138 Alternatives Check In with Transform & Namuk On Lockdown

Both Franz Bittmann, Namuk Founder and Tom Kingsnorth,  Transform Gloves Founder share their lockdown stories from Switzerland and Austria respectively. These countries encountered different lockdown measures, with Austria’s being stricter. Thomas Copsey from 138 Alternatives checked in with both to find out more.

Lives in Lockdown: Namuk’s Franz Bittmann
By Thomas Copsey for 138 Alternatives Agency.

Franz also taking care of business

Franz also taking care of business

With varying degrees of lockdown in place across many regions of the world, there’s no disputing that these are extraordinary times for all. We wanted to connect with some of our friends around the globe to see how they – and the companies they work for – are dealing with this crisis, what initiatives they have taken and what this situation might mean for the future once we’ve come out the other side. This week we caught up with Namuk Clothing founder, Franz Bittmann…

Could you give us a brief update on how the situation is where you are? What measures has the local government taken?
The situation is OK. Next week the lockdown will start to be released, not completely but step-by-step. As the “Swissies” are very disciplined and follow the government’s measures, we have not been hit too hard – except Ticino in the south part of Switzerland and areas near to Italy.

How has the Coronavirus affected the way your company works day-to-day?
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. When I go home I feel like I have watched TV for two days and nights in a row. Shipping is very slow at the moment, but as we are really strong in D2C and it is off-season for us, it’s ok.

How have your staff been responding to the crisis and changes in working life? How’s the team spirit?
Team spirit is good, as we can see big opportunities for our brand and our values after the Corona crisis. I have never seen so many families out in nature as I have over the past 3-4 weeks.

Namuk specialise in high-quality outdoor clothing for kids

Namuk specialise in high-quality outdoor clothing for kids

What about keeping active? You’re allowed out to do exercise in Switzerland?
Yes, I have not had such a good level of fitness as I do at the moment in the past 20 years…

Are the government doing much in the way of supporting small businesses?
Yes, everything is very uncomplicated and they are acting really quick.

Have you activated any initiatives as a company in response to the situation?
No, we support families to go out in nature. We did this in the past, now and in future. There is no virus in the woods…

namuk

Obviously this is a challenging situation for all. Negativity fills newsfeeds each day, so what positives or opportunities can you imagine for companies like yours, in both the short- and long term?
The values we are promoting will become more relevant – right now and in the future. We see a huge potential for fair, durable and good-quality kids’ clothes. Buy less but good quality.

The world has changed, and will continue to be changed once this is over. Is there the possibility that a brighter future will emerge from this shared experience?
For sure.

When this crisis passes, what will be the first thing you’ll do?
From a business standpoint, we are about to release our biggest campaign so far for our brand new outdoor summer goods range (backpack, ultralight rain jacket, Primaloft jacket etc), to support families in summer to go to the mountains hiking. Myself personally? I can’t wait to go out with my family to eat some fresh pizza.

Lives in Lockdown: Transform’s Tom Kingsnorth
By Thomas Copsey

Tom Kingsnorth

Tom Kingsnorth

Could you give us a brief update on how the situation is where you are? What measures has the local government taken?
I’m in Mayrhofen, Austria and have been since the lockdown started. Firstly it was announced that all lifts and resorts would be closing from March 15th onwards. Alongside that bars, restaurants and all stores except pharmacies and supermarkets would also close. We weren’t allowed to go to friends’ houses, all events were off and we were only allowed to take short walks around the neighbourhood our. Hiking or splitboarding in the mountains was forbidden, and they even had helicopters circling the mountains to make sure people weren’t splitboarding. Since then, life has opened up a lot more and a few shops are open. We are allowed to hike, ride bikes and next week we can splitboard again. So two weeks some more freedom is allowed. I’m actually really impressed with how Austria has dealt with this. Of course it was a bummer at first that the lifts shut but it was the correct choice and it seems like life is going to return to a more normal state quicker than in other places.

How has the Corona virus affected the way your company works day-to-day?
Our factory is in Pakistan so that is currently in lockdown but expected to open next week. Usually I would be working on the 2022 collection with them and getting the initial draft samples made up. I am currently not able to do that so this will get pushed back later into summer. We still have time to get those, and our 2021 collection, produced in time for the start if winter though as it stands.

Usually we’d ask how your staff are doing, but we know you’re running Transform on your own. So how have you been responding to the changes in your working life?
Yeah, I don’t have any staff and work alone. I have been trying to keep my routine as normal as possible and staying positive. The company will go through a few tweaks, which I am excited about, so that’s kept my morale positive.

tramform gloves

What about keeping active? You’re allowed out to do exercise now in Austria, as you say…
I have been doing a few home workouts, which I hated at first but I’ve really got into it and will hopefully keep that up from now on. I’ve also been running a lot, first just literally around my house but further afield now the restrictions have been lifted a little. I think running is what has kept me sane going through this.

Have you activated any initiatives as a company in response to the situation?
Not as such to be honest. We do have products discounted on the website now –  www.transformgloves.com – but that’s more of an end-of-season sale rather than in response to the virus. I honestly think that at this time of year and with the hot weather we have had, people’s minds aren’t fully on snowboarding and therefore I haven’t put out any specific initiatives. I am really proud of the companies that have switched their production to making masks and sending goggles to the health professionals, though. That was great to see.

Do you have a plan to communicate your brand through these times?
Well, really it seems weird to promote products at this time. I see a lot of companies pushing we should buy their products now but I don’t think it’s time for that at all. I am trying to communicate on our social that this will pass and good times will come back. So more ‘positivity for the future’ instead of “buy our products.”

transform gloves

Obviously this is a challenging situation for all. Negativity fills newsfeeds each day, so what positives or opportunities can you imagine for companies like yours, in both the short- and long term?
I think just carrying on like normal and trying to stay positive [is key]. It’s a shitty situation but everyone is facing it together so there’s no point really moaning about it. It could be worse – we aren’t at war or something like that – it’s just an uncertain amount of time that we have a restricted life. I am definitely avoiding reading the news and Facebook so much, and a few negative people got unfollowed from social media pretty quickly too [laughs]. I’ve definitely had moments where I have been struggling with it, too, but overall I have just tried to keep positive.

The world has changed, and will continue to be changed once this is over. Is there the possibility that a brighter future will emerge from this shared experience?
It’s really hard to say what will happen. One part of me thinks that in six-to-12 months everyone will be back to normal and we will be in bars and at concerts again. Another part of me can’t imagine being in a busy public space at all. I think people will definitely appreciate what they have a lot more, for example meeting a friend for a coffee will be appreciated more than it was six months ago. People will, I believe, exercise more and look after themselves a bit better. I hope that people also think more about their purchases – I would like to see this as the beginning of the end for fast fashion. I also think people will communicate with their family, friends and loved ones more frequently and with more positivity.

When this crisis passes, what will be the first thing you’ll do?
I’ll go to a nice pub garden and have a pint with my friends, hopefully with some football on the tele.

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