We recently caught up with, Julie Kohlhoff co-founder of top quality family brand, Macarons! We adore their clothing, not only for their specialised organic IQ fabrics (trust us, they’re a dream to wear) but for their emphasis on ecological and fair fashion. Every garment comes from an environmentally conscious supply chain, allowing you to experience that gorgeous “macarons” feeling from start to finish! Read what Julie has to stay about running their family business below.
Hi Julie, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your family?
Julie – Enthusiastic, spontaneous & passionate.
Veit – dynamic, persistent, loyal.
Our family – travellers, food lovers, power-team.
macarons – avant-garde, fashion, pioneers.
We have 3 kids: a 5 month old boy and 3 and 6 year old girls. We spend a lot of time with the children and we take Baby Charles to the office with us! Our office is super child friendly and we encourage our employees to do the same. Cléo and Cécile go to a great Waldorf Kindergarden half a day. Whilst she is there, a lot of her play is accompanied by songs. This concept is really great, especially since Waldorf Steiner education has it’s roots in Stuttgart!
Stuttgart is the hub of Anthroposophy and also a pioneer of organic fashion (not really stylish, but very forward thinking). The first “organic food shops” called “Reformhäuser” also were from Stuttgart. So in terms of organic thinking we are in the center, which is great!
We play a lot with our children. Not prefab games but anything that we or they come up with. Especially Cléo, she is very creative in games and role plays that she invents. We and the kids also love to go outside and play in nature, anywhere from the beach to the snowy mountains and the green parks. I can also recommend every family a Waldorf Spielständer for hours of free creative play guaranteed.
Our family love old books and films by Astrid Lindgren. Especially Pippi Longstockings and the children of Bullerbü. Cécile loves Barbapapa (so cute when she says it). But we watch television only in the form of dvds, that we choose specifically, very rarely and not long at a time.
What’s the story behind your store?
Before starting macarons in 2012 I worked as a product manager for a big german fashion house for a couple of years. I looked a lot into production sites in countries like China or Bangladesh. My husband, Veit worked as a strategic consultant, specializing in Eastern European markets. So our strength is my fashion background from an education and studies in fashion since finishing school and Veit has the business and entrepreneurial background. Veit also comes from a family of architects. His mum is a big textile collector, so he has indulged textiles and a certain design aesthetic since early childhood.
We started macarons with the interest to develop and engineer organic textiles and to work against the current hype of mass production. I have seen so much that we wanted to prove that it is still possible to produce under fair conditions and that organic fashion doesn’t mean boring design or uninspiring colours. We rediscovered small family productions here in Germany who make the macarons project possible and who we could inspire with our strength, passion and aim. We want to be known for impeccable eco-standards, cool edgy design and inspiring organic textiles within the business.
Is there anything you wish you had known when starting your own business?
Macarons has been a real journey for us. Of course we struggled at first with the idea to quit our well-paid secure jobs. But at the same time it was so exciting and so clear that once the plan was set up there was no way back. Life is full of surprises and chances and I believe that it is better to take a risk and start something new than always saying: “Oh, I wish I would have done that, tried this.“
I have to say though that I would have never founded macarons by my own or without my husband. To have your own company means besides freedom, a lot of work and sacrifice. And all of a sudden there are soo many business fields you have to master: sales, marketing, logistics, design, production, accounting. It is a 24/7 job, plus we have our own family now.
It is very good to be able to share all upcoming tasks with someone you can really rely on. My husband and I are equal partners. For the family I think being self-employed is a good way to be able to spend time together. We are with our kids all the time. They grow naturally into the business. And we are able to set our own time frames and share the daily tasks.
We never aimed for the ordinary, where the parents work the whole day and other people look after the kids. We wanted to find a way to balance work and family and thank god we chose the children fashion industry!
An understanding for children is mandatory if you work in this field. All our business partners have always respected our familiar sense and were open in bringing our kids to meetings for example. With macarons we can realise our own ideas and vision. Fortunately we have been able to enthuse the people that work with us and surround us with the macarons feeling!
How did you come up with the name, Macarons?
The name for our company comes from my childhood love for the sweet “Macarons”. Growing up with a french mum, this was my treat. Especially the rose colored ones, they are my favourite. When we decided to launch our label, the name seemed so obvious: exquisite, colourful, small, irresistible pieces for babies and kids!
Can you share a little about your creative process?
Because we develop our fabrics in house, several steps are taken simultaneously during the design process.
We begin with taking all our sources of inspiration and put them together. Those can be magazines, photographs, snippets from newspapers, drawings, various materials, surfaces and textures or colour schemes from past collections, which we then interpret in a fresh way.
With this mood board we create first concepts concerning colours and materials.
Then we analyse the past collection and season. Which styles are timeless and will therefore be carried on, some will be refined, others will be newly created from scratch.
For us at macarons it is especially important that our customers can combine the pieces they have bought in the past with pieces from our new collections. Concerning sustainability a macarons-garment shall never become a disposable item. We want our pieces to be worn year after years and be supplemented with new pieces or be passed on to the next generation of kids.
After this process we start with the first designs.
What inspires your designs?
Everything can be inspiring. From an old photography to a beautiful fish in the water to a simple meal.
It is important to see the world with eyes wide open, to appreciate and to be touched by all impressions around.
It creates a feeling for current and upcoming trends and a feeling for new materials and colours.
We always do research – anywhere, anytime. When we are on holiday visiting other cities and cultures, while we are visiting fairs, while we are sitting at the playground with our kids and so on.
Since we are all mothers of two or three kids we are constantly in touch with kids and their needs.
Where do your creations come to life?
The creations are developed in our beautiful atelier space here in Stuttgart, Germany. It is very important for us to be close to our manufacturers here in southern Germany and Switzerland, because we have to be there at least every two weeks – in high season we go there twice a week.
Here in our atelier we test every single style and make sure the pattern and Proto-Samples are perfect before they go out to the sewing productions. We work with other family companies where there is a mutual trust and respect and love for each other’s work.
Lastly, do you have any exciting new products coming up that you can share with us?
Really exciting for us is the development of our adult line. We’ve started with small and very distinctive macarons pieces, but there is something so sleek, timeless, elegant and minimalistic about this line for men and women. I think everybody looks good in our pieces and feels the great comfort of our really high quality organic fashion. This is what I like about it – The idea of a real family brand with something amazing for every family member! Soon we will also present a new website! So stay tuned.
Thank you Julie for chatting to us and sharing more about the wonderful world of Macarons! You can shop their latest products at http://www.macarons-fashion.com/ and find them on Facebook & Instagram.