consultation to perfect business styling. Companies appreciate this very much. Because together with the employees I bring make-up, hairstyle and dress code into harmony with the CI of the company. As already said, a win-win situation on both sides. Type-appropriate business styling simply creates more self-confident employees.

Why is make-up such an important part of the business look?

Every woman wants to look fresh and groomed, don’t she? And that’s easy, if woman knows how! Unfortunately, many women don’t even put make-up on themselves for fear of doing something wrong. I think that’s a pity! The unnatural Instagram-filter look does its rest in addition and conveys a false beauty picture!

What does the ideal business make-up look like for you?

Well-groomed skin, rosy cheeks, accentuated eyebrows, sometimes a bright lip colour, depending on the business. For me, my consultations are always about naturalness and authenticity. I think that’s very important!

And how can it strengthen appearance and self-confidence?

By simply feeling really comfortable in your skin, you need the complete look. A great make-up, but the outfit does not fit properly, the blouse tightens, the trousers pinch… that would be rather counterproductive. You quickly feel insecure.

Do you have a tip for a fast but efficient business make-up?

The foundation is the be-all and end-all for a well-groomed look. That’s why I recommend every woman a make-up that suits her skin type. Apply transparent powder lightly so that the skin doesn’t shine. Apply a highlight to the movable eyelid, this will open your eyes and make you look awake. Then apply a strong mascara to the eyelashes and finally choose a lip colour that will stand up to the tasks of the day. For a presentation, for example, I would always recommend a strong colour.

What does your Power Business outfit look like?

I love pantsuits. In the meantime, there are so many different models. In strong colours or plaid. Depending on the position and industry, trouser suits can be combined wonderfully. A coloured shirt or a blouse, you have a different look. Pumps, sneakers or booties…everything goes with it, even in terms of shoes.

What about the right make-up?

I make up my lips mostly very strong. My favourite is the colour Lady Danger from MAC. A beautiful orange-red, which is not too dark and therefore softens the complexion.

What advice do you give to women who are still looking for their style?

To take a styling consultation and especially to buy a few, but high-quality parts. And above all, make sure that the parts can be combined.
So rather a high-quality trouser suit and in addition 3 tops which would fit however also to a skirt. Most women don’t think about what they really need, but just buy it.

You are the mother of a son. How do you manage the balancing act between job and family?

As a freelancer, I have the advantage of often accepting appointments in such a way that I can respond to the needs of my son. I really appreciate that. But I am also often on the road in the evening or on weekends. It also often happens that I take an afternoon off and have to sit at the computer in the evening and work through various things. I have built up a great network of other working mothers, we support each other with driving services and looking after the kids.

Which social topic is close to your heart?

For years I have been committed to helping disadvantaged children, for example by collecting donations or supporting children’s institutions in Düsseldorf. I think it’s very important that you first see where you can help in the immediate vicinity. Often you don’t even realize how much suffering there is in Germany.

Pimp up your image! Styles4Work in Düsseldorf

Pimp up your image – that was the motto of our pop-up store in Düsseldorf. Together with Jessica Liepelt from Liepelt.design, marketing coach Simone Schröer from Kopf und Seele and beauty coach Sandra Brammer we were guests at the gallery The Box. For three days we celebrated inspiration, competence and femininity in business life.

The opening event on Wednesday evening was an after-work cocktail with short, inspiring impulse lectures on beauty, the suitable outfit and a confident appearance. In a relaxed atmosphere, the guests were treated to Prosecco and delicious food from Taste Morocco. They enjoyed, toasted and listened to the inspiring speakers.

“Make a diverse and a strong appearance”

Jessica Liepelt was leading the evening lively. She stressed how important it is for women to feel secure and how the right fashion can help them to make a competent, multi-faceted and strong appearance in professional life.

“First impressions count” by Sandra Brammer

The enchanting Sandra Brammer emphasized the importance of the first impression and how crucial a personal image is.

In fact, in 150 milliseconds, the subconscious mind decides whether we like or dislike a person. That is the case if you approve of it or not. This is the time you need for an eye wink. Hence when we consciously form an opinion, we have subconsciously done so for a long time. This makes it all the more important to take full advantage of this moment. This requires specific preparation. In addition to a smart outfit, the right make-up and a suitable hairstyle is also essential.

This is exactly what Sandra’s coaching is doing. She encourages women to recognize their own business style and to strengthen individual preferences. The goal is to build an image that promotes self-esteem and self-confidence.

Style can be learned” by Monica Velten

Monika Velten from Styles4Work also focused on image and style. Guided by the credo “Suit your Image – style is learnable” she showed how to develop a fashion-conscious, feminine and individual style based on her personal background.

Two points are relevant here. On the one hand, the clothing style should underline and influence a good body feeling. This means a proper fit, flattering colours and the right functionality of the clothing.

On the other hand, the clothing style in the professional context should be a knight’s armour. This means equipment that prepares for any tasks and challenges and at the same time conveys role, position and seriousness. It is not a question of creating a uniform or a costume, but rather of developing your own holistic style. Good clothing increases self-esteem, self-confidence and strengthens a positive perception by fellow human beings.

