Olivier Wallien is the CEO of WALLIEN. He took part in the initial creation of Zoku, testing our Zoku Loft in its prototype stage. Since then, he’s been a close community member.

What is WALLIEN?

My sister Madeleine and I found the current clothing for water sports to be boring and wanted to give it a fashion twist – think wetsuits, swimwear and accessories for (kite)surfing, standup paddling, sailing and open water swimming.

Women can show their personality everywhere through clothing; at work, during exercise and when going out. But in the water, you are often stuck with dark-colored, boring items. Time to change that! We make luxurious, comfortable clothes with unrivalled quality and a bold colorful design. The products consist of the highest quality sustainable materials. All garments are manufactured by the best ateliers in Europe with excellent working conditions.

What path has your career taken?

I’m a mechanical engineer by education, and I graduated on robotising the baggage handling of Schiphol airport – something quite different than fashion for water sports! After my graduation I worked to optimise all kinds of logistics systems, like production lines in factories or distribution networks of transport companies. This knowledge actually helps me a lot in the sourcing and manufacturing of our products. Next I became CEO of 2 different production companies while running a web shop in scuba diving materials as a side project (I’m an avid scuba diver myself). This lead me to the notion that wetsuit design had not changed much in the past 20 years. At the same time, my sister graduated from a fashion academy and I pitched the idea to her. She instantly became very enthusiastic about the idea and started drawing collection after collection. We took off, and never looked back.

What’s a life-changing book, song, film or event you’d like to recommend to others?

A ten day Vipassana retreat. This is a silent retreat focused on meditation (around 10 hours per day). Since there is no distraction from your phone, TV, news and other people, all you can do is focus on yourself. First it will feel immensely awkward, but eventually you will get to learn about yourself much better. I have learnt at least 4 times more from these retreats than all the other trainings and workshops I have done in my life.

What advice would you give to someone starting a business?

Oh, there is so much advice to be given. And all advice should to be contextual. It’s therefore difficult to make it short and snappy, but I will try. I guess one of the most important things is to keep going. It’s a cliche but do not give up. And make sure you keep working. Elon Musk once mentioned that starting a business is like “eating glass and staring into the abyss”. It’s true. It’s always 10x harder than you think upfront. And everyday brings another difficult problem that you haven’t though about before and needs to be solved. Just keep going. The next most important thing is to start with your customer in mind. If I need to make a difficult decision, I try to ask myself the following: “What will benefit our customers the most”. This gives me a lot of direction. And last, but not least: have fun! This will make all other work easier and better.