Bringing fashion tech from Israel to the world!
Interview with Viktoria Kanar.
|Interview by:||Pricilla Weixler||Video by:||Birka Wolff||Edited by:||Valeria Pinto|
|Reading Time:||16 Min.||Date:||24.01.2019|
From Germany to Israel – the Startup nation. Viktoria Kanar, founder of GeekChicTLV, discovered the fashion tech industry for herself and created a platform to enrich it worldwide. Seeking to nourish the creative industry, especially in Tel Aviv, she created a network within Israel and beyond. Not only does she use her mixed skill set to promote Startups of this specific field but she is following a bigger vision, which includes even running for city council. She claimes courage and hard work as the key element for personal and professional success. Representing the Tel Aviv spirit she spreads its greatness and progressiveness. Passionate about making an everlasting difference she finds a social benefit in an industry that often might be mistaken for only wanting to increase profits and is accused of its superficiality. Viktoria rejects unilateral thinking and encourages to cooperate cross-sectional. This is why she has a clear vision for the fashion tech industry as well as interesting insights on struggles of a woman in the businessworld.
We have our fingers crossed for her run for city council! And we certainly can’t wait what’s more to come.
Q: Vika, please introduce yourself to us, state what you do and touch upon your motivation.
A: My name is Vika Kanar, I have come to Israel from Berlin, Germany, where I did my first and second degree. I studied Communications and Politics. This is something that I, in a way, combine a lot nowadays because I do a bunch of public activities here in Israel and also outside of Israel. What I do is to promote Israeli fashion entrepreneurs abroad, meaning I help building the fashion scene in Israel. Right now, I mostly focus on sustainable fashion because I feel that fashion, opposed to the cliché of being a shallow industry, can play a much bigger role in socially motivated matters – and I would like to be able to make that contribution. I would also like to be able to continue strengthening those people that are making that contribution.
Q: Where did you see yourself when you were a kid?
A: That depends on the age – because I have lived in different countries as a child and the dreams also varied depending on the place, so you’d need to be more specific on that.
Q: Okay then, let’s say, the year before you finished High School?
A: When I was still in High School, actually, I wanted to become a psychologist. I had the chance to switch to a High School where I could take psychology classes. That is something that I think also helped me in my future, however I didn’t study it.
Q: When you went to University – what was your plan?
A: Physically, I saw myself in Israel. I for sure knew that I wanted to move. What I was going to study was going to help me where I was, especially in Israel. I loved the area that I studied, which was still pretty new: Communications Management. People back then were studying more traditional subjects and anything that had to do with PR and Campaign Management was new. This is also why our study program was a little bit more experimental – but that was amazing.
Q: When did you decide to found GeekChic? Can you tell me a little bit about it?
A: First of all, GeekChic is a mix of two words which refer to two different industries. On the one hand, there is the geek, who works and develops new technologies and is excited by them – we see a lot of that in Israel of course, as a Startup nation. On the other hand you have chic which is everything that is related to beauty in a way; but then there is fashion, style and creativity, which is the most important part. My career path started in the geek segment because I was doing international PR for Israeli Startups, many of them were tech Startups. I definitely did not only work in fashion but it gave me an intro to understand the scene and get excited by just the whole idea of Startups, of the courage people have to just go ahead and leave things behind – to leave maybe even more secure job opportunities behind in order to build their own thing. Later, when I started getting into the fashion business and Tel Aviv Fashion Week and other Israeli Designers, it had become a natural move for me to merge both fields together.
Q: Can you frame it in one or two sentences what GeekChic is all about?
A: Today, GeekChic is a production company which works with Israeli entrepreneurs in the fashion space. The idea is to help them with international exposure through production, promotion, consulting, international collaborations and with the further goal to bring more and more fashion experts to Israel. To draw attention to Israel; showing its potential to become a hub for innovation in that space.
Q: What are you focusing on right now?
