Chris & Claudia

(Pictured) The man and woman behind Zazou, Christopher Carroll and Claudia Koch.

When speaking on the phone, one only has the tone, sound and volume of another person’s voice to listen to. That person on the other end is otherwise invisible. One cannot pick up on body language or other visual cues. It is his or her words and voice that give the caller an insight into this stranger on the other end of the line. Luckily, for Claudia Koch, her voice carries more personality than most people’s entire beings.

On the morning of the Fourth of July, I had the pleasure of interviewing Claudia over the phone. She is one of the original founders of the luxury scarf brand Zazou, the company that this blog centers upon.

Christopher Carroll and Claudia, who met at the University of California, Berkeley, began their Zazou business after Claudia had found success importing jewelry and scarves from other countries into the United States.

“After I graduated [from Berkeley] . . . I traveled extensively in Asia and I started buying silver jewelry and bringing it back and showing it here [the United States] in kind of a casual nature,” explained Claudia. “Finally, one of the items that I was bringing in were scarves that were made in India, these beautifully colored scarves, and they just took off.”

And took off they did, as both entrepreneurs used their own talents to expand the Zebra-clad business. Claudia focused on importing materials while Chris set his sights on designs. Together, the pair also hired a group of dedicated sales reps to help sell the products and create personal relationships with the clients and customers.

“[Zazou] was a name that was known for its quirkiness, and a company that was known for its customer service,” said Claudia with pride. “We did anything for our customers, anything.”

According to Claudia, in addition to customer service, the Zazou brand is also known for creating quality accessories for older, professional women who enjoy creative designs.

“The Zazou brand, it has a quirky aspect,” said Claudia. This “quirky” aspect, she said, was heavily prevalent in the line when she and Chris ran the company. Last year, however, the duo sold the brand to Sterling Styles, where it thrives today. Claudia and Chris still maintain a connection to Zazou, and offer their input whenever they can. And their advice is always welcomed, seeing as the former schoolmates ran the company for approximately 30 years.

“The fashion industry is a lot of work,” cautioned the fashion veteran. “It is a very hard, hard way to make a living. A lot of it has to do with luck. I believe in luck and being in the right place at the right time.”

Now, for Claudia, the right moments come from traveling with her husband or when buying pieces that exemplify her self-proclaimed “quirky” style.

“My own personal style is very quirky, shall we say, and probably younger than it should be,” Claudia said with an exuberant laugh. “And my husband keeps telling me, ‘Claudia, you are not 30 years old anymore!’”

This is what has made Claudia such an innovator and a successful businesswoman. She has made and followed her own set of rules and guidelines all of her life.

“If you look at people who are successful in fashion, they are all kind of eccentric, I think,” opinioned Claudia. “Eccentrics have good business sense, let’s put it that way!”

For more information about the Zazou brand itself, visit https://www.zazou.com/z_index.php.

*Photograph Courtesy Claudia Koch