Thus style can be learned – from inner coaching to outer styling. When Monika talks about it, she means that there are some simple rules to follow in a professional context. In other words, to find outfits that are suitable for every occasion and every business situation. Styles4Work has exactly this goal in mind. In business styling, consider figure types and fits and give inspiration with the help of a curated selection of exciting outfits. We want to meet the women’s demand for fashion and offer good quality and sustainability.

Great days

Those were great days for us in Düsseldorf! We had interesting conversations, exchanged experiences, laughed a lot and made new friends. This is especially important to us, because one of our big and overarching goals is to support you on your way, to motivate you, to encourage you and to create solidarity.

Do you want to be part of the next Styles4Work event? Gladly! Just write to info@styles4work.com. We are looking forward to your personal feedback, ideas, questions, input and comments.

Sandra Brammer, Simone Schröer, Jessica Liepelt, Monika Velten (from left)
all photos credit to Caroline Günther

Two Working Mums with Power! MEET Simon und Renoldi

In 2008, Leonie Stockmann and Olivia Zirkel opened the multibrand store Simon and Renoldi in the heart of the hip Belgian quarter of Cologne’s city centre. The shop offers labels and styles for quality-conscious women who are looking for a clear, individual and pure style that can sometimes be playful, but never boring or stuffy. Leonie and Olivia have developed their own style language and attach great importance to personal contact with their customers and to open and authentic advice.

Both Leonie and Olivia, new to the city, were on the lookout for new career prospects and got to know each other – where else in Cologne – at carnival. With sympathy at first sight. The result of this meeting was the founding of Simon and Renoldi.

Although both had sound professional experience in fashion and PR, this step was a courageous one that required flexibility, creativity and determination. They have never regretted this step.

Simon and Renoldi are now among the absolute top addresses for fashion in Cologne. The secret of its success is owed not least to its friendly, honest and unpretentious owners.

How did the two of you find each other?

OZ We met in 2007 through our present husbands. Simon und Renoldi’s idea was born in the middle of the Cologne Carnival, on the eleventh in the eleventh in the house Unkelbach. This idea of opening a store had probably been around for quite some time, albeit with different motivations. A handshake sealed the founding of Simon & Renoldi. Nine months later we opened in the Belgian Quarter in Cologne. That was already eleven years ago…

LS At this time, we were both at a turning point in our lives. I was looking for a new professional perspective and Olivia came from Como where she worked for the Italian label Jet Set. Before that, she worked for several years in New York as the right-hand man of designer Charles Nolan. Me, I was in a PR agency at the time. Quickly we realized that we ticked similarly, sharing a common vision.

We’re both honest, direct people, have a common mode of work and the same values. From the beginning we worked together there was no initial wrangling. We brought our different skills 100% into our company at all times. Of course, all this makes it easy to find each other…

OZ We were the perfect counterpart for each other, had the same priorities.

Did you have a clear concept from the beginning or did that develop?

OZ The starting signal for the Cologne Carnival was also the starting signal for the draft of our business plan. We had a clear vision of what our concept store should look like. The idea behind “Simon und Renoldi – The Concept Store” was to offer an individual, high-quality lifestyle off the beaten track. We wanted to offer a comprehensive lifestyle that included selling fashion, books, gifts, interiors and art objects. Inspired by stores like Colette in Paris or L’Eclaireur.

Over the years, we have naturally developed our concept further and adapted it to the circumstances. We had to realize that not everything is as feasible as we thought it would be in theory. About three years ago we took the step of repositioning. We deliberately decided that we no longer wanted to be a concept store. Our name today: Simon and Renoldi – The Fashionstore. We focus. But we have remained true to our philosophy.

LS Since our launch in 2008, our concept has naturally changed. Anything else would not have been good, would have meant standstill. In recent years, a number of stores have opened in the Belgian Quarter, specialising in home interiors or books, for example. These are very good, owner-managed stores with a lot of passion and a great selection. It makes no sense for us to offer these themes as well.

“Concentrating on core competence”

In addition, the idea of the “Concept Store” has been made suitable for the masses. One has the impression sooner or later that all stores are “Concept Stores”. We don’t necessarily want to join them. Much of what we offered as an owner-managed concept store is now produced and sold at much lower prices by large chains. We had the impression that our customers wanted a clear line and direction again.
Concentrating on our core competence is therefore our buzzword. Of course, there are still great concept stores, such as “The Store” in the Soho House in Berlin. But for us it is no longer the right concept.

The step into self-employment is courageous. Would you jump again?

OZ Absolutely. Both of us come from families in which we experienced professional independence. Of course, this is what characterizes us. According to the motto, choose yourself what you want to do or achieve in life… and don’t wait. But you don’t even jump… You have to be courageous again and again. Reasoning needs courage, time, energy and above all persistence.

LS If your heart beats for the project and the passion is there, it is not difficult to take the step into self-employment. So much for theory. In my case there was certainly a lot of naivety involved, but that also made sense.

“Courage, time, energy and above all persistence”

In everyday life, however, there are already many hurdles to putting theory into practice. In our case it started with the financing of the project, went over the location search, the availability of the desired labels and products… The reality check must not be missing because of all the euphoria.

