founder & designer at KLIMBIM BARCELONA
Klimbim (scraps, in German) is the name of Johanna Gross’s project and Barcelona is its surname, a natural addition after her founder came to the capital of Catalonia to finish her university studies and where she would fall in love with the language and her current business and life partner.
The first time I met Johanna was through an email. I connected with her story through a series of mental flashbacks since our lives share a lot of similarities. Once I met her in person, it was friendship at first sight.
Johanna was born in a small place called Walsrode in Germany, where studying anything related to design was considered a future of economic uncertainty, so she devoted her studies to Hispanic Philology. Once settled in Barcelona, Johanna meets the world of design and starts working in a fashion boutique in the neighborhood of Gràcia. Thanks to this and a few contacts with designers, she’s motivated to design jewelry pieces that were economically accessible for both her and her clients. Hairpins and buttons were the first pieces to carry the label of Klimbim Barcelona in 2010.
Now, Klimbim is a sustainable & minimalist brand sold in fashion shops in Barcelona, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium, as well as online via klimbimbarcelona.com. Today, Johanna shares with us a part of her history, her motivations, obstacles and major challenges, as well as her advice to future women entrepreneurs in the most personal and honest way.
Adriana: What’s the earliest memory you have of jewelry?
Johanna: When I was little, my aunt gifted me a DIY set to make your own jewelry, I remember it was an edition inspired by Egyptian mythology and I gave some of those pieces to the women in my family. It was a moment that permeated me. I want to believe that, unconsciously, it stuck with me so much that some of Klimbim’s collections have an ethnic feeling with semi-precious stones, and a geometric-minimalist fusion using materials from nature.
How did you end up designing jewelry?
I want to make jewelry that can be combined with other pieces that aren’t necessarily from Klimbim, and that each client can inject her own personality in it, either with a basic t-shirt or a more fancy dress. Why jewelry and not something else? The truth is, in the beginning, finding the tools to design them was pretty easy, although I’m always open to design something else in the future, maybe handbags or clothing.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered when starting with Klimbim?
Finding suppliers that offer good materials at a good price is difficult. I’ve received many offers to manufacture in China but it doesn’t go with my ideology; I want to produce and give something back to the place where I live.
However, the biggest challenge was uncertainty. We all have insecurities and at first it was difficult for me to make decisions because I was trying to find my own style and stay away from trends. Finding a balance between my essence and creating things that would give me an economic support and, at the same time, people would like to wear, was the most difficult part of the business.
Do you have a method or follow a process to design?
Not at all! I’m more of creation by inspiration. Ideas can come to me at any time, it could be while I’m watching a movie, in an art exhibition or in architecture. There are days when I sit with a notebook and pencil to design, and others in which I play with the materials to see what I can achieve. The important thing is to write down those ideas so I don’t forget them, although the most complicated aspect of designing is to turn those ideas into a cohesive concept for a collection.
Klimbim pieces are made one by one in a sustainable way and with nearby suppliers. How can you offer competitive prices?
We are an honest brand and we would never, ever lie to our customers. Our clients are aware that our pieces aren’t solid gold, or silver, and that metals can wear out over time compared to pieces by luxury brands, but that same customer knows she doesn’t need to spend a three-digit figure for a piece that she may only wish to wear for one or two years.
We know you’re a one-woman show, what’s your secret to manage your days efficiently?
Honestly, I’m no longer capable of doing everything on my own, that’s why Edgar, my partner and now business associate, takes care of many things. As for my day to day, I’m very traditional and I need to write things in a to-do list and cross them one by one. I’m very disciplined with myself, so I can easily be my own boss. However, I believe that when you do something that fills you so much it’s important to also give yourself time to rest, so that tomorrow you wake up with recharged energy.
Tell us about your collaboration with Mireia Ruiz. How did you decide to collaborate together?
I had already followed Mireia for a long time on her Instagram account, I admired her work and herself as a power woman. A friend who helps me with Klimbim’s communication suggested to me to look for someone to make a collaboration, since we make jewelry but we’re also very related to the world of art. I immediately thought of Mireia and decided to contact her. I honestly didn’t have much hope because she had many followers and I thought she wouldn’t be interested, but luckily she responded positively. Days later I visited at to her studio and we clicked straightaway.
How was the creative process between you two?
At first we went to supplier stores looking for materials and seeking for design possibilities. Then, we did some tests at her studio, she made sketches and I looked for designs with the materials. We honestly made a great team in a very organic way.
Johanna and Mireia for
their collection “Mireia x Klimbim”
What was the greatest satisfaction of the collaboration?
Without a doubt, the greatest satisfaction is the friendship we share now, she’s a very inspiring person in my life. To see the fusion of her madness reflected in colors and textures, and the minimalist pieces of Klimbim was very enriching. Our concepts simply integrated to perfection.
Any advice you want to give to the future business-women? Maybe something you would have liked to know when you started Klimbim.
What seems perfect from the outside is never perfect in the inside. Entrepreneurship is a process far from perfection; there are no ideal conditions for you to start a business, and it’s important to constantly learn from your mistakes and experiences.
It’s also important that us, the community of business-women, start supporting each other in order to excel in today’s world.
Finally, I would like you to share with us the women who inspire you in your daily life.
I admire women who share a similarity: they have their own style without getting too wrapped up in trends and make it functional for a daily life, such as Coco Chanel and Lykke Li. The same thing happens with women within my immediate environment: Mireia reflects her colorful personality through her look, as well as my mother and my mother-in-law, two very different women whom I admire for their sensitivity, strength and individuality when dressing.