Friendship, Freedom and the Fashion Business

12.09.2015 | Text Zsuzsanna Toth | Photo Sandra Semburg, David Bornscheuer, Stefan Haehnel

Veronika Heilbrunner finals
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Style icon Veronika Heilbrunner on the advantages of doing business with her best friend.

One is well-known for being one of the most-photographed street style icons of our time and the main character in the short Mercedes-Benz fashion film 'Fistful of Wolves', the other worked successfully as a digital strategist for German VOGUE for many years. Together, the two friends Veronika Heilbrunner and Julia Knolle started their own project at the beginning of this year - the fashion and lifestyle magazine 'hey woman!' to prove all doubters wrong by illustrating that friendship and business need not be kept separate in order to be successful and above all happy.

Veronika Heilbrunner and Julia Knolle by David Bornscheuer

The paths of Veronika and Julia had often crossed at events before they found themselves seated together at a dinner party and had their first real chance to converse. Their mutual empathy was immediately apparent, and it only took a few weeks for them to reach an agreement and become business partners.

In an industry where the dividing lines between private life and business relationships are sometimes as fluid as ombré shades on colourful summer skirts, the creation of the online magazine 'hey woman!' is a story confirming the importance of personal networks, right timing and the willingness of two young women to take a risk in the fashion industry. In this interview Veronika Heilbrunner tells us about the challenges that confronted them, how to deal with jealousy in a symbiotic relationship and why sometimes it is only a step into the apparently unknown that lets you sleep soundly at night.

Veronika Heilbrunner and Justin O’Shea holding hands

© Stefan Haehnel 

What made you start 'hey woman!' ?

We are trying to do something that we have not come across on the internet so far: a laid-back fashion magazine with useful shopping tips that doesn't publish irrelevant news ten times a day, just to achieve a high exposure.

One often hears the advice 'Never do business with friends', but you seem determined to prove the opposite. Why?

I have always found that I am more productive with friends than with strangers, and that working closely together creates friendships. This happens quite naturally, because at our age we spend most of our time in a working environment anyway.

Why could you not have realised this project without each other?

Julia has years of experience in digital publishing, she keeps an eye on the finances and can build a business model from scratch. This is something I can definitely not do. Instead I have experience as a stylist for print media, most recently for Harper’s Bazaar Germany, and valuable relationships to international fashion brands. Of course my popularity within the street style photography sector is helpful as well. Gaining access to the media is easier if you are well-known, and I am the face of 'hey woman!”.

Veronika Heilbrunner and Justin O’Shea by Stefan Haehnel

© Stefan Haehnel

What does it feel like to be the 'main attraction'? Do you think about the digital impact of your clothes before you even get dressed in the morning?

I find it great fun. Public awareness of me will of course decline at some stage, but I will console myself with the thought that I used my '15 minutes of fame' for something new.

Speaking of fame: Is jealousy a problem for you?

Julia has no competitive streak at all, and I find that impressive. She understands the system, but prefers to be the brains behind the operation.

Are you afraid of anything?

The strange thing is that as an employee I had many sleepless nights before handing in my notice. But in recent months I have realised that I am completely without fear. Naturally, our 'hey woman!' project is only in the starting phase, and we need to exercise restraint, but I have never been as confident about it as I am now. However this might just be a matter of an instinct for human survival. We will see.

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