Likewise one must be able to rethink at short notice. Because even successful months are no guarantee for lasting success. To set up your own shop you need a lot of determination, dynamism and always new ideas to inspire the customers.

What are your most important experiences of the last years?

OZ The desire to always ask new questions and take new paths. Not only with regard to the strategic orientation of the store, but also with regard to yourself, you have to question yourself. Be sincere to yourself as to whether this is really what you want to do. Only then can success be achieved.

LS I would say the same… The only constant is change. A fact that we have felt repeatedly over the years. It is so important to ask questions again and again. Because this is the only way we can find out why certain things work in business or not. That is what drives us.

I have also learned to admit to mistakes, which are just as important as success.

You work closely together and are also private friends. How does that work?

OZ This works very well. We have similar values. Not only in terms of business, but also in terms of our families, our children and what is important to us in life – alongside Simon and Renoldi.

LS We didn’t really know each other well before we started S&R. But we got along great right from the start.

I think the main reason why we get along so well in our private and professional lives is that we have always given each other room to develop in the store. At all times we had respect for each other and are both tolerant and open to criticism. We are still a loyal “counterpart” to each other.

Do you share areas of responsibility or does each of you do what is necessary at the moment?

OZ We have clear areas of responsibility. Leonie is responsible for marketing and communication as well as personnel, and I for purchasing and strategic orientation.

This also includes a great deal of trust in the partner. However, we always discuss decisions and exchange ideas. Ultimately, we shape Simon and Renoldi together. But everyone knows exactly what is on their to-do list.

LS Without a clear division of tasks, the “red thread” in the company would easily be lost. A clear division of tasks ensures concentration on the things that make day-to-day business successful. As I said at the beginning, we complement each other in our abilities. They provide different perspectives on the various issues that arise in everyday business life.

You have deliberately decided against online business. What were your reasons?

OZ In the past, we cooperated with the Luxodo shopping platform and used it to display our range online. Based on our experience, we decided against continuing the online business.

The fashion industry is undergoing rapid change. It has become faster and more short-lived. Collections are changing more frequently than ever before. We are a small company that cannot keep up with the big brands and chains, not only for economic reasons, but also for other reasons. A professional online shop with everything that goes with it requires a large budget. If this is not provided, one simply gets lost in the net or is not noticed.

“Simon and Renoldi stands for individuality and personality”

The other question we asked ourselves, is that us at all? Is it our philosophy to sell online? No, Simon and Renoldi stands for individuality and personality, for the exchange with customers in a pleasant atmosphere. We want to be close to our customers, offer special service coupled with individual advice.

We don’t want to deny this to online stores in principle, but this can only be achieved with enormous effort and budget, which is simply not possible for a store of our size. So we have come to the decision to concentrate on our core business – the stationary trade, the trade from person to person.

LS In addition, there is not only Simon and Renoldi in our lives, but also family and friends. And everything takes time. When I think about an online shop for us today, a saying comes to mind: “If you hunt two rabbits at the same time, you won’t catch one”.

A tip for new founders. Are there mistakes you can avoid?

OZ Of course, there is a base that should be there. Business plan etc. But on the other hand you have to make your own mistakes to grow.

LS Finding the right partner and a clear distribution of tasks. Beside the passion for the thing the readiness to work hard must be present.

A precise market analysis and elaboration of your own concept with a clear target group analysis is indispensable. When choosing a location, no compromises must be made, the cost of sales must be calculated precisely, sales and stock levels must be constantly monitored.

I wish every new founder never to run out of questions. Not asking questions or stopping would be a big mistake.

How do you describe your style?

OZ We don’t have much ‘bling bling’, we stand for a casual but still dressed style. Individuality instead of mainstream.

LS Our customers appreciate our style, which I describe as “unagitated”. We don’t have a one-to-one copy of the catwalks. The mix of good basics, special styles, sometimes a bit playful, makes the perfect look for us.

What is a suitable business look for you?

OZ That depends very much on the business occasion. For daily business a great skirt with a silk blouse, with or without print, is ideal. With good basic trousers and a plain white blouse, combined with a dark blazer, you are always dressed appropriately. But a well-cut dress is also possible.

It only really becomes interesting when you can turn the business look into a casual look for ‘after work occassions’ by changing shoes or accessories… That varies from person to person and cannot be answered in general. It is important that the look is authentic. There are also absolute No-Gos…

LS It is more important than wearing the right business look to have found your own style. For me, a suitable business look, just like Olivia’s, also depends on the occasion. A single-coloured narrow trousers, e.g. – preferably by Joseph in blue or black – combined with a simple top and a blazer is a good business look.

What does your personal power business outfit look like?

OZ That doesn’t exist! We are not subject to any compulsive dress code and enjoy the freedom that our profession brings with it. To adapt to business events without changing one’s style is then the freestyle…

LS Personally, I like it simple and also more muted in colour. My personal power outfit is rather high-necked, not too figure-hugging, simply well fitted and without elaborate patterns.

Do you follow trends?

