In 2008 Tanja Kosar started working as a fashion blogger. She would visit Fashion Shows in Berlin and Paris and do interviews, writing about them later on her blog. She’s always loved the art and craftsmanship of fashion, which have always left her feeling inspired. As a former project manager, Tanja was on the lookout for chic business wear, but she didn’t want to buy unhealthy, cheap-quality clothes from big companies that pay no attention to garment production processes. She felt frustrated that there wasn’t a platform in Germany where sustainable fashion designers of business wear could sell their work, and that there wasn’t a place for business women to buy sustainably made, office-appropriate clothes. So with a determination to change the way women buy clothes, CEO GENE was born as an online sustainable marketplace that sells sustainably made clothing for the modern business woman.
CEO GENE is a platform where those who think alike can find amazing sustainable brands, and it’s a company that supports women in their careers toward greatness. It supports designers on their mission to change the fashion industry, and is simultaneously a place where young women can find advice and expertise on how to further their careers.
With CEO GENE, Tanja is trying to teach consumers to treasure their clothes, to buy less but of higher quality, to evaluate what’s needed, and to ask where products come from. Her advice is to not buy anything new unless the information on how the product was made, what it’s made from, and where it came from can be found. Buying second-hand or borrowing, and trying to buy as local as possible will also help support local economies. As Tanja says, “...the customer decides in which direction the industry develops. If the customer actively changes his/her behaviour – the entire industry is forced to change for the better.”
For Tanja, fast fashion trends are a big problem in the fashion industry that she’s trying to counterbalance with CEO GENE. Fashion used to have two seasons per year: Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, but the industry has since changed and become more competitive, causing companies to lower their prices below minimum wage in an effort to produce new collections and keep up with consumer demand. “Customers are constantly being faced with new trends telling them to ‘buy, buy, buy’ – and incredibly low prices make it easy to fall into this trap. They are now not only used to unnaturally low prices (pants for 10,00 €) but are used to buying, wearing, throwing out, and buying again. The industry trained the customer to look at clothing as something ‘cheap’ – many customers have completely lost their feeling for real quality and a sense of worth.”
CEO GENE launched about a year ago on August 19th, 2019. “The journey so far has been incredible – fun, challenging, exhausting, and exhilarating. Over the past couple of months, CEO GENE has received incredible feedback from designers and customers.”- Tanja says.
Tanja searches for designers and pieces with a certain type of woman in mind. “She is a dynamic power woman. A nature lover. Interested in working on herself, gaining knowledge, continuously challenging herself, and being one with her inner spirits. She is a go-doer and speaks her mind. A true admirer of handmade products and high-quality textiles. A lover of art and historic craftsmanship. She reaches out to help others rise. She sets her goals high and stays determined to reach them. She is a dreamer and a fighter.”
The designers CEO GENE works with have to fit a certain sustainability criteria. The company looks for small, authentic brands that provide safe working conditions for their workers. They also look for clean production processes and transparent information. Clothes need to be made from healthy eco-friendly textiles, and they need to be office-appropriate. CEO GENE celebrates individualism, minimalism, and utter elegance.
Sometimes designers contact CEO GENE directly, or the company finds designers on social media or through fairs such as Neonyt or Innatex. All the brands they end up working with are brands they truly believe in. They ask for authentic photo material and textile sources, and receive garments upfront to check the quality of them thoroughly. If CEO GENE doesn’t wholeheartedly agree with a brand's mission statement, style, and message to the world, then they won’t work with them. “I could never ‘sell’ someone successfully if I do not believe in them,” says Tanja.
CEO GENE has plans to visit production sites in the near future. Even though they believe it’s a good thing for customers to look for certifications, the sustainable certification process is incredibly expensive for brands, and many young designers are just starting out. “We don’t require them to be certified. If a label and its production cycle seems not trustworthy to us, we simply do not work with them.”
In terms of their current customer profile, CEO GENE is getting a lot of business from women around the age of 30 and up who work or live in German-speaking countries. Women who are united by their love of nature, minimalism, female empowerment, craftsmanship, and business. “Age today is a question of how you define yourself. Some 65-year olds are hipper and more stylish than some 21-year olds I know. People buy online via CEO GENE and receive products hand-packed by the designers themselves. The personal touch behind this so-called drop-shipping process makes it a very intimate and beautiful experience. Customers feel really connected to the designers and have a story to their new garment.”
CEO GENE offers products (clothes, accessories, and jewelry) that can be worn to the office, are produced by small and unique local designers, and that are made by hand from fair and healthy materials. Since all of their designers are just starting out, they can usually produce their goods in small quantities, which means that most products are limited edition. The designers also try to build up their collections, which means that a blouse from last season’s fall collection could be matched with pants from this year’s spring collection. This gives customers the chance to build-up a perfect capsule wardrobe that contains only high quality, sustainable pieces.
Tanja’s work, ways of thinking, and product choices are inspired by strong women who’ve made it their goal to stand their ground, help women rise, and make the world a better place. These women are her mother, grandmothers, friends, and others like Clara Zetkin, Bertha Benz, Malala Yousafzai, Elisabeth Selbert, Hildegard von Bingen, Marie Curie, Olympe de Gouges, Angela Merkel, and Sheryl Sandberg.
For the future, Tanja hopes to continue growing and expanding CEO GENE. Depending on how COVID-19 continues to affect the world, CEO GENE hopes to be able to continue with their plan of doing pop-up stores in and around Germany. They’ll continue visiting the production places of their designers, they have some exciting podcast episodes coming up, and they’ll also be at several upcoming fairs.
In closing conversation with Luxiders, Tanja wanted to share her favorite quote that’s given her direction and peace in times of frustration:
“What you think
What you feel,
What you imagine,