OBLIVIOUS? is a ready-to-wear clothing brand with a focus on the positive power of questions, made responsibly in Europe. They believe questions have the power to build closer relationships, make better decisions and learn more about ourselves and the world around us. Their aim is for clothes to spark conversations, help you self-express, as well as inspire you and others to ask more questions. The brand was set up by a mother and daughter duo, based in Germany and the UK, who share a seemingly never-ending sense of curiosity. Over the past few years the founders have learnt a lot about the impact of fashion on our planet, so they knew they had to do their best to ensure that garments are produced more responsibly. All OBLIVIOUS? garments come in limited quantities - with the first collection being made of 100% GOTS certified organic cotton.
In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Jacqueline Mozanowski, Co-Founder of OBLIVIOUS? about the founding story of the brand she started with her mother and operating from different countries, Germany and the UK, and during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Both had a keen interest in fashion and would often fantasize about starting their own brand together. After obtaining a marketing degree in London, Jacqueline had the drive to include a sustainability focus to the brand. Our host Peter Brooker and Jacqueline also talk about manufacturing and production challenges, what it's like working with family, the power of asking questions, and what's next from the brand.
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Hello, welcome to another episode of The menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker. On today's show I'm going to be talking to the co founder of oblivious Jacqueline was an ASCII, and a little bit of information about oblivious. They were launched during lockdown, and is the brainchild of a mother and daughter duo inspired by that shared never ending sense of curiosity. oblivious provides a sustainable fashion statement for those who look to interrogate themselves others and the status quo. oblivious is unique as well. There are many garments printed with word there is no brand that singularly focuses on questions. The website, are we oblivious.com is where you can check out more information. And here is Jacqueline to talk about the brand in her own words. I am originally from Germany, but I've been living in London for quite a few years now kind of got stuck a little bit here. But my family's still in Germany. And yeah, I found it oblivious with my mother actually. So yeah, we've been on this journey for a bit over a year now, obviously with Coronavirus, things have been slowed down a little bit. But everyone in the world has hopped up. So you know, we just go with the flow. I'm dying to hear about how you got it started with your mother. So talk about the early steps. And and what happened there at the beginning? Yeah, um, well, first of all, I have a very good relationship with my mother, which I'm very grateful for. And she in the UK? No, she actually still lives in Germany. Right. Okay. Yeah. So currently, we do a lot over the internet, obviously, which is, obviously works with zoom and everything. But hopefully, I get to see her a bit more in the future when everything gets a bit easier again. But yeah, to get to the point, my mom and me are quite similar, and not just in style, but also, I guess, kind of in personality. And we've always kind of talked about starting a brand together. And I think my earliest memory of this is when I was around nine or something. And we were like talking about making up this brand. But obviously at the time, we didn't actually do it. But it was kind of like a fun thing to talk about. Because we've both always been into fashion and kind of even started sharing clothes when I started having the same size and stuff. So that kind of shows how similar. Wow, that's amazing to have a mother that's kind of influential for you. And for your own style, because a lot of people and kids grew up trying to rebel against their parents. Yeah, they don't want to wear the same suits as dad has worn for example. Yeah, no, I actually, I mean, I guess I'm lucky in a way that you know, my mom has such a cool style, I'll just say that. But yeah, I lucky as well, to have to be able to wear her clothes in that case, and you know, have the same shoe size and everything. But yeah, so we've always kind of talked about doing something together. But you know, I was studying also went to school in the UK. So kind of just, you know, I've got my education sorted first. But I think when I finished my master's degree, I did a master's in marketing here in London. And we kind of started talking about this idea of questions. Because I'm a very curious person, my mom's a very curious person. And we were just kind of thinking, Well, why is there not really any brand that, you know, focuses on this power of questions. And we were kind of, we kind of had that in the back of our minds. But you know, we were talking about it for a while, and then we didn't really think about it anymore. And like I said, When I finished my master's, we spoke about it a bit more seriously, and then thought, you know, what, it has potential. So what could we do with it? And, and from the beginning onwards, we kind of said, if we ever do this, or if we ever do anything in fashion, we kind of want to go into it from a more sustainable point of view. And obviously, in the past few years, this has grown massively, which is great. And you know, but you know, kind of how old is the brand? And we actually launched in February, so quite young. So it launched in the middle of a pandemic. You I guess you had to get all of the designs and the production in place and everything like that. So where where are the garments made first? Yes. So our first collection was made in Romania, and through someone that we worked with here in London, actually, she kind of leaves between us and then, and but we are now actually shifting production to Portugal. And because we can also get our fabric made there. So it's all a bit more, you know, one in one place, so we don't have to ship back and forth. So we thought that'd be a bit better sustainability wise, has Brexit had