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How A Young Fashion CEO Recharged This Chic Hungarian Brand

People

When Vivien Lászlóffy puts her mind to something, she excels.


After becoming the CEO of fashion brand, Aeron, at just 24 years old, Lászlóffy has catapulted the business into fast, far-reaching growth, siting a “learn by doing" approach throughout her impressive, still unbelievably young career.

“I have high energy," says Lászlóffy. “I love doing a lot of things and I love doing them the right way, so I just took it as a challenge. I really had nothing to lose because they gave me that trust and I knew I was going to follow my instinct. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but I haven't looked back."

The Budapest-based brand, which was founded in 2012 by Eszter Áron, who serves as Aeron's Head Designer, is positioned as a luxurious contemporary label defined by unique fabrics, classic silhouettes and unexpected details. For Lászlóffy, it was a perfect match.

“I right away fell in love with the brand. It was totally my aesthetic," says Lászlóffy, who worked at Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Diesel, Roberto Cavalli, and Maison Margiela, Cartier US and L'Oréal Paris before Aeron. “The approach to it is quite minimal. We only use innovative fabrics, like organic suede or luxurious fabrics like French lambskin. Our brand is not about defining an age. It's about a character, so it's really someone who has an edgy, cool, artsy, confident look. All our pieces are simple but often have an interesting detail to them. It's always super effortless. It's a hidden elegance, and you are dressed for every occasion."

Ranging from $150 for knitwear to $1600 for leather pants, the line has taken off in terms of popularity, thanks to Lászlóffy's leadership and vision.

The Start

After meeting Eszter through a family friend two years ago, Lászlóffy started helping grow the brand as a consultant, going back and forth to Budapest from London where she was living at the time. After having spent most of her career working for large firms, she says the time was right for a change.

“I wanted to do something different; either start my own brand or build a tiny brand; something that was more mine and more rewarding," said Lászlóffy, who was just featured in Forbes Europe's 30 under 30 for Retail and Commerce 2017. “If you work with a big corporation it's a fantastic school but you're not going to have that input and the responsibility."

Lászlóffy said after starting she realized she had no other choice than to jump into the role head-first, and taking each challenge as it came through a step-by-step approach.

“At first we were a small team and it was really about redefining every angle of the business; from the production to the design to the sales to the marketing," says Lászlóffy, who is of German and Hungarian descent. “We had something that was already really great but we had to nail it down. For me at first it was about understanding all aspects of this business. I had no idea about how the production cycle works. I'd never done that before and it's so crucial."

Her stint with Aeron wasn't her first time having to grow up fast. At the age of 12 Lászlóffy traveled the world alone with her tennis coach competing. When she turned 19 she moved to the US with a full scholarship to Boston University.

“I never dreamed I would be a CEO at 24," she says. "People always say to me, 'you were so young.' I say yes but age has never been a thing for me. From the age of 10 to 18 I was traveling the world playing professional tennis. I was number one in Hungary, and the top junior player in the world."

“You grow up very quickly."

Company Growth

The company, which has doubled each year in sales since Lászlóffy took the helm, has also expanded in terms of a retail footprint, namely across Asia, which she said was completely unexpected.

“It was honestly at first sort of a luck thing because it was obviously not our plan to specialize in Japan, for example, which is known to be one of the most difficult markets to enter," says Lászlóffy, adding that the buyers of some of Japan's largest retailers, including Ron Herman, Isetan and Tomorrowland, all bought the collection and then there was 'a chain reaction.' "Asia is the biggest market. Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, China are really crucial markets for us."

Although Japan is very different then the rest of Asia, according to Lászlóffy the country serves as the front leader in terms of fashion. After excelling in Japan, next came Korea, Hong Kong, and China.

“It was really about us saying 'we see it working; They like our design, they like the products so we need to get the right partners in there," says Lászlóffy. “So in November we signed the biggest trading company in Japan, which gives us a partner in a market that we are now able to monitor. It's really exciting. It's such a huge area and it has so much potential."

According to Lászlóffy , when she came to Aeron, the brand was in about 30 wholesale accounts globally and now it is in about 110 accounts, across 15 countries. With more than 15 employees, the company employee base doubled in just two years.

“The other day someone said to me 'you should do an MBA; you're the perfect candidate,'" she says. “I told them I'm doing a real life MBA. There's no case study that will tell you how you're going to react when the whole house is on fire and you have to calm down your investors, make sure that your suppliers are still on board, that your distributors are still there. That's the biggest learning lesson ever.

As the brand continues to grow, Lászlóffy says it is a personal goal to keep all production for the brand in Hungary, where Aeron was born.

“We are based out of Budapest, it's our home," she says. “Hungary has a long-standing manufacturing history and a lot of the top brands, like Stella McCartney and Moncler, are produced in Hungary. It's a bit of a responsibility not to walk away and produce somewhere where it might be cheaper. We wanted to be a leader in that. I'm happy to say we are still there and I hope we will continue."

The brand's newest collection, which was inspired by the region around Lake Balaton, which is located an hour from Budapest, is meant as a homage to the label's birth country.

“We included a color palette that evoked the emotions and feelings that the lake brings out, which is what originally inspired the collection," Lászlóffy has said of the collection. “We also endeavor to reinvent tailoring techniques and reinvigorate folk themes, based on traditional Hungarian clothing that has now been completely modernized."

Another future goal for the young CEO is smart hiring, identifying hungry young executives who want to follow in her footsteps.

“I always look at experience and not education, because if I look at myself or a lot of amazing people around me, it was the journey that defined us," Lászlóffy says. "I want them to be hungry to learn and to be open, and to be part of this journey. Every time I meet someone I know right away if I throw her into ice cold water she will survive and thrive from it. Above it all, I think that's the most important thing."

3 Min Read
Health

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.