A French touch brought to Vienna - the collaboration continues!

For the fall/winter 2022/23, Vuuna & Laureen have created two slow fashion pieces: the Eleonore Cardigan available in six colours and the Loulou Vest available in four colours. These two pieces were designed in collaboration with Laureen, better known as @lolo_bravoo. Our shared vision for a more fair and sustainable fashion industry unites us above all. After over a year of successful collaboration, we have decided to design another piece together: the new, elegant slow-piece sweater 'Matilda'.

Biljana Rachenzentner is the founder and owner of VUUNA. She is of Serbian origin and has been living in the Vienna area with her husband and two daughters for more than 20 years.

Laureen is of French origin, grew up in Germany and has been living in Hamburg for some time. She has been an influencer in the field of fashion, lifestyle & sustainability since 2018.

In a joint conversation, Biljana and Laureen discuss their cooperation, sustainability, what it means to them to be a woman and why a decision by Austrian customs brings tears of joy. The conversation took place via Teams: Biljana with her family in Serbia and taking care of the production of the new collection; Laureen in Corsica on holiday with her father.

How did the cooperation come about?

B: There is a jewelry company I like a lot. They always choose interesting people/influencers. I came across a video of you making a Christmas bouquet. I liked that a lot. I looked at your profile and saw that you are involved with fashion and sustainability. That sounded really interesting. And at some point I thought: 'I want to do a piece together with her!' I wanted to go beyond the usual collaboration with influencers (you are beautiful & interesting - I'll send you a jumper that you wear and show). That's where the idea came from. I never thought that you would answer me.

L: I was super happy because your jumpers are exactly what I find beautiful, and the identity behind them.

B: Since we were at the very beginning with Vuuna, I didn't think it would work out. Then a mail came. I was really happy like a little child! We were just in the home office and I say to my husband: "Look, she replied to me!!" We discussed and thought it would be nice if you could come to Vienna and we could get to know each other.

L: It was very nice at your place. You: 'We'll show you our home now.' You baked a cake. And cooked so deliciously for my friend and me. The atmosphere and get-together was so warm. I think Biljana & I both love so much the warm, the real, the emotional, not just business-as-usual. I felt very comfortable with it and didn't have the feeling like I was being pushed into something that I wasn't 100% behind.

B: I don't want to pressure on people and say, 'Here’s Vuuna and you have to wear this!'. I just don't like that. I want you to stay natural and feel comfortable. And if you want to do something with us, you will say so. How did it come about for you?

L: As usual, an email has reached me. I see my personal task in informing my followers about what sustainable alternatives there are. And that is why I am always very happy when I get mails from labels like Vuuna. For example, I don't accept brands that are not sustainable because I know that it doesn't match my personal values. It's so nice when small labels that are not yet so well known write to me and can benefit from someone like me pointing out sustainable alternatives. Because that offers my followers much more added value than pointing out what new products some known fast fashion companies have. On the other hand, the interest in a collaboration with your label made me happy, and that's why it worked out.

What is at the heart of your cooperation?

B: The heart of it is the relationship between the two of us. I always have the feeling that Laureen knows what she wants. And from her I always get an answer, no matter what, I get one.

L: It is the mutual understanding for each other. For example, if I tell Biljana that I can't continue working on the collection for the next two days because I am at a workshop, that's no problem for her. She doesn't put any pressure on me at all, which usually comes from all sides. That is very pleasant.

B: That is completely natural for me. That's the pressure we want to take off people. It doesn't help at all. I try to bring this work-life balance into the company. Like you, I also ask the knitters: 'What are your possibilities? Ah, you can't do it tomorrow. Then we'd better not do it. Then comes a phase when things are better. Then you can answer in peace or work. I don't like working under pressure. That's an absolute no-go for me. It's not worth the money. I need my peace and quiet. Then I can function well. So I try to ask the knitters: 'How many pieces can you make? Is it one piece or will it be three?' Then it is adapted to their energy and I know that it will be beautiful pieces, that it is made with satisfaction. Of course, it is not always easy to find that balance between too little and too much.