a any effect on you guys with regards to the distribution and getting things made with the factories getting stuff to consumers? Has that heard? Yeah. Yeah, little bit. Um, you know, obviously not having produced in the UK was good, because that kind of took that problem away. But, yeah, some even some of the things like packaging that we originally ordered to the UK, you know, we were kind of like, Okay, what are we gonna do because we are a German brand, even though we are obviously actively kind of trying to get into the English market as well. But we obviously don't want to limit ourselves. And with all of these new rules, it was a bit difficult. So what we actually ended up doing was, before Brexit happened, we'd already had our pieces we just couldn't launch because some other things were missing. So we kind of just said, Okay, we'll put a few pieces here, a few pieces there. And in the beginning, that was obviously great. But at some point, you run out. So now obviously, when we do ship from Germany, we do have to fill out the forms and everything. But so far, it's been okay. Well, I mean, all of this stuff, though, to begin with, I mean, it must have been such a, it must have been so much red tape when you when you first started a brand or this idea of starting a brand, but you never envisaged having to jump through so many hoops. No, not necessarily. Obviously, no one knew about Coronavirus. You know, being coming along, in general. I mean, in the end, you know, we were healthy and happy. So, you know, that's the most important part. But obviously, it did kind of delay us. And a lot of things like production was obviously not done when it should have been done and all of these things. But you know, in the end, we couldn't really do very much else than just wait. And you know, I kind of thought maybe that's just the way it's supposed to be for now. And I was just kind of looking forward to getting it off the ground. So Jacqueline, how did you get the capital? How did you raise the money to start the brand? Yeah. Now, obviously, I'm doing this with my mother. So I obviously have a little bit of a different side to this. And there, it's basically a mixture, my mom has invested some of her own capital, because she's obviously been working and is a bit older than me. So she's obviously done a bit more in her life. She's actually done interior design before. And then my father has also invested in this because he said, Okay, I really like the idea. And if this is what you want to do, then you can try it. Now obviously, we started with very low amounts of stock. Not just because we're just launching, but also because obviously we wanted to keep the costs down. But yeah, I feel obviously very happy and very lucky that I have such supportive parents. And on the other side, obviously that my mom really wanted to do something like this on her own as well. So, you know, it just kind of came together in a way that was quite good for me. Yeah, it must be nice so that you feel like you're keeping it in the family like the money when it when it's going now it doesn't feel like you're haemorrhaging money, it's going within the family so to speak. Sure. I mean, you know, the only thing I sometimes think about it, like I obviously don't want to come down, which has been another pressure that's there. But obviously our clinics can't complain. But it's nice. You know, I even talked to my brother about all of the designs and everything. So I kind of tie them all in a little bit. A little bit more about the designs, please, Jacqueline, the theme, the questions are just so important, aren't they in everyday life? And I think it's underestimated the power of the question. So maybe you can just elucidate on that for us, please. Yeah, definitely. I think when we are children, we ask so many questions, I think, the most quite like the age and I think a four year old girl is the is the person that asked the most questions or something statistically, just goes to show you know, when we're children, we just kind of asked about everything and we don't really care. I think the older we get we kind of obviously First of all, we might not have to ask as many questions because we might know a little bit more. But I think the main reason is often that we feel like we shouldn't or we might be a little bit shy about asking a question whether that is speaking in general or just kind of, you know, seeming like we don't know something that maybe we should know But that is actually a little bit sad because it kind of holds us back a little bit. And what what I kind of see in questions is, it has such a power. First of all, basically even, like our brains basic, okay, just I'm going to start okay. So basically, and so basically what happens when you're asked a question is your brain is actually stimulated, and you release serotonin, to make your brain obviously be able to relax and like, think about an answer. And this is so powerful that unless you literally consciously decide to say, Oh, I'm not gonna, like, engage with this question you but I don't really want to think about this, you will actually want to answer the question. And this is actually the power of questions, because it makes you stop and think about something. And we can utilise this so much in our own lives, whether that is like to make better connections with other people, in the sense that if we ask them questions, they obviously feel like we're making it we're getting more connected. They feel like we're interested in them, which we probably are, because we're asking questions. And also, on the other end, obviously, you learn more about the person. And usually when you ask questions, it's a bit of a back and forth. So that kind of just, yeah, otherwise, you're probably not going to build up a good relationship. But you know, that's fine as well. You don't have to with everyone. But usually, you can make a relationship feel a bit more closer, I guess, by asking more questions. But the same way in our own lives, you know, if we ask ourselves, you know, simple questions in on on a daily basis, or generally, asking questions just helps us learn more about ourselves, but also the world around us. And in the end, also helps us make better decisions. Because if you actually stop and think about what you're about to do, and actually ask yourself, Is this you know, aligned with what I wanted to do in my life? Does this feel good? Am I doing this for someone else, or for myself, you know, all of these like little questions, they can guide you. So I think what you said just before I started answering, is very accurate. And I think also, when you give somebody the floor and empower them, you get to give them. And also I think it's important when you and also I think when you allow other people to ask questions, and you give them a platform, it empowers them, doesn't it? And it's also quite flattering. When when somebody asks me, Hey, what do you think? Or, you know, they might be the authority on the subject. And they'll give you the best answer, but then all of a sudden, they'll turn it to you and go, Hey, what do you think about this? It really gives you a glow, doesn't it to know that you you feel important enough to give an opinion or a voice? Absolutely. And I think that is also kind of a positive side to it. Because like you said, you kind of hand it over to them. And you're like, I am interested in your point of view as to here as well. Like, you're not just wanting to save your own point of view, but you want to hear something else. And that kind of makes for a better discourse in general anyway. Because how boring would it be if everything, everything would be just your review? And but like you said, you know, a lot of people do hold back. And I think the best way to get over it is just to do it, which is obviously not the easiest thing at all times. But you know, in the end, the question you can ask yourself here is just intercepting not here is, well, if I don't ask this question, then what will like what will I learn? Basically, nothing. Beyond Beyonds, if I ask a question, what can go wrong? Well, the only thing that could happen is somebody thinks, well, why is she asking this, but who cares? If you gain something from it, if you learn something from it and you engage in a conversation, you're only going to gain something from it, whether that's positive or negative, you're going to learn something new. So, so Jacqueline, talk to me a little bit more about the designs and how you and your mum kind of communicate who comes up with what whose idea is where, how does that relationship work? And how does it materialise? Yeah. And just to start off with the fact that what we kind of wanted to do with the brand is make it so it's kind of like basic pieces, but we wanted to do them a little bit differently. So we did design all of the silhouettes and everything. Like I said, they're not very complicated, but we wanted to give them a little twist. And I actually just, I don't know it's always kind of been an interest of mine. I've always liked drawing, and kind of sketching fashion designs. I've also done a course when I was younger and stuff like that, just because it was an interest of mine, like I said before, and, and so with this one, we just kind of spoke for a little bit and kind of came up with that concept, like I said, you know, easy, but with a twist. And, and then I kind of started drawing some things. And we kind of did have a lot of back and forth on this. I must say that in the beginning of the pandemic, I was actually in Germany for two and a half months. And I kind of flew home and got stuck when the lockdown was announced. Not that that was a bad thing. But that obviously helped with, you know, us kind of being able to work on this together. But we kind of, you know, like I said, we have the same type of style. So we kind of settled on the silhouettes and everything relatively quickly. We had been collecting questions in like a document for a while already to just, you know, have them piled up and then see, you know, what, what can you actually put on clothing? Like, what would be fun? What would be interesting? and trademarks as well, right? I mean, I'm guessing you can't put anything on the T shirt like, Alexa asked me a question, or? Yeah. And we kind of wanted to do a mixture as well of questions that might be a little bit more, you know, deep compared to some questions that seem a little bit more lighthearted. Or a bit more of a, you know, like, a jokey kind of thing. Like I'm wearing a top that's saying, What are you overthinking right now? You know, because we all tend to overthink at times. And that is just kind of like, you know, like a reminder like, Oh, I'm actually overthinking. Okay, wait. So, you know, to kind of tie in different sorts of questions. And Jacqueline now that these shirts and the hoodies, whatnot, they're all out there to buy, how has the brand been received? I think I mean, I feel like it's been quite positive. You know, I think starting a brand is obviously never an easy feat. Especially just you know, getting people to actually know that you exist is like the main part. But everyone that's kind of responded to what we're doing has been positive we've had, we work with a PR agency that obviously you you got introduced to us then. And they have done a virtual press day where we got some positive response. So that was all quite good. Like I said, we're obviously still quite small, but we're hoping to, you know, ramp up the marketing a little bit now. So we can just gain more awareness. But, you know, in the end, I think one of the main aims of the brand is just to bring forward the fact that there is such a positive power in questions. So even if, you know, someone was not to be so interested in the clothing, we just kind of want to bring that message forward. And but yeah, regarding the other part of the question, and yeah, we do have something new plans. And we are actually, in the works right now. Like I said earlier, we've now switched our production to Portugal. So we'll see how that goes. But we've had some samples and everything. So yeah, that'll be interesting. I think it'll still be tops and, you know, a similar type of style, but obviously, different questions and maybe a little bit more colour, because we stayed quite black and white in the beginning. Um, but yeah, it'll be interesting, maybe some accessories as well. But like before, we're really trying to not to, you know, be as sustainable as we can as a small brand, with what is available to us. So yeah,