We are entering the sixth week of quarantine in France as I am writing this article.
It's been six weeks since we reorganized our daily lives, our working methods, our habits.
Six weeks of introspection for some, an opportunity to wander for others, six weeks during which diametrically opposed feelings and thoughts mix in our minds, six weeks of thinking.
To be fully honest with you, I dream that this crisis will change the history of Humanity, our behavior, our ambitions and brings the world together to a much more neutral ground where solidarity and kindness would prevail over our egos and our excessive ambitions.
It may all seem utopian, but it feels good to dream.
Planet Earth sent us a message that was alarming enough so that, each of us, at our scale, make drastic changes.
This time, I won’t wait for politicians or scientists to decide for me, or impose changes on me, my will is to change even more my daily life and that of Heimstone.
So how is the future of Heimstone going to take shape?
What are our fears?
Have we changed our way of thinking, what we believe in?
We asked you to share your concerns with us on Heimstone Instagram account and I thank you all for participating. It really helps me to put down my thoughts.
About the team
How do we work from home? How to maintain your own motivation and your team’s?
I believe you have to choose your battle to find the right organization and keep your head above water.
My priority is obviously my husband and my two children for whom I must be 100% present and available. It makes working during the day difficult, if not almost impossible, and I quickly realized that being torn by juggling between my work and my children created frustration on my side, but also on my children’s.
Reorganizing my work, embracing the idea to do the bare the minimum, taking a break, working at night after talking the whole day to two children of two and five years old, was by far my biggest challenge. I am against the messages of the "Wonder Woman" idea, who must be able to do everything at the same time, fit 36 hours in a 24-hour day, and with a smile!
And because it is impossible to add hours to my day, I made the choice to let go of some by taking a break with social media. I am saving at least three hours a day.
It’s one of my latest fads: time is precious, and you don’t overconsume it. As far as I am concerned, I no longer want to overconsume it as we used to, before the crisis.
Regarding Heimstone, the challenge is obviously not the same, but ultimately quite exciting (I am not sure it's politically correct to say it, but being on my own only diary, I can say whatever I want!). It makes us alive. I like emergency situations, when it is necessary, in a short period of time, to succeed in taking a step back in order to measure priorities (we will talk about this a little further), which force us to get out of our comfort zone.
We are lucky enough to be a team of six people: six women with well-educated and active minds, each one having important responsibility to maintain the balance of our business. This balance is based on everyone's trust and reliability.
What comes out of these six weeks of quarantine, even before big decisions or financial stress, is this momentum, stronger than ever, of solidarity. All of a sudden, a lot of people started thinking in the same direction. It gives me the same emotion as when you go to a concert and the whole room sings in unison. I find these moments wonderful because the energy of each individual is the same as his neighbor’s, and that gives (me) extraordinary strength.
French speakers, I suggest you go listen this very beautiful and peaceful VLAN podcast interviewing Lili Barbery-Coulon on alignment, I think this can help a lot of people.
The magic of solidarity lies in what it encompasses, which is a whole bunch of positive thoughts and feelings: goodness, resilience, it is as if all of a sudden there was no more religion, no more unhealthy egos, no more power struggles, and as if, in the blink of an eye, we finally understood that we did not have to be the same to be coexist and cohabit. As if at last, each individual was aligned with himself.
My little idealistic heart thinks that if Human beings were united rather than individualistic, our World would be a much better place. Will this solidarity survive post-quarantine?
Liza Donnelly for The New Yorker
Before we go save the world, let’s get back to business: the team has been working from home since Tuesday March 17th, the last day when the girls went to the office to pick up their files, sometimes their computers, allowing them to work comfortably from home on their ongoing projects.
They are all under the “partially unemployed” French regime (between 30% and 60%), and therefore only work a few hours a day. This can be quite challenging for me, because my little self wants things to keep moving forward, but also for my colleagues because work remains a very good stimulus and helps us keep our feet on the ground.
From a more concrete point of view, it is now much easier with the internet to stay in touch with your loved ones on the one hand, but also with your team and keep the troops motivated by organizing meetings on Zoom, all together but also in smaller groups several times a week, when needed.
My inner self takes this break very seriously, I want to live this crisis fully to understand what is at stake, as if I needed to be branded “quarantined” to never forget.
Earth has asked us to ease off, and I want to execute this request the best I can.
By imposing this time on myself, I also feel the need to pause everything I can with Heimstone, and that goes hand in hand with my colleagues. To put it simply, I don't want to speed up when we are asked to slow down.
