In case you were wondering, the COVID-19 pandemic is still happening. What will happen with our jobs and the economy in general, is still largely unknown. However, we can already see some changes in specifics fields of the fashion industry. Today specifically I want to write about what’s happening with Etsy.
Their stocks are rising. Business Of Fashion recently reported a 7.9 percent growth due to this fresh, pandemic caused interest in e-commerce as well as a growth in their app downloads. That seems fairly logical to an amateur like me. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if this could also be because people are getting more aware of their surroundings. They’re getting more aware of themselves, of where their food comes from, of who makes their clothes. Etsy is just a perfect place to connect with those people.
So I wrote to my college friend Valerija Cerovec, a designer and author who currently lives in London. She spent a majority of the quarantine in the UK in Brighton and used the extra time to create a brand and open an Etsy shop called Kalampierre. We talked about why she decided to do this now, how did she incorporate her storytelling skills into this brand and what is the pandemic doing to our perception of the world. Read our conversation below.
When did you decide to start Kalampierre? Did you come up with the idea before or was the pandemic a trigger?
I’ve never really had the intention of starting a brand and it’s quite honestly hard for me to imagine that I am building one. When I think about Kalampierre and where it is headed, I really think about the community I want to build around it. The pandemic was ironically really just a perfect time and place for everything to unravel.
What was your thought process while doing it? Why did you start it?
I started it because my family needed some face masks – can you imagine! We had borrowed a sewing machine from a neighbor and before I knew it I was making masks for neighbors and friends. In about two weeks’ time, I sold enough masks to buy myself a sewing machine. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without Helen, my mother in law, who was my Head of Sales.
How did you choose which items to create? Is there a story behind that?
Face masks were the first items I put on Etsy and then I was sort of thinking what else I could offer. It’s very important to me not to simply do things because they can be done. I need to have an entirely different process at the back of my head because I don’t consider myself a fashion designer at all. First and foremost, I’m a storyteller and for me, everything is about a story. So I had to create this character in my head that intrigues me currently. Her name is Anjelica, she loves hats and summer and cheese, and everything I make is for Anjelica to come to life. I imagine sometime in a few months, Anjelica will go away and there would be someone completely different taking her place.
You’re currently doing everything on your own. Do you intend for it to stay that way or would you consider an expansion if things started to go that way
I really like things the way they are now because I enjoy making clothes and jewelry. I guess, if there was a good way for me to scale things, I would certainly do it but it would be very important not to compromise the values that I think Kalampierre should have.
Etsy stocks have risen 7.9 percent a few weeks ago. There’s also been an increase in downloads of their app. Goldman Sachs’ analyst Heath Terry said that it’s due to the pandemic and people turning to online shopping. What’s your opinion on why it happened? Do you think that the reason could be that people both turned to arts and crafts themselves and to buying things that are locally made, handmade, and therefore more sustainable?
I definitely think people turned to online shopping more because that was the better and, in some cases, the only option, but they also flocked to Etsy during lockdown because that was a platform where they could easily find local stores that could ship faster than, for example, a high street brand with a warehouse in a single country.
Hopefully, the pandemic will teach us a lot about our consumer habits and shift them to be more sustainable. Now that we weren’t able to go to the shops as frequently, even more so, it was kind of a complete bore as well – queuing, always peeking in the isles, standing two meters away, using all the protection – it proved so much easier to shop online. It also gave us a chance to reconsider things that we are buying – do we need them, why do we need them, would it really bring us joy having them? I think pandemic might be an important milestone in how we shop.
I’m not sure what the situation is anywhere else, but here in London fabric shops were overflowing with people once they opened. Apart from it being an absolute fun, the good thing about people turning to crafts is the creeping realization that it is hard to sew, it is hard to make things and that perhaps that shirt or dress we bought recently in a high street shop for £10 is worth so much more in the grand scheme of things and that we really are the ones, not imaginary others, that are buying into the entire system of underpaid labor and unsustainability. I think that is the most important thing we have to come to terms with.
Do you think the pandemic will bring us that change or a small shift towards a more sustainable way of life, a way that’s not so dependant on the global economy?
I really hope that a great change is on the way and I think we are already seeing some of that in the fashion industry with some prominent brands deciding not to produce collections by seasons anymore. I don’t think that’s accidental – people are changing their consumption habits and companies have to respond to those needs. I get a sense that people are looking more for things that would be special to them, that really speak to the way of life they want to live, what they stand for – and more and more people stand for sustainability.