A: Lately, my main focus has turned to sustainable fashion. I started working a lot with entrepreneurs, designers and Startups that develop new technologies and new methods to recreate fashion as a whole. I am so fascinated to see how new technologies will be able to change the fashion industry and contribute to a cleaner fashion industry. Tech could have a mayor impact here. The pollution issue is most problematic. It is the second most polluting industry in the world. And I strongly believe, having seen what is happening in Israel, that we have a lot to contribute to that. Lately, activities have turned around bringing out designers and entrepreneurs who work with these new ways and I help them get a stage to connect with potential partners abroad and much more.
Finally, the results as well as the people I am working with motivate me.
Q: What motivates you? Is there anything that specifically gets you out of bed in the morning?
A: Yes, it really is to see the people that I promote ‘doing’. I am fascinated by their creativity and this is what motivates me. It is a very new field in which I am working and I would not say that there is anyone in Israel doing the same job as me. The fact itself is amazing but there is always a flip side to the coin since you are the first one to open doors and therefore, to take all the risks: you are the one proving constantly that there is a business potential within the Israeli fashion tech scene. I feel like a pioneer in many ways, and again, this comes with challenges such as having to be the one to convince others. Finally, the results as well as the people I am working with motivate me.
Q: How was it to found your own company?
A: I have been working with Israeli high tech Startups in all different kinds of fields before that. It was somewhat natural to me to go ahead and just do it. That was once I realized there was such a huge potential particularly in the fashion tech industry, I wanted to focus on it. Before, I had mainly been doing PR and the productions were sort of like a side gig to me. Thus, I wanted to go more into production because I wanted to be more involved in the content part. When I create events and activities I want to be involved with it from day one, founding my own company then felt natural.
Q: How did your friends and family react? Did they support your decision?
A: You know, we’re in Israel so everyone has some kind of Startup. If it wasn’t natural over here, then there wouldn’t be as many Startups. It is obvious that people have many different ideas, meaning that this is the place or the basis to feel comfortable, to just go ahead and pursue your dream. No one will be surprised or tell you to better get some 9 to 5 job, it is a really supportive environment. To give an example, we have this Facebook group called ImaKadima, translated as – moms go forward – and its members are mostly moms. Many of them are entrepreneurs, meaning business owners, and we discuss what it is like to tackle all the faced challenges. It is an English speaking group since most of us have actually come from other countries. The tremendous support of understanding what it means to juggle all of it…That’s very motivating.
Q: So you didn’t experience any kind of resentment?
A: No, not all. And again, if it was a different place – then maybe – but not in Tel Aviv, not in Israel.
Q: It sounds like you’re doing everything you want but is there still something you would do if you weren’t afraid?
A: Launching more! Being bolder with launching projects, meaning without looking for confirmation of possible funding partners and secured promises that the project will have a platform. Sometimes I am contemplating, although I can say that I am lucky that I have already a lot of different great partners. I just think it’s important to have feedback. There is kind of that middle ground in which you have to be bold and if you are looking for support you have to make the first move. If you build they will come. Still, it can be very helpful to have the confirmation of a partnership in advance.
Q: In terms of partnerships and funding, do you think you would be in another position if you were a man?
A: Yes, for sure. I experienced that especially when I was starting out. Given that there are mostly men set in the decision making positions. When it comes to funding for instance, many of those decision makers responded that they didn’t understand fashion and that I should better talk to their wives about it. That has been a challenge. They were clearly being oblivious about the fact that the fashion industry is one of the biggest industries in the world with over 300 million dollars yearly. Financial support and funding is just as important as in any other field. This made me understand that there are only particular people who will get it sooner or later but others might just be too narrow-minded.
Q: Do you think if you were a guy working in fashion that would change something?
A: Yes, probably. There is the issue of generally understanding fashion. I assume that, unfortunately, if there was a guy coming from the same position as I am it might sound more convincing to many of those men I mentioned.
The courage is the first step, just close your eyes if you need to and go for it. If there is something that bugs you because you really want to do it, make that voice be heard. Give it space, give it room and try it out. Figuratively speaking – don’t kill yourself for it, meaning don’t start thinking that your whole life will depend on this venture. There might be other opportunities and you might fail, be prepared for it.
Q: What does it take to found your own organization?
A: Mainly courage.The courage is the first step, just close your eyes if you need to and go for it. If there is something that bugs you because you really want to do it, make that voice be heard. Give it space, give it room and try it out. Figuratively speaking – don’t kill yourself for it, meaning don’t start thinking that your whole life will depend on this venture. There might be other opportunities and you might fail, be prepared for it. There might be another opportunity to arise out of it. There is a joke here which goes: What is the difference between an Israeli entrepreneur who just had an exit and an American one (for instance)? The American made all this money and buys himself a yacht, a villa and all these great things. What does the Israeli entrepreneur do? He starts another Startup – this is their nature. Not to be afraid of failure and not to be afraid of pivoting; this is also very important. If you notice that something doesn’t go right, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to completely start from scratch again but instead change perspectives and something else will work out sooner or later.
Q: You are mentioning the courage a lot – do you think this is a skill that can be taught?
A: Yes, absolutely. What matters is the perception of going ahead and starting something. It is not self-understood, people come with all sorts of backgrounds, family structure, even nowadays and especially for women. I strongly believe that people who have the foresight and the analytical ability can always look at somebody else and find a point that can be strengthening and so they can find the courage. And I do it over here too, I am a consultant, a part of the Israeli expert institute and I meet with entrepreneurs and designers one on one. One of the things I do, is to find important points, encourage them to strengthen them, put focus on them and to try to retrieve something from them. Make it happen.
Q: Because you have that view, what would you say triggers people to break down their barriers?
A: Not believing in yourself, to think that you don’t have the power to do it. Not believing in us and the people around us and in our society. The whole idea of ‘if you build it they will come’. Being afraid of making the first move – it is basic to be able to overcome that fear.
Q: Having worked in fashion as well as in other Startups of different fields – why do you think there are so few women working in the tech field?
A: First of all, this is also different in Israel, there isn’t as much of a gap as in other places. In fashion you see also a lot of men involved and we have brilliant programmers that are female. It might be the way Israel is structured: We have the army, which is also mandatory for women, and it has become more and more natural that both genders are assigned there. Though, I think it is also a phenomenon all around the world, we see more women going into engineering and of course programming. I am someone who is oppositional to the competition thinking, I think it is supposed to be a partnership. I hope that women won’t have to prove anything anymore and that it will be natural that people get positions based on their skills.
Personally, I am not a big fan of women-only events. I think it needs to be mixed.
Q: Stating that there is a supposed trend of women going into the tech field – do you suppose that initiatives like Women in Tech are useful?
A: My personal opinion is that when we do something in which only women are involved it kind of creates a situation which is not as authentic because it doesn’t picture the real world. I’m not saying that there aren’t women who could profit of that to find motivation, partners and find their strengths but personally, I am not a big fan of women-only events. I think it needs to be mixed.
Q: Do you think we need to foster women in the tech field?
A: Why do we actually need to foster women in tech, why shouldn’t we make sure that men in tech get more and more used to the fact that there are more and more women getting into tech, too? Making sure that the atmosphere over all will be more welcoming and natural for women to be in. On the one hand, to achieve that moms, for example, will never have to fear that they are missing out if they decide to have children and on the other hand, when they have, allowing workforce division and allowing men to do more child care as well. There are so many practical ways that are much more important to tackle in order to make women more comfortable going into tech jobs.
Q: Where do you see yourself in seven years from now?
A: As I was saying before, to have my personal courage to pursue some of my bolder projects that I am planning on doing. As a side note right now, I am running for city council in Tel Aviv. The list that I am representing is actually a list of new immigrants and the idea is to give a voice to people that have come from abroad who want to be more involved in the city. A lot of it includes motivating people who have come from different professions, to give them space. So, we are talking about the creative community and creative economy to begin with. I think Tel Aviv can be an amazing place where we can pursue more projects that are more creative and don’t fall into the traditional industry.
Q: What is your advice for young women who want to go into the tech field?
A: If you love something, just to go for it. If you really like what you are doing – and you need to be very sure about it – just be great at it. You don’t owe anything to anybody and you don’t need to feel uncomfortable in front of anybody. You love what you’re doing and you need to go and pursue it.
Q: Describe the industry you are working in with three words:
A: creative, innovative, fast
Q:Thank you Viktoria!