This is a unique and terrifying moment that we are going through, and I think that calm, silence and therefore non-productivity are essential to allow yourself time to reorganize your life, your home. I don't know if this opportunity will ever present itself to us one day?
Of course, this does not mean that Heimstone is fully on pause because we also have an economic reality: collections are produced, charges and suppliers to be paid, an agenda of collection launches, it is the result of our organization and several months of work. It’s precious.
About managing a business
What measures were taken by Heimstone to face the situation?
At the start of quarantine, we announced four measures that we have put in place to protect our teams, our suppliers, but also our customers. We made the decisions that we thought were necessary and fair, while ensuring that Heimstone could still run via online sales.
- We have decided to systematically postpone the shipping of eshop orders at the end of quarantine, not only upon request. In return for this effort, we offer the Colissimo shipping costs for orders placed during this period and we obviously have extended the returns delays.
- We have chosen to continue to launch our new SS20 pieces, despite these troubled times. There were five capsules left for this season until June. They were produced, stored, ready to ship: a sign of hard work and organization. Heimstone being a 100% independent company, without investor, we finance our cashflow and our evolution thanks to you and your orders only. Being able to introduce these new capsule collections was therefore the choice to put all the odds on our side to get through this crisis. If you counted right, there is still one last capsule to discover: see you tomorrow!
- However, we had deemed it preferable and responsible to slow down and temporarily stop the production of our next AW20/21 collection in order to protect our manufacturers and in solidarity with our suppliers (some of which are located in Italy). This supposed that I rework a shortened collection plan, we had to eliminate some prints, cut off some very summery pieces and accessories, reduce our quantities down: this is the reality of managing a crisis situation, which teaches us more than ever to think twice about our priorities. Since then, we have gradually resumed this production, respecting the necessary safety rules.
- We donate 10% of our turnover until the end of quarantine to the COVID-19 emergency fund of the Hôpitaux de Paris - Hôpitaux de France foundation because it seems essential to participate in a collective effort and take full responsibility as a company. As I explained above, we can no longer wait for governments to move the lines alone. We must be united, and we give a deeper meaning to your purchases in these difficult times. Today, we are proud to have been able to do our part thanks to your help by donating more than €16,000 to progress in the fight against the virus.
In practical terms, at Heimstone, how do you cope with this crisis?
We are lucky enough to be fairly well organized, and for those who know me well now, you may have understood that I hate being late and work in a rush mode. So, in general, we are a lot ahead of the creation of our collections. Today, more than ever, I appreciate the importance of good organization.
To give you an example: the week before the quarantine was announced, we had finished launching the production of our fabrics for next winter (i.e. the AW20/21 collection, for which the launch was initially planned in store and online in June 2020). We also validated all the tests of our new prints for the SS21 collection (that should be available in January 2021).
Our primary emergency was therefore to reduce the quantities produced for AW20/21 as quickly as possible, fearing a big recession during but especially after quarantine. It may sound simple to do, but it's a rather complex move, and even more complex since we develop 80% of our fabrics and are responsible for orders of all supplies. You should know, for example, that for a Scarlett dress, you can have up to eight stakeholders: the fabric printer, the supplier of lining, ribbons, buttons, metal parts, the pattern maker, the cutter, the sewer.
So we had to start all over again.
As we also explained, we work following a zero-waste policy, that is to say zero unnecessary stock, and we place our orders very precisely. If we therefore needed 1,500 buttons in the past and today only 1,000, we are making the necessary changes to our orders!
How long can Heimstone survive?
Heimstone is a fully independent and self-funded company. We have neither financial funds nor investors. In other words, what keeps Heimstone alive is you. As long as you are here, we will be too. Thank you so much for your support over the years.
If you read our article on my entrepreneurial adventure, you know that Heimstone is not going through its first financial crisis. Of course, the circumstances and the causes were very different at the time but let's say that it allowed me to get experienced!
Today, I must admit that I have become relatively skilled in the painstaking exercise of putting a company to sleep in a minimum of time, by eliminating all that is not essential for its survival. The only difference with this crisis we are living, is that we are lucky to get unprecedented government financial aid, which, as you can imagine, was not the case for me during all these years. The banks didn't like us too much!
Today, our goal is to pause all unnecessary expenses not to freeze other suppliers and providers payments, so we are not stopping an entire economy. Once again, this is proof of greater solidarity: we must save our own skin, but also that of our partners.