OZ You can not free yourself from this. You have your own style, but the favourites come and go according to the trends of the season.

LS For sure. With me, however, most of the time they arrive a little delayed…

What advice do you have for women who are still looking for their style?

OZ Only wear outfits you feel confortable in, not dressed up. Have the self-confidence to show yourselves appropriately, but unadulterated. You don’t have to wear what everyone wears! Be careful to flatter your body type. Try it out. Try things on, even if it doesn’t seem to fit you at first.

LS I join this. Maybe be a little more courageous and reach for things that normally don’t end up “in the closet”. Listen to yourself, what do you feel comfortable with? A visit to Simon and Renoldi can of course also help…

Work and family, the never-ending topic: How do you manage the balancing act?

OZ I don’t know :). You have to have the courage to say ‘no’. Easier said than done… Our partners support us where possible. Apart from that, you have to organize yourself well and take advantage of the help you can get.

However, it often remains a bad conscience, because one simply cannot do justice to everything as one would like. Or how one’s own aspirations require it.

LS The family’s support for what you do is very important to me. I had to learn to communicate honestly and openly what I need in terms of support and assistance within my family. I wasn’t always good at saying these things.

Every day needs to be well organized. Sometimes I have to do without things or admit that I didn’t do everything on my list.

Where do you find inspiration?

OZ Everywhere! Mostly in everyday life and daily exchange. On journeys, with friends, our families and children, but also with our customers…

LS A good question. Travelling would certainly inspire me. But we don’t get to that as a family at the moment. But there are inspiring people in my environment. The social media (curse and blessing at the same time) from different areas inspire me, but also very old-fashioned books and print magazines. I think I go through everyday life with open eyes, which always gives me inspiration.

How can you relax?

OZ Of course (also) at work because we do what we love!

LS Relaxation has been “lost” to me for a long time. I wasn’t really mindful, I put the needs of the people around me above mine. That didn’t go well for long. The result was frustration all along and constant exhaustion. Today I consciously create space for myself and for example do sports even when it doesn’t really fit into the day.

I had to learn to leave things behind. I can also relax in the evening when the children are in bed and I find the peace to read a good book.

What social issue is close to your heart?

OZ How do we deal with the topic of digitisation? It is omnipresent and concerns us not only in business, but also in family matters.

We are also concerned about climate protection and sustainability. How far are we – and also our customers – prepared to go in order to change our lives in a sustainable way and to meet the issue “appropriately”?

LS I notice that I am increasingly concerned with the topic of sustainability at S&R, but also in my private life. We all bear responsibility. I try to live up to this responsibility in my everyday life.

COME / LISTEN / BE INSPIRED

Styles4Work organised the first panel discussion to which we invited you in mid-June as part of an after work cocktail. Taking the plunge into self-employment, founding your own company, having the courage and fighting spirit. Taking defeats, nevertheless continuing, persevering and finding motivation on a daily basis.

These were the topics of the evening which was entitled “Lessons learned. Three successful women – three inspiring paths”.

Because one of the big and overarching goals of Styles4Work is to encourage, motivate and support you on your ways. Last but not least – we want to bring you together! We are convinced that women only profit from mutual commitment and that enriching inspiration helps all women: After all, we are all in this together! For us this is an excellent reason to organize a great evening with interesting guests and people taking part.

The discussion was moderated by the wonderful Anne Gesthuysen, who found a very personal and fresh speech and skilfully led through the discussion. The speakers were Jovan Oberleithner from j.jackman, Andra Gallhöfer from ByMi and Julia Ritter from desiary.de.

All three women, either from a well-off job or at a very young age, dared to take the leap into self-employment and stayed with full commitment.


In fact, commitment is an important incentive for the founders, as is passion and love for their products. Jovan, Andra and Julia take these impulses daily with them into their companies. Impulses which motivate them and help them to suffer failures. Because these are also part of it: “One learns from mistakes”, so all three. That is very true and probably especially in self-employment.

A further credo for the founders is: ” Simply do it”! Don’t plan everything through and consider constant alternatives and possibilities, just get started.

JOVAN’s STORY

Jovan Oberleithner, Monika Velten, Andra Gallhöfer (f. l.)

Jovan from J.Jackman, for example, had the idea of designing and producing sustainable business fashion for women. In a for her largely foreign country, whose language she barely spoke. Without contacts and experience in the fashion world. She was so convinced of her idea that she “simply” founded it, in Berlin. However, with a lot of courage, but at least as much bite and enthusiasm. After all, this step has been very worthwhile, in the meantime she has set up her own collection and is on course for growth.

ANDRA’s SMILE

Anne Gesthuysen, Julia Ritter und Andra Gallhöfer (f. l.)

Andra from ByMi has been in the fashion business for a comparatively long time. She has successfully written company history with her ByMi blouse label. Her career has certainly been helped by the fact that she herself comes from an entrepreneurial family. As she says: “Entrepreneurship is in your blood, you can’t really learn that”. The support and companionship with her twin siblings, with whom she had originally founded, also helped.

