AMA001 - VALENTIN OZICH

 

Welcome to Episode 1 of Ask Me Anything. So basically we get a lot of questions coming through on a weekly basis and we feel the best way to share them is to answer these questions through video and sharing them to the whole audience to give you guys as much value as we can. Thanks everybody for submitting the questions. So we just basically filtered down which ones we thought would get the best answers.

What does a creative director look for when adding people to the team? (@nico_breh)

A good question. Thanks for that Nico. So basically. Just for those who don't know I am. My name is Valentin, Im the creative director and the founder of I love Ugly. I basically started out of my bedroom. Nearly a decade ago when I started it, I was basically trading out of my bedroom for a couple of years before it did take the big leap so that's a little bit of a back or who I am, but going back to your question about what a creative director looks for when adding people to the team. I guess like first and foremost is you look for people with hunger, where they’ll kind of come to you and you know present themselves and put themselves forward.

I think what I do like first and foremost is attitude and hunger. And then after that, obviously a body of work and everything behind them is super important. But at the same time you want people that are receptive to constructive criticism. You want people that aren't afraid to challenge what you're currently doing and to actually speak up. But in a humbling way. And also you also you want people that understand what we are currently doing and also adding their own spin and their own flavor to it. But at the same time still staying true to the vision and the overall ethos of the brand.

So as a creative director that's what I look for people when adding to the team not only the creative team, but the team in general. I think in any organisation in any brand everybody is important from a customer service person to the people in the retail side, to the people you know designing the product, to the people manufacturing, to the financial controller, everybody's important. Those are the key attributes which I personally look for and which I feel have served me really well over the past few years.

 

What is the best way to build brand awareness and customer loyalty? (@dan.fleming)

Once again that's a fantastic question. The best way to build brand awareness I feel is just making sure that your brand is actually standing for something super unique and different from everything else that's going on the market because I feel there is a lot of brands out there. We're definitely flooded with choice nowadays and it's the ones that stand for something that goes beyond just the clothes are the ones that really differentiate themselves from the others, because gone are the days where you can just you know go on go on Alibaba and copy copy pants design from some other brand slip, you a label on it and begin selling on Instagram. I think those days are over.

I think now it's all about differentiation for what you represent and what you stand for. And I think the most important thing is once you have those values, figuring out the best means to communicate those through your website, for social media, for your branding campaigns, for the influencers which you choose to work for those those are real. So those are few little nuggets on how to build brand awareness. And in terms of customer loyalty thats a big one. That's a big one for us and that's something we've really kind of switched our attitude on.

And also I just want to apologize for anyone that has had a bit of a rough customer experience with us in the last few months. We did go through a few internal changes and systems and we just flipped the whole attitude on us like customers are absolutely first, because it's you guys that actually kind of allowed me to be sitting in front of you talking to you, you know you put the food on our table and pay for stuff like that. And also you guys the ones that are delivering us the feedback on what you want and it's our job to understand what you guys want and it's our job to actually make that come to life and kind of going over and beyond and exceeding your expectations. I think customer loyalty as well, it's simple things like people are so caught up with being fancy. I think doing things like sending a customer something random or writing a letter thanking them for shopping with you, because you know once again nowadays we're so spoilt for choice.

Anyone that does decide to shop with your brand or your product or even for us is you know weird. We're pretty grateful for that. Yeah it's being as greatful as possible  to your customer by any means necessary. I think you're going to naturally gain a lot of customer loyalty from that. Make sure that you don't lose your integrity, if you get big opportunities or whatever. Just make sure that you don't kind of water down what what kind of got you there in the first place. Just really hold those values. When you do go through times or what have you, the loyal customers, if you treat them well in the beginning they're going to stick by you.

 

Were there any specific skills or knowledge that you found to be valuable when entering the industry? (@beef.love)

Absolutely, but I also found there's a whole lot of skills that I didn't have when entering the industry. And I think that kind of goes with job and any type of industry and I think what skills and knowledge I needed back then are going to be much different then starting today. I think now starting a website and getting your brand out there. All the technology and automation going on and happening right now, the options are available, starting is easier than ever but actually being heard is harder than ever. So I think it goes back to the question before about brand awareness as just making sure that you actually have real value and a story which you want to tell people and making sure that is the main thing that kind of shines through as opposed to just like jamming transactional marketing down people's throats.

