Exclusive interview with Belgium’s happiest clothing brand Nollies!
Nollies is a feel-good clothing brand based in Antwerp. The brand was founded by Jonathan and Kathleen, a lovely couple who want to spread happiness, love and fun vibes with their clothing. After the last Nollies collection day, we took a moment to chat about how it all began. It sure is a great story about a successful clothing brand.
A timeline of Nollies
What can you tell us about your clothing collections?
Our first collection had 8 designs. You can say that it was quite a big investment because we didn’t even have any customers yet. We’re glad that we went through with it because the clothing was amazing. A year later, we’re already at our third collection. 😉
Can you describe your clothing to us?
If you look good, you will feel good too. That’s why our slogan is “Be happy, wear Nollies”, it’s exactly how we want our customers to feel when they wear Nollies clothing. When we design our clothing, we try to combine as many elements as possible. Whether it’s a sporty outfit or a casual outfit, our clothing will fit your outfit and you’ll look good in it too!
And besides looking good and feeling good, the clothing is also qualitative, ethical and ecological. We also use the hashtag #IkKoopBelgisch on our social media because we feel that Belgium has a lot of good and fun products to offer.
How did it all start?
Actually, starting a clothing brand was just a random idea. After 3 months of thinking and talking about it, we finally went through with it. The starting phase is the hardest, but you have to start from somewhere, right? We started with a big idea, and as time went on, we knew which direction we wanted to go with it.
It still took a few months to get started because we work full time and we didn’t have any experience in the fashion industry. We also didn’t know what the process was to start a clothing brand, but we were lucky that we found Merchandise Essentials and Storelaunchers. Ulrike is our personal account manager at Merchandise Essentials. Her expertise in fashion really is an added value. Storelaunchers helped us to professionalize our clothing brand. We followed a masterclass where we learned a lot, from social media posts to a retail strategy.
“Kathleen’s nickname for Jonathan is ‘Nollie’, which explains the brand name ‘Nollies’. The logo is an elephant, because that’s their favorite animal. In the future, they would also like to donate a percentage of their profits to <strong>a charity for elephants</strong>.”
So what has changed since then?
A lot has changed, we learned so much from having our own clothing brand as well as from the fashion industry. We’ve made some mistakes, but we also learned from them and we’ll try to prevent them in the future.
The most important thing that we learned was that there’s no guide that guarantees success, you have to create your own success and you learn by doing it.
But we also have two amazing employees now, Yannis and Kris, who help us as much as possible since we still have our full time jobs. Everyone writes their ideas on post-it notes so we won’t forget about them, and we meet weekly to discuss them.
How does Nollies’ future look like?
We’re not ready for it yet but we hope that one of us can work on Nollies full time. We gave ourselves 3 years to achieve this goal, but it’s fine if we don’t. We’re not going to quit our clothing brand because we love working on Nollies, and it’s also really fun.
What difficulties did you encounter?
Our biggest question was: “Why would someone buy a sweater that costs 60 euros and it’s from a brand that nobody knows?”. We noticed that the people who buy our clothing are regular customers and that word-of-mouth advertising was the key to find our customers. We always ask for feedback and we always try to improve our website so it’s easy to navigate through.
Feedback is essential. Sometimes we ask our customers, friends and family what they think of a certain product. Let’s say that 8 out of 10 people like our new T-shirt, but the other two people weren’t interested. It’s a good thing to keep the other two people in our minds. For example, that’s how we find out that people were interested in a Nollies hoodie instead of a T-shirt. We never thought about adding a hoodie to our collection before.
How do you communicate to your customers?
We’re both very open and loving people and we try to make this visible in everything that we do. For example, we try to be as sympathetic as possible on our website and we hope that it creates trust.
Do you have any other examples of building trust between you and your customers?
When a customer orders something from Nollies, we want our customer to feel good the moment he or she receives the product. Most of the packaging is plain boring and we want to do this differently, we usually write a personal card and we also add some candy and perfume so the box smells nice.
We do want to focus more on personalization and customization in the future, like adding a discount code for their next order. It leads to more word-of-mouth advertising, which is also how we got most of our customers.
Another example was a pop-up store, we were completely in our element and our stand was definitely in the spotlights compared to the other stands, we also met so many people who are now our customers.
Another thing that was really nice was that people told us that they saw our flyers for our pop-up store, so a pop-up store was definitely worth it.
A last example is when we have a photoshoot of our clothing, we try to make the photos as spontaneously as possible. It’s just a casual day out with our friends with food and drinks and everybody is just happy. Exactly what the clothing brand is about.
Selling Nollies clothing
How did it feel like to sell your first product?
Our first customers were our friends so selling our clothes to them wasn’t as satisfying as selling to someone we didn’t know. It took a long time, but we eventually did sell to someone that we didn’t know through our webshop. We were so happy and excited when we did because we kept wondering if we knew this person or not.
But we were also a bit disappointed when we didn’t sell out immediately when our products were on our webshop. We always hear about brands who sell out in less than 24 hours, but a piece of advice that we received was that it’s possible that this brand only have a stock of 10 pieces. It’s all about perspective and that has helped us a lot.
Do you have any other plans than a webshop?
We had a masterclass from Storelaunchers to approach physical stores. It’s not very easy finding the right store because it has to fit our personality, and we’re quite picky about that. But we also want the communication to be as transparent as possible and we also meet a few times to make sure that everything is correct.
Tips for starting clothing brands
Believe in what you do and be passionate about it, but don’t forget that you have to be critical to yourself and be open to change. There’s always room for improvement and others can help you with that, just keep in mind that not everybody dares to be critical and transparent.
Inspired by Nollies to start your own clothing brand? Let’s start your fashion project together. Don’t hesitate to contact us, we can’t wait to hear from you! 🙂