For 26 years King Louie has worked closely together with the Turkish Suteks for the clothing production. The company is run by Nur Ger, who founded it in 1986 with her mother. Füsün Özkan belongs to the first generation of employees and is responsible for everything concerning King Louie.
To get straight to the point: Suteks is not any clothing manufacturer. Family is a key word. Not only in terms of the atmosphere on the work floor, for the families of the employees are given ample attention as well. And it has been this way right from the start. ‘We had to convince families to let the women work here.’ Nur Ger recounts. ‘For working women were not common at the time. That is why we always provided labor conditions such as maternity leave and flexible working hours, especially for women who had young children. Everything to keep a good balance between work and private. When employees notice that this is given attention they will work better, feel more involved. And this is true for both men and women.’ Suteks has an exemplary role in this. In 2013, Nur Ger was even awarded an honorary prize by the United Nations for her efforts for gender equality on the work floor. And as a Turkish businesswoman she was long involved in the UN as a spokeswoman on this topic.
It is maybe for this reason that the collaboration with King Louie works so well. ‘The spirit of King Louie matches ours,’ Nur explains. ‘For them too, people come first. Furthermore, they are always transparent and honest: if something is not right, they will tell us – and if we detect an error, we can always tell them.’ ‘We have the same values,’ Füsün adds. ‘There is a mutual trust. They need not explain to us when something is good, we both know how the other wants it.’ And no: the Dutch directness is not an obstacle here. Nur: ‘Maybe Turks are a little more emotional, and the Dutch more rational. But there also is a lot humor and equality, that is where we find common ground.’ Even when the crisis hit, both companies continued supporting each other. ‘More payments in advance had to be made, or we would not survive. King Louie paid right away. Later we heard that the mother of one of the founders lent a hand: apparently they had a hard time too. But this way, we both pulled through.’
Nur and Füsün often mention the word ‘consistency’ in the same breath with King Louie – for instance in connection with their collaboration, or with the quality requirements from the company, or the prices of the end product. But also in connection with the corporate culture of the brand, which the women think did not change since Ann and George left. ‘I think that is King Louie’s strength.’ Says Nur. ‘That women know what they get when they buy something. Also as regards fit: women always look at least one size slimmer than usual. That has been that way for years.’ But of course, there still is space for change, for both parties. ‘Thirteen years ago, King Louie tightened its quality requirements: certain details had to improve,’ Füsün recounts. ‘We immediately adapted our machines. Conversely, we also show to them how certain ideas can come out better. Rather than just pointing out mistakes, we immediately provide a sample with a solution. That way we can grow together, as an ‘ever improving system’.
Suteks’s growth is growth for King Louie and vice versa, the women say. ‘I am just as proud of their company as they are of ours,’ says Füsün. ‘Sometimes it almost feels as our own company, partly because we think so alike.’
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