But for any specific skills and knowledge that I found to be valuable when entering the industry. I think it's like I think really reading as much as you can around brand, reading as much as you can about customer service, customer loyalty, knowing your numbers as well and being with a real smart financial person that can help you do that. The stock management, the stock planning and obviously making sure that when you do start to get a bit of traction that the financial side of the business is growing proportionately, because I feel in the fashion industry that's what a lot of people kind of miss, they think that designing a great product is going to trump fever, it's going to solve all problems, but that couldn't be further from the truth. There is a lot of stuff where it's not sexy and it feels like you're eating and chewing glass, but you need to do in order to have a sustainable business. Hopefully that kind of answers your question.

So I think the main thing is write down a list of stuff that you're good at, the skills that you're good at, anything and then write down a list of the skills that you think you need and just make sure that when you do pursue it or start making sure that you're covering this stuff that you do need. Because no doubt there will be a little, you know, that will be those few things that kind of bites you in the ass later on.

 

Over the years you guys  have had stand out pieces or prints from collections that the fans have gone mad over. Having all these ideas and phases that feel an essential part of ILUs heritage on your books, what’s the process for deciding when old successes should be put to rest to keep moving design wise or when to re-explore your past work? (@ben7rainey)

That's a great question I think. I think it's a bit of it's a bit of a Catch 22 sometimes you can rest on your laurels and go and continue to repeat the old successes to the point where it gets kind of dry and people are sick of it. So I think it's a combination. Going back to your old successes, adding a new flavor and a new spin on it and possibly running a bunch of like little experiments or iterations of those successes and then seeing what sticks. But even for us we've gone back now to work we've done in 2012 and started to kind of like you know bring it back out and add like a fresh flavor to it. And that's mainly because we've been listening to what our customers have been asking for. So we've begun re-exploring that old work at which we did and adding a new 2018 flavor on it.

So yeah I think it's just running a whole bunch of experiments, don't rest on your laurels. Don't just do the same old stuff because it's easy and it works, because everything good will eventually come to an end and you've got to constantly be innovating. At the same time if something does work really well just keep it going, but don't be too reliant on it. The most dangerous thing to do in any business or especially in this business is to have have a one legged stool, so your whole business is reliant on one thing. One type of strategy, or one account, or one product and as soon as that account or product strategy falls over, then you no longer have a business and it's important to make sure you get a three or five legged stool. So if one leg knocks over, you still got the support of the others.

 

Will you ever do sunglasses again? (@nzmograph)

Yes absolutely. We're actually in the middle of doing a collection with Bailey Nelson from Australia which is pretty exciting. We've just received the final preproduction samples yesterday which will be due to drop around February next year and they're looking pretty amazing, a huge improvement on the ones which we have done previously.

 

How long into the journey did you become a job for you and not a hobby? Was there a moment when you could start paying a self for the work you put in to the brand? (@jamesscott167)

I think for that, as I said when I first started I was doing this for a couple years before I actually took the leap, I kind of had just a little formula on my head. As soon as I could afforf to pay myself half my salary at my previous job from ILU, I was ready to take that leap because I figured, you know, the additional hours which I had to work on the on the brand and the company would basically make up for what I was getting paid and in my old salary. So I think it's always going to be a scary one. So it's going to be a tough one taking that leap, but you just got to ask yourself, like you know 20 years from now are you going to regret not taking a risk. You know people were so caught up with being paralyzed in fear from not taking your risk, because of like financial reasons or this reason or that reason, all of other people's opinions, but you just got to do it, but obviously you've got to do it smartly as well. You don't want to do it prematurely.

But I think it's important that if you are starting to get traction and maybe a good rule of thumb is if your earning half of what you are earning in your current job, it's possibly a good good opportunity or good time to just fully take that leap. So was there a moment when I could stop paying myself the work I put in the brand? to be honest I didn't really pay myself much for a while. Everything I had was put back into the business and I just had enough to feed myself and stuff like that.You know, you gotta you got to eat. You have to eat the dust for a while. And yeah, there's a few fortunate businesses where people take companies out there where they hit the jackpot straightaway, but that's an anomaly. And I think you'd be foolish to think that what you're doing, you could start to you know just be having an abundance of money straight away. Good things take time. It's all about persistence and you know doing doing the groundwork, and you know just constantly constantly putting in the hard yards.

