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Cato Kroeze

Working at Ganbaroo PR, Hema, Calvin Klein and Hutspot

I interviewed Cato Kroeze (Dutch, 1986) in Amsterdam, where she lives with her boyfriend Floris Evers. Cato and I met each other in New York in 2009, we had the time of our lives in the city that never sleeps and became very close friends. I wanted to interview her for The Newton, because she’s not only a dear friend and a inspiring woman (with great style!), she also has a very exciting fashion career. She studied Fashion & Management, lived in New York, worked in PR, buying and currently retail. Read everything about her career and find out her favorite places in Amsterdam below!

When you grew up, what was your dream job?
When I was a child, I saw myself managing people who worked in a clothing factory in India. For some reason I liked that idea.

What did you parents do?
My father is an architect, his agency is based in the city ‘The Hague’ in The Netherlands. He has been an entrepreneur for more than 40 years. He designed houseboats, a hockey club and offices. Each client and project is different, it’s a very exciting and creative job. My mother was a stay-at-home mom until my sister and I became teenagers. I really enjoyed her being home. When I turned 12 years old she decided to work as a dental hygienist, and that’s what she is still doing. My parents are still happily married, which I am very proud of.

How did you find fashion in your life?
I always looked into my mother’s closet, I put on her heels and played with her handbag, I absolutely loved it. I always said: ‘When I am older, I want to wear lipstick’. And I went to sewing classes. I exactly knew what kind of clothes I wanted to wear, and because I couldn’t find it in stores, I made it myself. Or my mother made it for me.

Read full interview with Cato

After high school you decided to obtain your bachelor’s degree in fashion & management at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. Why did you choose this course?
My mother told me about the course and I thought: this is it, this is what I want to do. I had no doubts, I didn’t even look at other courses. I had to do an assessment and got accepted, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to start.

Did you feel prepared for the fashion world after obtaining your bachelor’s degree? No, I felt very inexperienced, even though I had just finished a great internship at fashion brand Mexx. But I was excited to start working, I didn’t want to obtain my master’s degree, I wanted to learn from working in a company.

After graduation and before you landed your first job, you went to New York for a few months. What did you do in New York? I did a trendwatching course at the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising. We got amazing presentations from people who were working in the American fashion industry, companies such as J.Crew (fashion brand) and Bergdorf Goodman (department store). We visited companies and stores and made analyses, it was very inspiring. After the course, I started interning at a PR agency that represented American fashion brands. It was an ‘interesting’ internship, as a fashion intern in New York you really start at the bottom, at least that was my experience. I had to do many silly tasks, such as painting clothing racks, but it was ok – I think internships are a great way to learn about a particular industry.

And how was your life in New York?
In one word: amazing! I had the best time of my life. New York is such a great city, full of energy and inspiring people. Every day is different and you never know what will happen, great new places and adventures are just around the corner. There is so much to discover, to see and experience. The city gave me endless energy and that’s what I noticed at the people around me too. Some of them started doing sports every day, some of them went partying many days a week, and they all studied and/or worked very hard at the same time. You just don’t want to sleep, you don’t want to miss anything. I am really glad I was able to live in New York for some time, it was one of the best experiences in my life.

In the Fall of 2009, after your New York adventure, you started working as a showroom and PR manager at Amsterdam based PR agency called Ganbaroo PR PR. Ganbaroo is one of the leading fashion & lifestyle PR and positioning agencies in The Netherlands and represents high-end and so called ‘new luxury’ brands. What were your responsibilities? I represented European fashion brands and I was responsible for the showroom. I liaised with stylists, editors, celebrities and brands. I supported clients in their media strategy, free publicity, celebrity endorsement and press management. I was also responsible for 3 interns.

What is the most valuable thing you learned at Ganbaroo? I learned that PR really can make a difference for a brand. When PR is done right, a significant rise in sales can be the result. In my opinion, each brand should invest in PR, it is worth the time and money.

What was next?
HEMA was next! HEMA (for non Dutchies) is a retail chain that started life as a dimestore back in 1926. They sell make-up, clothing, food and accessories. I started working as a buyer at Hema, at the textile department. Hema is a leader in household textile in The Netherlands, it has a powerful position in the market. We were responsible for enormous budgets and quantities, we bought thousands of metres of cotton fabrics. It was a very interesting and exciting job. I developed collections and searched for new designs and prints. It was a creative job, but I was working a lot with figures too, I made many analyses. During the day I had contact with suppliers about quantities and the quality of fabrics and samples.

