Two HSG graduates who run a fashion label…that’s the story of Michael Zaech, René Grünenfelder and their successful start-up, Carpasus. They talked with start-alp magazine about sleepless nights, sustainable shirts and why everyone should risk it all for a start-up.
Where are you hiding the hammocks? Your office is not what you’d expect from a young, creative start-up.
René Grünenfelder: We just moved from the ImpactHub to Albisrieden, but yes, a chill area for our office is definitely needed. You know, like a cozy lounge where we can hang out. It just can’t be too much, because we are actually trying to get work done here.
Michael Zaech: That’s his Protestant work ethic shining through (laughs). Unfortunately, our workspace at the ImpactHub became too small for us. We loved it there, but this new office offers a lot more. It’s our photo studio, our meeting room and most importantly, our showroom, all at the same time.
The showroom – let’s dig in there. You two are both HSG graduates, who now run a fashion-start-up. That’s kind of a career change.
Michael Zaech: Not at all. Entrepreneurship has always been a big part of who we are. During our time at the HSG, we always toyed with different ideas in our heads.
René Grünenfelder: As chance would have it, we were looking for chic and sustainable shirts ourselves, but came up empty-handed. So we sat together, worked out a concept and a business plan, and founded Carpasus.
Just like that?
Michael Zaech: I think we worked out our fear of starting something from the ground up years before, when the two of us founded a student network, together with friends. So we already had some experience with bringing ideas to life and creating a business.
René Grünenfelder: We were lacking experience with all things fashion-related, though. We had a lot to learn and I’m sure our early business partners were not totally smitten at first. But our enthusiasm won them over.
Michael Zaech: Also, our naive fashion skills were essential in forming our brand into what it is today. We had a whole new way of looking at seams, or buttons, or collar stiffeners – fashion pros would probably not scrutinise the dress shirt an its production as much as we did.
How many sleepless nights has Carpasus cost you?
René Grünenfelder: Mmm…
Michael Zaech: A lot. It still does. (Laughs)
René Grünenfelder: But to be honest, there is no better time to start your own business than shortly after graduation. You are used to a tight budget with regards to your income…
Michael Zaech: … there are no kids, no mortgage, no house. No big responsibilities.
René Grünenfelder: There are so many opportunities for support, like what the ImpactHub offers. And in Switzerland, financial support is very accessible.
Michael Zaech: If you have a great idea and team, you have a good chance to to receive some funding to bring it to life.
René Grünenfelder: Actually, there is almost no reason to be afraid of starting your own business. At least the fear of failing should not be one.
With Carpasus, what do you hope for?
Michael Zaech: We hope to make a living of it. At the moment, we are still relying on side-projects to keep us afloat. Our goal for the brand is to be the go-to label for sustainable and sophisticated gentlemen’s wear – head to toe. That is what we are working towards.
René Grünenfelder: To establish the brand on the local and European market as a symbol for quality, high elegance and the respect for nature, people and places behind our products.
Carpasus had a whole new way of looking at seams, buttons and collar stiffeners. Credits: CARPASUS
Designed in the Rhine Valley of St. Gallen and made in India, Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Carpasus shirts are made from organic cotton and under fair conditions. Carpasus is all about offering chic alternatives to the intransparent working conditions and environmentally harmful practices in the traditional clothing industry.
Check it out here…