 

Do you schedule everything including rest? (@KurtBingham)

Once you get to a certain level, you have to become a lot more strategic with your time and how you use it. What calls you can take and what meetings you can take. And also making sure that your scheduling a lot of time for thinking time and you know, actually like getting away from the madness and be able to kind of look at it more from a kind of upper level, from a holistic point of view. But in terms of scheduling everything, I try to roughly schedule the important things that will kind of allow me to perform at optimum levels when I am working. Because obviously the human mind can only concentrate at a very high level for a short amount of time. So making sure that all the crap around me is done. So when I am, you know when it is time to work or create or think I'm in a good state, prime state.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your process of starting ILU, and what would be your main tip for someone starting out? (@Alexanderarc)

This is probably not like an answer you'd expect to hear. I just had an idea. When I started obviously that kind of worked out for me, but that's probably not the most intelligent thing to do. But I feel that once you have an idea and you feel that you have a point of difference in the market and you know you've crossed your T's and dotted your I's and everything kind of looks good, you're good to go. The next thing is just up here (in your mind) and making sure that you just actually start, because usually the biggest roadblock for most people is their mind. So I think yeah just just begin. Originally, ILU began as just three words - "I love Ugly", I thought the words were interesting. I started a magazine interviewing artists from around the world which I found on MySpace and from there I figured it wasn't a very viable business. Getting into the magazine business, I had a bunch of artwork and design which I had floating around. I decided to put that onto shirts. I decided to name it I Love ugly and then I just began from there. I made sure that I was spreading it to my networks, my friends and family. Then from there, it kind of gre and I got feedback on what people liked. I listened to the feedback I made the changes and I just began.

So don't procrastinate, begin and just make sure that you do have somewhat of a plan before you begin. Don't go in aimless, don't go in there blind. And yeah you should be pretty good. And if that doesn't work out just change course, keep changing course and seeking out information and advice until you start to get those little breakthroughs. Most successes that we see today it didn't work for them from the get go. They just keep cracking along and trying a bunch of things and eventually they got that kind of breakthrough that they needed.

 

2-part question: 1) Is UK/Europe still a target market for ILU, or is the more obvious success and traction in the US, Asia and Australasia meaning that those will continue to be the main focus of marketing; and 2) How much do you think ILU will have changed as a brand 5 years from now? (@haydengrey)

Yes. Great great question Hayden. UK/Europe, obviously yes still very on the cards, were still very influenced by the European market and the UK market and the way their aesthetic is. For me personally I spent a lot of time in the early days in Amsterdam and in Belgium and around there, around those ways just to kind of like yeah just had a huge impact on my aesthetic. So I think for that yeah, it still is a target market. Obviously there's a few things, there are a few hurdles we need to get over in terms of let's say distribution and whatnot. Yeah I think for us going forward, it's going to be no less of a focus then the US is to us.

Then number two, how much do you think ILU will change as a brand 5 years from now? That's really interesting. I think we're going to become more mature, more developed, obviously internally there will be a lot better strategy implemented just to make sure that we're doing things proper. That we have the systems and we're not being reactive. Like most small businesses we're actually kind of anticipating and you know things aren't manic, things are done properly and smoothly and you know we can really build and develop on ideas and markets and who knows we could be expanding into different categories could be into womenswear, you know we could be going into into eyewear a lot deeper. We could become a content a content company. It could be I Love ugly TV.

To be honest, I'm not a huge believer in 5, 10 and 20 year plans which probably sounds a little bit weird. A lot of people probably don't agree with that. But all of the world's changing so fast and yeah the landscape is moving so quickly. It's all about what's happening in the next next three months, six months and 12 months. And in making sure that I'm focusing on the business online today and I'm also thinking about the business which we need to be and more often than, anything beyond 12 months is just probably going to confuse you and it's probably going to confuse the team and the brand as well. The next five years I can't exactly say, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be quite different to what it is now.

 

-

 

Yeah that's a handful of questions. Once again we appreciate everybody who tuned in and submitted the questions, we want to do these probably fortnightly, so this is episode 1. And yeah once again we appreciate the love, appreciate the support and we'll catch you guys next time.