One of my favourite moments of running Roar is when I get to meet the founders behind the brands launching on our platform.
I sat down for such a fun chat with Aylin and Sarah from pawpow on a sunny Friday afternoon in Berlin. We talked for hours. About Aylin’s love for fonts, textures like paper or poodle butts. And Sarah’s adoration for linen, truffle pasta and absolute dislike of polyester and winter. We also talked slow fashion, vegan dog accessories and launching a brand made in Germany. Roar was mentioned quite a few times too and so it happened that we’ve launched pawpow into our store.
You made vegan dog accessories. What does pawpow look like behind the scenes?
Our founding team are Sarah Ahlf and Aylin Hinz. We met three years ago working at the marketing department of a premium handbag company. We hit it off straight away. In 2019 and 2020, we both independently fulfilled our long-awaited dream of having our own dogs, so Balu, an Italian greyhound and Anton, a miniature poodle joined our pack.
We discovered soon that we both share the same values. We’re against fast fashion that is so common in the textile industry. We’re against the exploitation of people, animals and nature along the supply chain that comes with it. We wanted to do things differently and began to look at how we could produce our collection locally, holistically and with vegan fabrics. In May 2021 we were finally ready to launch our range and our website that we’ve designed ourselves!
You are using vegan leather alternatives and are producing under fair conditions in Berlin
We make products for animals, not from animals! Sustainability is super important to us and this is where we match so well with Make them Roar. We want to make products that last longer and are huge believers in the principle of ‘Buy less, but better’ (even if this means that we are selling less).
Therefore, we invest in the best materials that will stay new(ish) for a long time. And we want to do good in the process: That means constantly trying to improve ourselves, think more and more sustainably and to challenge the status quo.
We focus on a clear design language creating timeless designs paired with durable and vegan materials, that are produced regionally and by hand with a Berlin workshop for the disabled. We attach great importance to close contact with the workshop and the employees, therefore we are regularly on site. The material we use is a vegan leather replica that is currently the best alternative to leather (for dog accessories).
We’re always on the lookout for the latest sustainable materials, and if we find something new and exciting and better for the environment, we will happily change. We also plan to set up a refurbishment-scheme to make people rethink buying new. Hardware in our products can be exchanged. Despite being pvd coated (currently the best coating option available to provide the function we’re after), they will probably need to be replaced after a few years.
What has inspired your designs? Can you tell us about your design vision?
While looking for dog accessories, we felt that the products we found were not adapted to the lifestyle of dog and owner in urban areas. We were craving good quality products that suit our sense of style. Other products were pragmatically designed, mostly unaesthetic and fulfilled only some aspects of the entire functional spectrum.
We did not want to make any compromises and aim for modern design with all the required functionality of the highest quality. In terms of design language, we are definitely inspired by Bauhaus. We are big fans of clean lines and shapes and we like the idea of combining craftsmanship and design. It’s very important to us that items are not only pretty, but also have a function.
We believe that good design is simple (which is what is most difficult to achieve). With our products we guarantee not only an aesthetic appearance, but also the full range of usability. Everything we produce is designed from a functional perspective. The decision to start with a walking set was actually based on our finances. As we finance everything from our own resources, this was the best option to go for. In the long run we want to become THE brand for premium dog accessories, with a variety of different products, but this will be a long way to go. But one can dream and brands we look up to are Jacquemus, Danse Lente or Khaite.
You just started your entrepreneurial journey. Can you share the best advice you’ve received?
The best advice came from Sarah’s startup coach and was to work with a mentor. After glowing reports, Aylin joined and we ended up with two mentors who come from different fields. They complement their own competencies very well and we feel very well taken care of. Our mentors Cinja and Oliver have been supporting us in the areas of e-commerce and supply chain management. We are a strong team and benefit from the expertise of each individual.
Another recommendation of ours would be to read our ‘bible’ Fashionary – “Fashion Business Manual”. This book has helped us a lot to start the business, there are many great tips and they really thought of all aspects of launching a fashion brand (it’s especially good if you’re, like us, more the creative type of person instead of the business type).
Another book we love is called “Building a story brand” by Donald Miller. This book helped us a lot, especially at the beginning of our business, to build the basic framework for communication.
We are planning to launch two new colours this fall (stay tuned)! And we are planning a case for the Apple AirTag, that’s promising completely new possibilities from a technical point of view. Not only can you track your own dog in the app, but anyone finding a lost dog can read the AirTag and find out the owner. And all of this comes without a monthly subscription. We have therefore developed a holding device designed specifically for the Apple AirTag. We’re finishing the prototype and are in the process of looking for a manufacturer to be able to release the product soon.
And finally… If a dog owner walked up to you asking for your advice on how to pamper their pooch. And you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip. What would it be?
Our dogs deserve all the love in the world, and even more. But we all have to make sure they are still dogs, even though they are our babies.
Nice to have you here,