Now she is the mother of a little daughter. Though, the increase in her family has changed her work situation and hence demands a lot of organisational talent. If there is no other way, the little one simply comes into the office. However, Andra often has to face criticism of her life situation. Yet, she simply smiles it away, sees the positive and continues on her way. Andra sets her own new standards for the compatibility of job and family. For her one of the great advantages of self-employment. Being free and make your own decisions.

JULIA’s DREAM

Julia from desiary.de radiates creativity and inventiveness. Originally she studied business administration and worked for some time in consulting. There she quickly lacked the opportunity to “create something of her own”. Hence, she switched to interior design without further ado. During her studies she started to design and build small furniture. They were sold online on a small scale, but profitably.

Extremely motivated by this success, the idea of a concept store for home accessories and gift ideas developed. Julia courageously founded desiary.de at the age of 29. Simply did it! By the way, she has pulled through her company against some scepticism. However, she was helped by a strong will, fighting spirit, great organizational talent and the desire for independence. With desiary.de Julia has fulfilled her dream…

We have heard inspiring stories. Taken from life and very motivating for all those who play with the thought of starting their own business or, like us, have just taken the step!

If you want to learn more about the encouraging lives of Jovan, Andra and Julia, check out our interviews with the founders!

Do you want to join our next event? With pleasure! Just email to info@styles4work.com. We are also looking forward to your personal feedback.

LABELS TO MEET: ByMi

Together with her siblings Andra Gallhöfer founded the blouse label ByMi in 2011. They mainly design and produce blouses, tunics and polo shirts, which are defined by a perfect and timeless fit, but also by fine and subtle details, e.g. on the collar and cuff. The somewhat different, classic blouse. In the meantime, they have expanded their collection to include chic dresses and are represented in over 120 well-known shops throughout Europe. There is also a well-running online shop. A success story that hasn’t been written yet. ByMi is growing steadily and continues to work on the internationalisation of the business.

In the interview with Andra, we learn how she came up with the idea of producing blouses, where she will see her company in ten years, what fashion means to her and what her favourite power business outfit looks like.

You took the plunge into self-employment very early on. Would you jump again?

I like to work independently and byMi is a matter close to my heart, so I am always glad that I took the step. Over the last few years you have learned a lot. We work with so many great people and every day is incredibly exciting. Looking back, I am very proud of what we have achieved. I would probably jump again just for that.

How did you come up with the idea of producing women’s blouses?

We were a little desperate in our search for women’s blouses back then. Eventually we came to the conclusion that if the perfect blouse is still nowhere to be bought, then we make it ourselves. Our idea is to create the ultimate blouse for the fashion-conscious, modern woman. Whether it’s a business meeting or a date, we wanted a product in which she would feel comfortable and chic dressed for any occasion.

What makes the ByMi blouse so special?

“Finally blouses that are not only beautiful, but also really fit!” Made for women who are looking for a perfectly fitting and high-quality blouse that is timeless, elegant and of high quality. The exact cut and constant optimizations are the secret recipe for the perfect byMi fit.

Our blouses are characterised by the high quality of the material and we pay great attention to the sustainable production of our pieces. A ByMi blouse is 100% Made in Europe and we are very proud of that. In addition, our classic cuts are always complemented with playful details. Whether it’s a high-quality decorative band that shines discreetly or a special button, we attach great importance to such small details.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

In my everyday life, in the people around me and in my family. In Cologne you are always surrounded by a very special spirit. There is a wonderful atmosphere and that inspires me every day. I like to cycle through the city, so you are really part of the hustle and bustle. You see so many trends and styles and so many different ways people express themselves. Further, I like to take inspiration from my own life. If, for example, I notice that a piece of clothing is not suitable for playing with my little daughter on all fours, then I like to think about what could be changed in order to make it optimal for this life situation.

How would you describe the corporate spirit of ByMi?

We are a small family business. Everyone knows each other and is happy to help each other and when decisions are made every opinion at the table is welcome. I enjoy coming to work in the morning and it is very important to me that my employees feel the same way. I believe that the enjoyment of what you do is the best prerequisite for a good result.

How would you summarize the most important experiences of recent years?

The last few years have been a good school. Many things you only know when you have tried them once, failed and then had a better idea.

Where do you see ByMi in ten years?

We hope to grow even further. The topic of “sustainable fashion” is very close to our hearts and it is important to me to be able to push it forward, especially nowadays.

Do you have a tip for female founders?

I don’t think it’s good to let things get you down. If you have a good idea and you are convinced of it then it’s time to stick to it and “just do it”. The first few years are always the most difficult, until you really get things rolling, a lot of energy, love and also work flows into the project and you have to stay strong because it’s worth staying with.

How could one motivate more women to start their own business?

I think articles and interviews like this are a good way to draw attention to the fact that there are women who have taken the plunge. Information is incredibly important, I think it encourages and inspires.

Fashion is a personal, emotional topic. What does fashion mean to you?

In fashion I admire Karl Lagerfeld for his straightforwardness, the Etro family and Missoni for their style fidelity and class. We would like to establish just such an unmistakable style for byMi.

Do you have a power business look in which you always feel good?