Since the start of quarantine and because our sales on the e-shop allow us, we have made the choice to continue to pay our social charges and our rents (although the government allows companies to shift them in time, even to cancel them). We are fortunate to have a very generous government and we do not wish to take too much advantage of it.
What changes can be made in case of a second crisis? How to reconcile our values with the need of doing business?
I think we need to think further than just a second wave of the epidemic, I think unfortunately/fortunately our lives, our habits must change now.
The life we had before can no longer be the life of tomorrow and we will have to learn to live with this virus until a vaccine is found. We need to show strength and courage, and not wait for governments, policies and public opinion to change before we start to change as individuals.
Did you see this awesome and very satirical animation? I think it shows us that it is up to each of us to take on our own responsibilities, that we all have the power of our choices.
This crisis is an unprecedented wake up call, a tiny virus has been able to shut down the entire planet. The next crisis, the one that has been pointing its nose for far too long, the climate and ecological crisis will no longer be on our scale and the Earth will swallow us all. We must change. All. Let’s stop looking at what was done wrong, just enough to learn from it, and put all your energy into rethinking the world of tomorrow.
From a professional point of view, I think that companies will have to reinvent themselves very quickly and try not to fall back into their routines. In my opinion, the only way to survive is to have cash and work less on a just-in-time basis, in order to keep, as much as possible, a small buffer. Without this buffer, the survival of independent businesses is almost impossible. Cash is the lungs of a company.
Working less on a just-in-time basis is much more complex than you might think. This requires buying better (therefore in general, less: managing stocks, purchases, sales as well as possible) but also controlling, or even canceling expenses that are not essential to the company, in order to maximize its margins.
But our egos, our globalized and capitalist culture wants to make us grow. And to grow, very often, we have to invest, and therefore do the opposite of what I just said. Which has me thinking about my latest reflexion of the moment: growing, sure, but up to what size and above all for what purpose?
Do we really need to make dozens of millions of euros to be happy and to exist? Isn't it better to have a healthy company, on a human scale, where we prioritize the relationship to work and to creativity of its employees? It does not seem to me that this idea goes against growth, if it remains reasoned and healthy. Just like I don’t think having a successful business and earning money is “dirty”. Let's just do it in full awareness.
Do you fear difficulties regarding post-quarantine shipments and orders?
We have been working since 2016 with a great logistician, who, since January 1st, 2020, takes care of the majority of our online shop shipments. Our communication is very fluid and we work hand in hand with them to help them organize the preparation of parcels as well as the shipments of confined pieces since March 26th. We hope they can be shipped starting May 11th.
Danny Shanahan for The New Yorker
Will you favor French companies and production?
We always favor France, but it is not that simple. There are a lot of parameters to take into account. At Heimstone, when we do work with factories outside of France, it is above all for their know-how because it is also this cultural diversity that makes fashion so beautiful. Yes to everyone's know-how!
We invite you to read again our article on Heimstone and sustainable development on this subject.
Can you project yourself into the future of Heimstone?
Yes, because I find it precisely exciting to work in a field that needs to reinvent itself, it leaves a lot more room for everyone to show their uniqueness and find their place. Before the Covid-19 crisis, there was already in Heimstone, but also in many other brands, a desire, which has become a necessity, to change the model and do better.
Personally, this crisis confirms that things have to change.
We also took advantage of this period to give life to a new project that is particularly close to our hearts and on which we have been working for several months. We will be able to present it to you in the coming weeks.
What action should Heimstone take on social media?
We wondered a lot with my team about what we wanted to express on social media during and after this period. As I said, I don't want to accelerate when we are asked to slow down, and for me it's also true on social media, where I find that there is much, far too much excitement in this moment. Silence and introspection can also be good sometimes.
So we are trying on our Instagram account to be in line with that and we want to talk about our clothes (after all we are a clothing brand). Above all, we want to communicate fairly, and ultimately respect this break. For the future, we will always be keen to show you our know-how and that of our partners, to talk to you about creativity and our actions in this direction.
I’ll leave you with one last suggestion in connection with this crisis: this TRUMP 2020 podcast which analyses the whole Trump’s American campaign, and especially the last really interesting episodes on the Covid crisis in the US.
Thank you for reading me so far, feel free to ask us your questions and write us suggestions in the comments.
Thanks again from the bottom of my heart for your support. It’s not easy for anyone, but I’m sure we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel.