HOW DO WE WORK? INTERVIEW WITH UNREAD TODAY
In this interview, we are meeting with a couple of foreign readers who have started an interesting brand. Elena and Israel collect different silks and fabrics in their travels and make their own beautiful, high-quality, and handmade shoes. Their shoes are made in Portugal and sold to European markets, and the couple is responsible for designing and all the business aspects of their brand. Let’s talk to the founders of Liebre Style, a fascinating concept with elegant designs.
Elena: We met in the Netherlands. We both were working in big companies. I was working for the German company Bosch, and my husband was working in a fruit-export business. After that, we went to Indonesia and I worked there for 3 years. Because Israel was unable to work due to legal requirements, he started to learn photography and to travel. He started to take photos and developed a new talent. He traveled to India, Japan, Mongolia, and other interesting places. From these travels, my husband would bring me silks and other textiles that he found in the marketplaces where the locals bought. Each of these textiles showed the creativity of each of the places where they came from.
During this time, I would be all the time working. It was a good job and salary. However, I realized that I was becoming comfortable in this life. I also wanted to do something creative. I was a very creative person before I started college. My younger brother is a tattoo artist, another brother, and my dad are photographers – a very creative family. So I decided to start a lifestyle brand with my husband focusing first on shoes.
Valencia, where I was born in Spain, it one of the world’s leading shoe manufacturing regions. There, people wear a variety of fashionable shoes. But while working in Northern Europe, I noticed that the shoes available were quite boring. And in this part of Europe, I thought that I would succeed if I created a new shoe brand. Most people usually wear black, brown and gray shoes. So we decided to make creative, colorful and stylish shoes instead, and use our collection of silks and fabrics from the world.
How do you work, what do you do?
Israel: We both are the designers in our brand. I’m responsible for the production and the distribution. So many things to do. Elena is responsible for planning, strategy, marketing and sales
In Poland, working hours are between 9 and 17 pm. I work within those limits. In general, I seek a balance in terms of work and life. Elena works all the time. I help her to get a balanced life (laughs).
What apps, software or tools do you use the most?
Israel: Photoshop and Lightroom are definitely my main programs. My favorite tool is my Nikon camera that I have for more than 4 years.
Elena: Because I’m responsible for marketing, I use social media. Instagram, Facebook, Etsy, etc. And I’m learning Adobe Premiere for video editing.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut?
Elena: We’re doing everything in Google Drive. Things are there safer and in order, and saves us a lot of time when sharing brand materials. We also use the Airbnb app to rent the stays during our travels. It’s easy and good value for money, as well as great to meet local people.
Living in our studio also means a great time saver.
Where and how do you keep your to-do list?
Elena: I write on a notebook. It helps me to focus better while I’m thinking.
Israel: I use post-its because it helps me to focus on the moment. My wife focuses on the long-term plan and strategy and therefore she needs to brainstorm complex ideas and she likes to write in her notebook for that. I focus on the daily operations, and she focuses on our plans, and we work well together.
What things are you really good at?
Elena: Israel is very good at taking action. He also has a great eye for details and a good taste. Although my husband is not a fashion victim, he always likes to put on a good outfit. I am very goal oriented. If I have a goal, I always reach it. In a corporate, one gets to do only a slice of the work. I like to be self-employed – it gives me a real challenge.
What are the upsides and downside of your job?
Elena: The good things is that you get to be with your husband for 24 hours. The negative side is also you are with your husband 24 hours (laughs).
The success of our business depends on us, which is a good thing, but also a scary one. You don’t have a boss who tells you what needs to be done. Nonetheless, I like that I can test myself, be involved in various topics, and achieve difficult things.
Israel: There is no time for stress. Stress and negative feelings are too costly.
What are you working on at the moment?
Elena: We have created a new winter shoe collection recently. The materials are collected from Russia, Ghana, and Thailand. Soon we will go to Portugal to start with the production.
The purpose of coming to Mongolia is to get the silks that we will use for our next year’s summer collection. We have been searching in the Narantuul market for 4 days. Here the silk is very beautiful, it is all in a compact space, and the choice is great. In the upcoming season, we are planning to create different shoe designs. And we are planning on designing bags and accessories. We are also interested in designing cashmere garments.
What are you currently reading?
Elena: I read a lot. I read both literature and business books. My favorite is the biography of Steve Jobs – I’ve read it two times. Now I’m reading the biography of Leonardo da Vinci, by the same author.
Israel: I like to read about the lives of photographers. However, I prefer watching documentary movies because of their visual content. I love the one documentary about Sebastian Salgado. Also, I like the BBC documentaries.
Do you listen to music while you work? What types of music do you like?
Israel: I cannot work without music. I like chill-out music. My wife only hears music when she’s doing a creative work like designing.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Elena: For me, it depends on the day. Sometimes I like to socialize, and sometimes I love being alone. Israel always loves to socialize with friends.
What’s your sleep routine like?
Elena: I sleep between 23 pm and 7 am usually. Israel sleeps between 01 am and 8 am.
How do you spend your free time?
Israel: I’m Mexican. That’s why I love to meet with friends and be surrounded by them. I working from 9 to 17 and then I go swimming and to the gym every day. I love to meet friends at night.
Elena: I like to study in my spare time. I just recently graduated from an executive MBA. I’m interested in opening a YouTube channel, so I am also learning how to use Adobe Premiere. I would like to create videos to show tips and information about entrepreneurship and start-up topics. I also love to do yoga. What we like to do together every day is to watch movies and go to the park for a walk with our dog.
What inspires or motivates you?
Israel: Traveling inspires us. Discovering new places, being acquainted with new people, and seeing how they live really enriches our views and lives. That’s why we love using the fabrics from around the world. We like people to also get inspired by the places where our textiles are from.
Elena: Being able to be your own boss, putting your own goals and being able to work in a creative context. Some of my former colleagues are proud by my decision to start my own start-up business. Even though corporations pay well, working for too long in them can put you in a very comfortable zone and it’s difficult to get out of it, and then you never can really experience what you are truly capable of.
A particular event that changed your life?
Elena: My mother died of breast cancer when I was 21 years old. She was the main pillar of our family. I wanted to escape from that situation and I moved to Germany. My mother was 42 years old. This is why I always have in mind that life is short and that I need to make the best of it.
Israel: Moving from Mexico to the Netherlands was a turning point in my life. Europe has a totally different culture and adapting to it was a really rewarding experience.
What is the one important piece of advice you would give to people?
Israel: Go and see. Believe in what you do. Listen to the opinion of others. But take your own decision. And don’t allow negative thoughts to pop-up.
Elena: If there is something in your life that you don’t like, for example in your marriage, your work, your friends… you need to acknowledge it and do something about it. Many people just accept things as they are and do not have the courage to confront their situation. Stop complaining and change it.
Who would you like to answer the same questions?
I would like to suggest Miss G. Tungalag, the director of the Urlakh Erdem Fashion Desing Institute. She has helped us a lot during our visit to Mongolia. She has a really interesting background in the fashion industry.