owner jos bles agenturen b.v.
interview by Isrid
'I rather look than think'
“I have been an entrepreneur in the fashion industry since 1980. I wasn’t really sure what to do in life, I slowly developed my taste for fashion. I started out playing ice hockey professionally, then worked in Germany for a while, spray painted decorative plaster and built buggies. My father owned an agency and it seemed a natural move to start working for him. I was bored out of my mind as I started. We sold classic coats and I couldn’t identify with the product or how we sold them. I started enjoying the business as soon as I found a brand I was able to feel good about and it brought the success I needed. It was then that I really got the hang of it and adding the Jean Paul brand really set us apart and business went through the roof. My showroom was located at the MFC. We had huge line ups in the buying season to process the orders.”
“I was born in Israel. My parents worked at a kibbutz and an acquaintance was looking for contacts in the fashion industry. He produced clothing in Zimbabwe, which at that time was considered the Hong Kong of Africa. I invited him up to meet and he came in with a huge box of pretty summer dresses. It was absolutely not my kind of merchandise since I was still only selling classic women’s fashions at that time. I decided to contact the head buyer of V&D in charge of dress collections. He seemed excited right away and wrote an order to buy twenty-four thousand items. I travelled to all leading fashion houses and buyers to initially sell these dresses and added a whole bunch of different products along the way. I was twenty-eight years old. Those were the days, Jan Zeeman was still buying his own merchandise, so much fun. Sales and humour go hand in hand and it can take you a long way.”
'It is crucial to hold on to your vision and keep a keen interest in what makes the world go around.'
“In the past there was no pressure on an agent to do anything more but to sell a collection and be done with it. This ‘linear’ sales approach no longer applies. Nowadays as an agency, we have to be servicing our clients on many different levels. Support and attention are key to keeping our clients happy. We value the quality of the merchandise and we understand consumer needs so we can be well informed towards our clients. We stand united with our clients when things go wrong and help them solve any problems. We try and be accommodating by allowing to ‘swap’. Clients can exchange product according to strict stipulation. Therefore, we are distributor of a lot of different brands, being able to control the rollover of collections. We take the worry out of our clients’ work. Ten years ago we came up with the idea to organise events right at our clients’ stores. We had seen this concept in Los Angeles but we were the first agency who brought it to Holland. Not only does it provide excellent exposure to the store but we, as an agency, also take part in showing our expertise and knowledge of the products.”
“We still travel on a regular basis, recognising trends and commerce and staying on top of new developments. I could say I have been lucky a few times in life. I was taught to think big and stand your ground when it comes to making decisions. A deal is a deal and knowing when to say ‘no’ is a crucial part of doing business. We are known to be hip, trendy, feminine and classy. Not too expensive but expensive enough. We have a straight approach to our customers but we are always willing to move with retail changes. We stand with our clients, offer advise wherever we can, try and take some of the worry out of doing business. In short, we just try and help.”
“Fashion never stands still, ever changing, so I like to go look at new concepts and latest trends in different cities around the world. It is crucial to hold on to your vision and keep a keen interest in what makes the world go around. Being a small shop owner, this can be a bit of a struggle. It is hard enough being a small shop, to keep daily things going aside from all other responsibilities and workload and so little time is left to discover new things and it may stun potential growth. I travel at a moments notice, making my office everywhere in the world by just bringing my laptop. I am lucky to have so many amazing people working with me which allows me to have the freedom to just observe. I rather look than think. It is a great way of learning and so I try and pass that on to my daughters Chantal and Dani. At the moment I see ‘high tech’ making its entry. It translates into the materials we use, design, store concept and the workplace. It would be a smart move to open up the entrance to the WFC and to embrace a new view on how we do business.”