Julian O’hayon began his entrepreneurial career early. At fourteen years old, he taught himself how to write code and design websites. While at first, he did it for fun, he knew that web design and coding will be useful to big businesses someday. Then, he went to university, he started a side hustle that would lead him to work with more than 100 clients worldwide.
Today, Julian O’hayon is most known for co-founding the streetwear brand Blvck Paris in 2017. The company’s aesthetic grew out of Julian’s personal style, which helped him and his partner Thomas Johnston grow an online community filled with people who share the same fashion taste and fondness for black. Soon enough, the community blossomed, allowing the brand to sell accessories, first, then leather products, and then finally, streetwear.
At Blvck Paris, Julian O’hayon “strives to pioneer a new type of lifestyle focused on quality and design,” which he calls the “All Black Lifestyle.” If you follow the All Black Lifestyle, you participate in a massive cultural shift that allows you to grab life by the horns and lead the lifestyle you want, on your own terms, without all the vanity. The brand understands that conventional fashion and all its generic styles need to be thrown to the side of the road. If you get with Blvck Paris, you Blvckout your life.
Julian O’hayon also believes that you have to love what you do if you want to succeed. You have to love the long hours, working seven days a week, and keeping your business always in your mind. If you just put the hours in and go for your idea, Julian believes you will find success.
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Julian O’hayon: I would say our creativity and a very strong branding is what makes Blvck Paris stand out.
Blvck Paris is very much a lifestyle brand, where we want our community to live this ‘all blvck everything’ lifestyle with us. As an example, in July, we launched our first ever physical pop up shop in Taipei, in Asia. The pop up was not a traditional shop displaying our clothing line but more a lifestyle shop. We had a food corner, where you could buy an all black ice cream and drink coffee from our branded monogram cups. On top of our merchandise, we also had a basketball hoop and a claw crane machine full of exclusive Blvck products.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Julian O’hayon: I would recommend to always appreciate every success and celebrate them.
Many founders tend to think immediately of what is next, which of course is good, but forget to appreciate and celebrate every success they have along the way.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
Julian O’hayon: Blvck Paris started as a direct to consumer brand selling exclusively via our online shop www.blvck.com. We had plans to open more pop-up shops in 2020 but with the global pandemic we decided to be strategic about it and to test the physical experience online in countries where COVID was very low. In July we opened our first pop up in Taipei. Taiwan has been hardly impacted by COVID, with only about 550 cases in total and 7 deaths.
In the US, a key online market for us, we decided to launch a section offering digital products. People are spending more time online and at home. We started earlier this year by launching a free stickers app available on the AppStore called ‘Blvckmoji’. We had a crazy number of downloads and saw there was a real potential for us in the digital space.
We recently launched our first paid digital product, a set of ‘iOS14 icons’ to be able to customise your home screen. It has been incredibly popular and we will soon add even more digital products.
There are a lot of brands also focusing more on comfortable outfits and home selection with more people working from home. Our clothing is quite casual and perfect for everyday wear but with the pandemic, we have decided to launch even more home products.
Jerome Knyszewski: Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Julian O’hayon: It is important to find who your clients are and always keep them in mind. If you find the right audience and grow with them, you will find much more success than if you focus on what everyone else is doing. At Blvck Paris, we try to stay innovative but at the same time very consistent.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Julian O’hayon: I have many friends who have started businesses and I was also very involved in the entrepreneurial circle at university. From what I saw, the most common mistakes from early stage founders is to forget about cash flows. If you are not careful with your cash flows, it is very hard to afford growth and to keep going. Another mistake is to forget the bigger picture and focus your business on something that is not easily scalable.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Julian O’hayon: E-commerce is a very competitive market and a relatively easy one to enter. However, I would say that if you start an e-commerce brand, you need to stay open-minded and be flexible and always question yourself. If you see that your business is not generating cash, not generating enough interest, think of how you can adapt and what is the issue with your product or marketing strategy.
Jerome Knyszewski: One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?
Julian O’hayon: Reviews are differently important especially when you start a brand and you still need to build that trust and reputation.
We use this tool called Judge.me with our website and ask every customer to review their purchases within 2–3 weeks after receiving it and they can also attach photos. I personally think it is a great way for anyone browsing our website to directly hear our customers’ opinions on it.
When we receive bad reviews, we try to publicly respond to it as to remain open and transparent with everyone reading the reviews.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!