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.