After 2 years, I moved from household textile to children’s fashion, which was very different, because it was about fast fashion. That basically means that we came up with an idea for a new product and 8 weeks later you could find it in stores. It was quite stressful, I had to be on top of everything. It was not only the collection we had to create, we also had to think about logistics and the presentation in stores.

What did you find the most rewarding?
When I saw our products in the stores, that made me really excited.

What did you find the most challenging?
I found my position as a buyer for children’s fashion quite stressful. Negotiating was a very important task, we had to negotiate to the last cent. As a buyer you are always between two sides, on one side you have the suppliers and on the other side the company, in this case Hema. For example, if a product was – for whatever reason – delayed, we would have a big problem, because it was already printed in catalogues. So we had to have a very strict planning.

After HEMA you started working for Calvin Klein, as a product developer. How was that like? Totally different than my job at Hema, because I went from retail to a brand. The international environment at Calvin Klein was very motivating, but the fact that everything was so specialized was something I didn’t like. I was responsible for the quality of fabrics. Brands usually have a design team, a team who is responsible for the fitting and buying of fabrics (my job), and people who are responsible for the quantities and negotiations. At HEMA I was responsible from A to Z, at Calvin Klein I was a little piece of the big puzzle, that wasn’t something that made me really excited.

So 2 years ago you decided to quit your job at Calvin Klein and start working as a shopmanager for Hutspot. What is Hutspot exactly? Three Dutch childhood friends founded Hutspot in the summer of 2012. Hutspot started as a small successful pop-up store in the Utrechtsestraat and now has 2 concept stores and a cafe in Amsterdam and a store in Utrecht (a city in The Netherlands). Hutspot offers new and interesting brands, designers, artists and entrepreneurs the chance to expose their products in their own space within one of their shops. In exchange for a small service fee and a commission over the sold products.

What are your responsibilities as a shopmanager?
I am responsible for the store at the Rozengracht in Amsterdam. I am hiring and managing (new) employees, I am responsible for the profits and I am a buyer for the women’s clothing. Every day is different, which I love. The boys (founders) are great people to work with, they continuously try to improve and add to the concept. From hosting little cute children’s cooking classes and spring time barbecue sessions to open days. They are very ambitious and go with their gut, but with a very strong vision – they exactly know what they want to achieve. It’s a very creative and open environment, I really enjoy working for them.

Are your previous experiences, as a buyer and PR manager, valuable for your current job? My previous jobs were obviously very different to what I do now, but still valuable. I built a certain foundation in terms of knowledge and experience.

What advice would you give to people who would like to work in fashion? Fashion is quite specialized. If you want to be really good at something, I think it’s really important to think about what you want and make a plan. It will help you to focus.

How do you disconnect from work?
I love to travel and I enjoy having quality time with my boyfriend, family and friends. And I like exercising, I often go for a run or to yoga class. And I start with a meditation course soon, I am looking forward to that.  

What is your dream for your career?
I love perfumes, I would like to do something with that in the future.

Cato is wearing:
Jacket by Donna Karan
Blouse by Filippa K
Sweater by Filippa K
Jeans by J.Brand
Shoes by Won Hundred
Bag by Jerome Dreyfuss
Scarf by Won hundred
Necklace by Fox Pomona

Cato KroezeFAVORITES
CITY GUIDE cato kroeze / Amsterdam

Lunch: Morgan & Mees

Currently, one of my favorites in Amsterdam. A bright and fresh restaurant with a casual atmosphere and delicious food.

Tweede Hugo de Grootstraat 2 (A’dam West)

CITY GUIDE cato kroeze / Amsterdam

Coffee: Conservatorium hotel

I love to drink coffee at hotel lobbies. The Conservatorium hotel is absolutely beautiful, and they have live music on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

Van Baerlestraat 27 (Amsterdam Zuid)

CITY GUIDE cato kroeze / Amsterdam

Shopping: Hutspot

Of course! A great store to buy gifts for your friends and yourself.

Rozengracht 204 (Jordaan area)

CITY GUIDE cato kroeze / Amsterdam

Dinner: Toscanini

A traditional Italian restaurant in the Jordaan area, great food and a romantic ambience.

Lindengracht 75 (Jordaan area)

 

CITY GUIDE cato kroeze / Amsterdam

Cocktails: Panache

A very lively place for cocktails and dinner.

Ten Katestraat 117 (Amsterdam West)

 

CITY GUIDE cato kroeze / Amsterdam

Brunch: Gartine

A small and hidden organic cafe, the food is very pure.

Taksteeg 7 BG (Amsterdam Centre)