L: I would also say that it is this relationship between us that is at the heart of it!

What is sustainability for you?

L: Many see sustainability as primarily linked to ecological sustainability. But I also see the social dimension in my view. I wrote my Master's thesis on human rights in textile supply chains and the upcoming Due Diligence Act in Germany. That is why the topic is particularly important to me. And our cooperation with Vuuna goes exactly in this direction.

B: For me, the people come first. They are the most important thing to me. Like you, I have this need not only "Me, me, me! And my life!". Because we live very beautifully. We don't need more. And to always relate everything to ourselves, to be selfish all our lives, that doesn't make sense to me.

L: Sustainability also means that something lasts over time. Sustainable development is something in which not only the individual, i.e. me, gains, but also allows others to participate. And that you give Serbian women the opportunity to participate in something sustainable.

B: I was recently in a beautiful atmosphere in a village in Serbia, in a house where I met a mother, her daughter and another woman to talk to them about the possibility of knitting for us. Such a warm atmosphere! They baked me a cake. The house surrounded by a field of apple and plum trees. This humanity, I can hardly describe it. It is the most beautiful thing for me! But I also have to admit that being ecologically and socially sustainable is a long and painful process. !

What does it mean to you to be a woman?

L: We are simply the stronger sex. We think of 10,000 things at the same time. We get everything under one hat. We never take a break. But in between, we can also have our so-called mental breakdown. I work in a very industrial and male-dominated context (consulting in the airline industry). Sometimes I try to believe that we bring in some freshness, more harmony, humanity - that is also being a woman. We women also support each other a lot, I feel. To link back to Vuuna, I think it is very nice that we want to help or share with each other - our gender connection is what being a woman is all about. Women can very much empathise and sympathise with other women.

B: I love being a woman! There is a lot to develop over time, a lot to get to know, a lot of despair and disappointment, asserting yourself as a woman and staying strong in your own way. It is a very beautiful process. Men then notice that too. They recognise your self-confidence, you communicate differently. I admire in men how they network. They pause more and talk less, are much more deliberate in their statements. We women babble more because we need to let our emotions out. At a certain age, more order comes into your thoughts. You save more energy and set priorities. I have a lot to do with Serbian men. And I find people who tick like me. You find people who you need and who fit you.

When do you consider your cooperation to be successful?

L: The cooperation has given me a lot so far. I have learned a lot - just about knitting styles and measurements. It was a really nice experience to be able to visit you in Vienna. It felt like I was visiting family. How could we have met if it wasn't for Instagram? It is more than a collaboration. I feel like I met a beautiful family in Mödling. Of course I wish for you that it would become a real bestseller, that it would go down really well. But even if it didn't, I would be very, very happy about the experience! It's a success either way!

B: Yes, that's true. It's this path that we walk together. It is so beautiful! I don't worry much about 'will it be a success or not' at all. For me, it's the feeling that I have met a person and this beautiful time together is engraved in my heart. And something comes out of that. It is a gain to meet new and nice people!

L: Of course, a success for me would be if I saw someone wearing the Eleonore Cardigan in Hamburg. Then I would think: 'Oh, wow! This woman is wearing the cardigan we designed together! What I would also love is to come to Serbia one day and get to know everything there.

B: When you say Serbia, I have to tell you a story. I had a discussion with the Austrian customs some time ago. It was about an amount I was supposed to pay. I raised an objection. The money was not important to me. Some time later I got a decision that proved me right. I started crying with joy. My daughter said, 'You are happy that you got the money.' But that was not the reason. I cried out of joy because it officially confirmed the Serbian origin of my product. That is so important to me! Serbia sometimes has a bad image. But I know there are really good people who can bring the country back up. I try to do my part.