The times when women had to dress up as either office mums or men’s doubles are fortunately over. But of course, there are certain dress code rules which you sometimes need to follow and after all, the saying is “fine feathers make fine birds”.

My perfect business look is an ankle-length flowing skirt and in addition a loose silk blouse, e.g. our blouse Garmisch. Wearing this you are not only perfectly dressed during the day for business meetings, but also in the evening for a dinner or an after-work drink. The outfit looks elegant, feminine, fashionable and at the same time serious enough for the business world.

Meanwhile, you have a small family of your own. How do you manage the balancing act between job and family?

You just need to find a good balance. I like to bring my daughter to the office – that’s the advantage in a family working environment.

After all, I’m a role model for her and I think it’s nice that she gets so much out of my work.

Which book is currently on your bedside table?

The biography of Coco Chanel, a very inspiring personality. She kind of started a new fashion era with her new designs and at some points she did not listen to other people, she just kept going following her dreams. Being a strong woman with clear visions somehow helped me to be brave enough to keep on going with my business.

MEET Petra Dieners, successful blogger and influencer

How do you find your way from furniture design to blogging and become a successful influencer? We asked Petra Dieners this question amongst a few more in an interview. Three years ago, she started the Fashion- & Lifestyle Blog Lieblingsstil.de, which is aimed at women over 40.

She now has over 80,000 followers on Instagram and inspires women of every generation with her creative and extraordinary looks, which are not “German” at all.

Petra Dieners shines and sprays with energy when she tells us who her role model is when it comes to style, what advice she has for young bloggers and why a suitable business outfit is important.

You studied economics, worked in several large companies and finally designed, produced and sold your own furniture. How did you finally become a fashion blogger?

After I sold my company, I wanted to take a deep breath and become a little more at home. But I just have too much energy. I quickly got bored. Since my childhood I have loved fashion and I always wanted to work in the fashion industry. Then I came up with the idea of becoming a fashion and lifestyle blogger from the age of 40.

How did you achieve your breakthrough in a highly competitive industry?

I didn’t concentrate on others, but simply on what I find beautiful and stylish. It’s important to be authentic and stay with yourself and not imitate what others do.

You’re your own boss. Is that more freedom or stress?

I was my own boss at the furniture company. That’s what I’m used to. The idea of freedom prevails, but of course it is also responsibility and hard work.

How do you motivate yourself every day?

I don’t need to motivate myself. I look forward to every new day! There are so many beautiful projects, so many nice people. I have found my dream job!

Do you think that women generally have to fight harder in the professional world?

I have a differentiated opinion on the quota of women. I am of the opinion that those who are good and willing to work hard also get the position they want.

Do you have a tip for young bloggers?

You should definitely have a solid education. Then you are more flexible and have a more professional view of things.

What criteria do you use to create your looks?

I am a tummy person and always choose my looks according to my “daily feeling”. But a look becomes particularly exciting when you play with colours and patterns. In the end, everything should still fit together. 

Do you have a role model for style or fashion?

My grandmother was my great style role model for me. She was very elegant and well-groomed. At 92 she still went to the hairdresser every week, had varnished fingernails and was always very chic.

How important is a suitable business outfit?

I think it’s very important. “Because as you come gone, so will you receive.” In my opinion nothing has changed. But business outfits can still be fashionable.

Fashion is an emotional, very personal topic. Is there a business power look for you in which you always feel good?

I always feel comfortable at a business meeting in a chic, very well-cut pantsuit. If you feel good, you also radiate a lot more self-confidence.

Which social topic is close to your heart?

Environmental issues are very close to my heart. I hope that in the future the big political parties will also work even harder on it. Through promotion and education, we must all work to ensure that the gap between rich and poor does not widen. The integration of refugees is very important.

MEET Anne Kitzmann, financial coach and power woman

Annegret Kitzmann-Schubert deals with a topic that is often still largely ignored by women: Money. As an independent financial advisor and coach, Annegret advises women on financial matters, gives impulses around money strategies that are developed personally and individually and helps to analyse one’s own attitude towards money. She gives lectures on current financial issues and also deals with issues such as retirement provision for women. 

Together with Styling Coach Jasmin Leheta, she also organizes a workshop on sensible and sustainable investments in clothing and interior design.

The fully qualified lawyer devotes herself to these topics with great empathy and enthusiasm and skilfully conveys her knowledge.

In our interview, she tells us how she found her way, gives tips about poverty among older women and why she needs a business power look.

How did you come up with the idea of becoming an independent financial advisor?

After studying law, I spent almost ten years working for various groups in the real estate sector. It was not only there that I was always responsible for ‘the money’, but also in my marriage. I decided to continue my education in finance. More and more people who were dissatisfied with the advice they received from their bank asked me how I successfully invested my money. That’s why I decided to start my own business as an independent financial advisor in 2002.

Can you give us a brief insight into your concept?

A holistic consultation is very close to my heart: My life, my money – that’s the name of my blog! The focus is on wise wealth accumulation – for the individual life situation of my clients. We clarify: What are goals and desires in life? What is important? What does she want to achieve with the money? Then I work out concrete proposals from the areas of investment and insurance for the next money steps. If the customer likes my suggestions and wants to implement them, then I realize the concept. I take all the necessary steps to put the investment into practice.

