A mother’s instinct holds the power to spark greatness. It’s a sentiment that rings true when mapping out the success story of XouXou.
The Berlin-based label, which has navigated a sweet spot between tech and fashion accessories, was born accidentally in 2016. After becoming a first-time parent, founder Yara Jentzsch Dib strived to find a practical solution to carry her phone now her hands were always full.
Carrying her keys on a lanyard she’d hang out her pocket, Yara strived to translate this simple principle to her phone. And so, she glued two split rings to her phone case, where she could attach a rope and carry her phone like a necklace.
Within a day of piecing together her crafty tech-concoction, around 20 people approached Yara, puzzled at why she was wearing her phone around her neck, while enquiring where they could get their own – be it school girls through to construction workers and young mothers like Yara.
“People were ready to wear the phone, even though they didn’t know,” says Yara, sat in the office of her Berlin studio with her partner Richard Kirschstein, who runs XouXou alongside her. Today, the pair manage a team of 20, but XouXou began with just the twosome. “I had friends of friends writing to me on Instagram saying ‘I’m going to a festival in two days, can I grab a phone case necklace, or whatever you call it?’” Initially, Yara pieced together the cases herself, ordering supplies from across the globe and accidentally turning the pair’s apartment into a workshop of sorts.
In the first two years of operating, demand for XouXou’s phone necklaces doubled every two weeks, with customers even turning up to the pair’s apartment thinking it was a store. “We’d sat down for dinner one evening and we had someone ringing our buzzer asking if we were still open,” says Richard. Scaling up, they found their first small studio space, where they recruited students and factories that work with ex-convicts and disabled workers to help manufacture their hit product.
“We got to a point where we had to standardise what we were doing,” says Richard. Quickly following the launch of the brand, XouXou’s signature creation was a victim of mass copying. “I was so angry at first,” says Richard. “We needed to decide whether we wanted to focus just on this product, mass produce it and be everywhere in 99 cent shops – which had a lot of potential. Or use the momentum to create a brand with a sustainable future.”
“We began asking ourselves all these questions. What is our DNA? What is our message?” adds Yara.
The couple broadened their scope, crafting tech-wear that remained slick and minimal, but through the use of vivid hues and customisable elements – changeable straps, for instance, or creating matching AirPod cases you could attach straight to your phone necklace – they carved out a unique approach where one could take ownership of the product they bought. “Tech has to be very functional, but it can also be fun – it needs humour as well,” says Yara.
XouXou’s repertoire has grown to include bags too, crafted with the same precision as the brand’s phone necklaces. “With the bags, we wanted to expand our tech approach and question how we can make our customers’ lives easier,” says Yara.
“Making bags was the logical step towards making functional carrying gear,” adds Richard. “Now that we have launched the first bags, we can go into vests, into belts and into other carrying gear items. We’re heading towards becoming a design brand.”
XouXou is in a constant state of development, with Yara and Richard even investing in a 3D printer to have in their studio so they can test out ideas there and then. They’ve also opened up their distinct design lexicon to a range of collaborators including MCM and most recently Aries. The latter enlisted XouXou to create its first tech accessory: a snake print phone case equipped with a detachable woven rope and chunky gold chain.
“Accessibility, openness and warmness are the attributes that we like to be associated with XouXou and with ourselves,” says Richard. “This is what unites us with the spirit of Aries, for example, because even though it’s a luxury brand, Aries is still fun and inclusive with their design language.”
At the beginning of XouXou’s journey, the pair couldn’t think too much about brand development due to struggling to meet the demand for Yara’s initial phone necklaces. Now, armed with a growing team, the couple are focused on defining how they want to shape both themselves and XouXou moving forward – whether that’s expanding into new markets or working on a redesign of XouXou’s overall look.
“Our mission is to serve the daily needs of fashionable creators,” says Richard, “to create functional gear that ensures they don’t get distracted thinking about where their phone and tags are. It’s all about being hands on.”
Photography courtesy of XouXou.