Jelle van der Zwet, co-founder of Opposuits, chats about surviving Covid, travel and copying ideas.
- When did you set up Opposuits and why?
We started OppoSuits in 2012, but the idea was born when my business partner Jasper and I were backpacking in Vietnam in 2010, whereby we had some crazy suits made at a local tailor. It took us a couple of years before we were ready to start the company with the idea we had and we found our other partner Guus to join us as a third founder.
- What is your greatest achievement at the company?
It sounds cheesy but it has to be surviving Covid. We had to make some seriously tough calls early on and our cfo Manon played a crucial part in that. Surviving that storm and turning things around whereby we’ve grown into a much bigger business after Covid than before, has been a great achievement of which everyone within the company played an important part.
- Favourite part of your job?
Meeting and working with so many different people in many different places around the world is amazing and has provided some great travel experiences, but at the same time it can be rather stressful and nomadic at times too.
- Who is the unsung hero of the company?
Our logistics, production and finance teams. They’re not at the forefront of the company, but those back office functions are obviously essential in order for our various sales channels and teams to be able to perform well.
- What is the biggest change within the party industry that you have seen since you have worked in it?
It may not necessarily be the biggest change, but for us the most important change. We are positioned between fashion and party and it’s interesting to see that retailers on the party side are not necessarily tied to just a ‘costume in a bag’ any more, but that they understand more and more that there’s a big group of consumers that is looking for different and creative products.
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Years ago when having dinner with a very experienced fashion / IP lawyer in New York who just loved our brand and product, kept telling me ‘Oppo means fun’. That kind of stuck with us and we’ve now expanded into many new apparel categories outside of suits whereby pretty much all of our products are all designed to reflect an element of fun whilst being fashionable at the same time.
- Biggest lesson you’ve taken away from the last year?
How important IT infrastructure has been for us in recent years. It’s fair to say that we’re doing more sales and distribution channels with a smaller team compared to pre-covid.
- If you could change one thing about the party industry, what would it be and why?
There almost seems to be a norm that suppliers are literally copying each other’s ideas, rather than taking inspiration to create something different and better. And I think whilst that happens in every market, I do think that because party is typically a generic category whereby the consumer is not necessarily loyal to a brand, that I think with more creativity and creating a brand, that companies within the party industry could stand out more.
- If you didn’t work in the party industry, what industry would you work in and why?
Probably Commercial Real Estate because I became a qualified chartered surveyor in London only months after starting OppoSuits in 2012. I had been studying and working towards these professional qualifications at Cushman & Wakefield in the years prior to starting OppoSuits and I wanted to complete that in the event the idea for OppoSuits didn’t work out.