What qualities or talents should you have as a coach?

In my experience, that’s empathy above all. I listen a lot at the beginning of my consultation so that I understand how people feel and what makes them happy. Only then can I find the money solution that optimally supports the client.

Do women generally have a harder time on the job than men?

Well, if you believe in that, yes. My experience is that we reach goals with perseverance. In many situations, however, I have had to put on a thick coat. But men also don’t necessarily treat each other squeamishly.

How do you feel about the women’s quota? Are there alternative approaches for you?

Since nothing has moved for so long and there are still companies that aim for a zero percentage of women in management positions, we need the quota. In a few years’ time, if we can put the Thomas cycle to rest, it may look different.

Old-age poverty among women is an issue that worries many of us. Do you have any tips for us?

I always advise women to answer this one question as early as possible: How big must the financial cushion be for my age? An analysis of the finances prevents possible gaps in provision. If the women know what income and expenditure they can expect, we can start planning: build up assets, increase them, check selected products and, if necessary, update them. The earlier women start, the better. What is very important: Many pennies make a dollar! So even with small savings contributions, attractive sums can be collected over the years.

Do you have a tip for women on their career path?

Stay tuned. Learn. Networking. In my professional life I have learned that a good network is really important! Whether to exchange experiences or to recommend new customers.

How would you describe your fashion style?

Fresh and feminine: with flower blouses, colourful summer dresses and a sporty touch, because I like to go hiking in my spare time.

For over two years you have been working with styling coach Jasmin Leheta. Together with her, you organize workshops on meaningful investments in valuable design for clothes and interiors. Can you give us a brief insight?

Together we give impulses around high-value design for clothing and living. We have set ourselves the goal of passing on our knowledge about why value orientation is so important in design, how to not only maintain but also increase values in clothing and furnishings. And we show ways in which this can be done.

How did this cooperation come about and why is it wise?

With Jasmin Leheta I worked on my styling – matching my personal brand – as well as on our interior. In both projects I noticed that there is great potential here to create and preserve sustainable value. After all, you can spend a small fortune on both clothing and furnishings, and it is only wise to think about what fits your individual values!

Jasmin Lehata
copyright by Thomas Wieland

Do you have a business power look that always makes you feel good?

I love colourful dresses! And the “Zwiebellook”, because I freeze easily. A jacket, sometimes even several, a blouse, a skirt and boots or summer sports shoes – also shiny. I like flower patterns, my power colours are pink and dark blue.

Are you trying to include fashion trends into your business outfit?

I like to dress timelessly classy. This fits in with my strategy of preserving values. But sometimes I simply can’t pass by a colourful summer dress from one of the current festival collections…

What do you advise women who are still looking for their style?

Working with Jasmin Leheta helped me a lot to develop my style. The outside view coupled with many years of experience was invaluable to me. In addition, I save a lot of time searching for the garments, because Jasmin’s shopping companions quickly lead me to the suppliers who serve my style and material wishes – and in my size! So I advise you to place yourself in the hands of experts.

What advice would you give your young self?

I would advise generosity: To myself and to others. And not only occasionally in spending money, but above all in trust, forgiveness and carelessness. Today I know that for me the best always happens!

Who or what inspires you?

I like reading books, visiting a literary salon and for many years a business network for women. I also find good ideas on Instagram. I regularly take a break in nature and hiking in the mountains. I also attach great importance to exchanging ideas with long-standing friends.

Which social topic is close to your heart?

I like merging things, bringing them to people who need them from people who don’t need them anymore. I am involved in an initiative in which we have discarded glasses and orthoses transported to countries where these things are in short supply. For me, this is also about preserving and connecting people and values.

MEET Dr. Stephanie Thoennissen, successful and relaxed Working Mum

Stephanie Thoennissen, 42, holds a doctorate in business administration and is the mother of two delightful children. She lives in Cologne and specialises in the medical products industry as an independent consultant. Stephanie’s everyday life is clocked through, from morning 7am to evening 9pm. Nevertheless, the successful working mum does not let her positive energy and radiance be taken away and stays pretty much relaxed.

For us she is a brilliant example of how you can manage to reconcile job and family, even if a lot of organisational talent is often required.

In our interview she tells us what advice she would give her young self, what she thinks of the women’s quota and what her business power outfit looks like.

How did you get into the pharmaceutical industry or the field of medical products?

After studying business administration, I joined the Boston Consulting Group, initially with a focus on financial services. At the same time, I was looking for an exciting and suitable doctoral thesis. I finally found this in health economics, because for family reasons I had to deal with the changes in health care at that time. After the sabbatical for my doctorate, I – back at BCG – worked on a number of projects for health insurers and pharmaceutical companies before finally moving to Novartis. It was exciting and the company offered great development opportunities.

However, the birth of our children meant that I was no longer as mobile and tied to Cologne as a family base. This naturally severely limited the great opportunities within the company.

In which area do you currently work?

