We talked to Julian O’hayon of Blvck Paris about his obsession for design and the colour black, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Julian O’hayon: Hi, thanks for having me! Thankfully, my family and friends are doing well and healthy in these tough times.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Blvck Paris.
Julian O’hayon: I always had a passion for tech and design and founded my first company while in High School, a digital agency called Anckor. Back then, I taught myself coding and web-design, and I started making pocket money by helping other people designing their websites. By the time I got into university, I was working with over 100 clients worldwide under my own agency. In all my projects, I honed my focus on beautiful yet minimalistic and functional design, which can be regarded as my distinctive signature.
At that time, I started being very active on social media, mostly sharing my passion for design. Launching my own brand was always a dream of mine but being a perfectionist, I didn’t want to do it until I was ready and focused on the task at hand. At the end of 2017, after growing an online community of >100k followers via my Instagram account @anckor, I started applying my personal black stamp to household brands. Through posting images on Instagram, I aimed to bring a memorable and aesthetically pleasing effect by ‘blacking out’ everyday items. My designs quickly went viral on social media, spurring an influx of followers globally with particular traction in the US and Asia. This was when I knew I had a concept and wanted to explore it further. End of 2017, the lifestyle brand Blvck Paris was born out of my dual obsession for design and the colour black.
How does Blvck Paris innovate?
Julian O’hayon: The concept of Blvck Paris in itself is very different from traditional lifestyle brands. As our tagline says, ‘It is more than a color, it is a lifestyle.’ Our vision is to blvck out your universe from your high-tech, your wardrobe to your home. We recently launched our digital offering which includes, customizing and darkening your iOS14 icons on your home screen; we also frequently drop free wallpapers. Some have been downloaded by millions of people worldwide. When you wear Blvck, it doesn’t necessarily mean you own a piece of clothing; it just means it is literally part of your lifestyle.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Julian O’hayon: At the beginning of the pandemic, we had a lot of shipping delays as a result of COVID. We ship our products worldwide from our warehouse in the US. However, due to travel bans, less flights, and less workers at customs, we had some delays for international orders, and we had to restrict some countries to avoid our customers having a bad experience. We are finally starting to reopen in some regions, but the process took a few months, and we do not fully reopen everywhere yet.
We had plans to open pop up stores and had to think strategically and decided to focus our retail efforts and expansion in Asia as the market had little impact from COVID, and their cases were handled very well. The brand ‘Blvck Paris’ opened its first pop-up in Taiwan, which was a great success, and the growth in Asia has been phenomenal since. We have now opened a second store there and have very exciting plans in the region.
With more and more people working from home, we also decided to expand our online offering with more digital goods that don’t require shipping. We have seen an amazing response, with over $450,000 of sales in just three months across our digital offering. We are coming up with new exciting digital goods releasing in the next few months!
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Julian O’hayon: We pride ourselves in fulfillment worldwide and receive a lot of demand from countries in the Persian Gulf. As a result of the pandemic, there were shipping restrictions there, and we had to temporarily halt our services in the region for a while. We decided to adapt and expand through multi-brand and department stores. The lesson learnt is to be flexible and look for alternative solutions to offer your customers.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Julian O’hayon: We use a lot of online tools that were already in place prior to the pandemic. Monday is a great management tool. Klaviyo for email and SMS marketing. Zendesk to better manage our customer service and Slack to communicate with the team!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Julian O’hayon: We are very present on social media via our Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/black, where we aim to become your daily source of ‘all black everything’ with its lifestyle and really create a community. Our products are designed with a minimalistic yet sophisticated touch with the aim of being enjoyed for a lifetime. We pride ourselves on the quality and the aesthetics of our products. With that in mind, we try to innovate and come up with new products as often as possible to stay relevant to our community.
Your final thoughts?
Julian O’hayon: Always happy to talk to people in the industry or aspiring entrepreneurs, you can follow me and reach out to me directly on social media via my Instagram https://instagram.com/anckor