After the birth of our son almost five years ago, I turned my back on Novartis and have since worked as an independent consultant, primarily for my husband’s company based in Cologne. Until I joined this company, it was a pure marketing and distribution company, especially with products for orthopaedic surgeons.

I then built up a new division and turned the company into a manufacturer of medical products. Comprehensive regulatory requirements had to be created for the so-called CE certification. For product development, many scientific investigations and studies had to be carried out, numerous technical validations had to be made, suppliers need to be coordinated and German and international customers have to be looked after. Since we are a very small team and a start-up in the field of manufacturing, I do almost everything myself. This is a real feat of strength, but also a nice intellectual challenge.

You work closely with your husband. How does this go and when is it not allowed to talk about work anymore?

Clearly, when the kids are around, the job isn’t a talking point! At least we try that.

I admit that at the beginning I was very sceptical whether it was a good idea to do business together. Meanwhile I like it very much. This is probably due to the fact that we have very clearly separated areas of duties and responsibility. However, we rarely get in each other’s way. In fact, we enjoy having lunch together and being able to deal with our exciting professional topics.  Our different talents and careers complement each other quite well.

Do women generally have to fight harder in the professional world?

I did not experience it like this. It seems to me that women basically have every opportunity in their careers, but unfortunately the issue of starting a family often carries us out of the curve.

Do we need quotas for women or are there alternative approaches for you?

Especially in West Germany, the understanding of the family is still very traditional and conservative. If there are children, the woman very often takes a shorter career step in the long run and the man’s career suddenly has right of way – no matter to their work situation before having children. Many couples seem to feel quite comfortable with it. I am not sure whether a women’s quota can help.

As parents, we want to be there for our children and not place them ten hours a day in a care facility. But does it always have to be the mother who leaves the office in a rush at 15:00? It shouldn’t be enough for us to just “do something” part-time as soon as there are children. I don’t think it’s acceptable for women to regularly back out of exciting, well-paid jobs. There is also the risk of old-age poverty for women (but that’s another issue).

To change that, we might need a new social mindset that allows fathers and mothers in leadership positions to look after children and work with flexible hours.  A mindset in which men, like their wives, feel responsible for all the issues that are part of the private life. Meaning, a mindset in which both partners meet at eye level and agree on how an exciting professional activity can be possible for both and how the family income can be secured.

What advice would you give to your young self?

In fact, I am quite happy with my career. Basically, I would not want to change anything at all. But I would advise my young self to be a little milder to myself from time to time. There is no point in always being over-critical of yourself and spoiling your mood with it. A high demand on oneself is fine and important, but one should not constantly stand in one’s way. To enjoy life even in stressful phases and to celebrate what I have achieved in a decent way – I should have done that more at a young age.

What makes a good female manager for you?

First of all, I don’t see any difference between a male and a female manager. I have worked with both, met very inspiring managers and total failures, from both sexes.

I think it is important for a good manager to have a clear strategic goal for his department or company in mind and to be able to get his team enthusiastic about it. Creating a working atmosphere free of fear, trusting one’s people and giving them the freedom to get involved, but also being approachable for those employees who have difficulties, is part of this.

Work and family, the never-ending topic: How do you manage the balancing act?

It is a challenge, no question. Since the birth of our children, everything needs to be organized and clearly agreed upon. We have a firm support for the children, without whom it would not work. The grandparents also step in again and again, especially when we travel together on business. This means a financial and organisational effort that should not be underestimated. But even if this may mean sacrificing elsewhere, it is the right concept for us.

What does a good work-life balance look like for you?

I’m sure it looks alike to many others: An exciting and well-paid job with a lot of nice time with the family at the same time. Of course, this works better and worse. I really appreciate the fact that professional and private time sometimes flow into each other. It doesn’t bother me at all if a customer calls me at 9 p.m. in the evening. Thanks to our digital devices we are always available, which I don’t find stressful. It calms me down when I know what’s going on. That’s why I don’t have an “Out of Office Reply” when I’m on holiday.

I can recharge my batteries with my children, during sports, with friends and of course on holiday. Thanks to our independency we can also come to the office later or go earlier to accompany the children at their events, be it an excursion in school or an Advent performance in kindergarten…

In your opinion, how important is a suitable business outfit?

Extremely important! But it can be a tough challenge. My business outfit should be sophisticated, chic and yet, a bit cool, by no means stuffy or elderly.  In the best case the whole thing is also suitable for travelling. And then it needs to fit well and emphasize my chocolate sides. That’s a lot to ask, so I’m always on the lookout! All the more I appreciate Styles4Work and find it great that my girlfriend Alexandra provides some remedy! From the beginning I encouraged her in her idea to create a curated platform for working women and business outfits.

Is there a business outfit for you in which you always feel good?

A finely cut blazer, ideally a bit extravagant in colour, cut or material. And the matching trousers or a pencil skirt. Otherwise my favourite basic: the white blouse in all its variations, I can’t get enough of it.

Which book is on your bedside table at the moment?

“Becoming” by Michelle Obama, an impressive and likeable woman with an exciting career. And the “School of Magical Animals”, currently Volume 10, for reading aloud to my children.