Almost anyone can use the label of ‘family business’ today but you really work that way. How is it to spend all day together and meet for dinner at home later? Who is the boss in your café?
To be honest, it is very hard because everybody in our family has a clashing opinion from time to time. It can be said that leading a family business is often more difficult than having a business with a normal hierarchy of roles. On the other hand, you can rely on the others more as you would not abandon your family as easily. It is the same with leadership but our main boss is our mum. She takes care of the café on an everyday basis and makes sure we open at all. My dad then decided about the interior and repairs. We appointed him the architect. My sister helps out at the weekends and shares her culinary visions with us. She likes experimenting (as do I) bakes bread and gives us directions during our passionate discussions. I take care of café, orders, promotion, visual side of the café, and try to manage the business in general. But it is not easy as I have university during the week. Thus, everybody does a bit of everything, which is not ideal. We discuss all the major decisions together and you can call it so-called family democracy. It basically means that every decision during the reconstruction and furnishing was preceded by intense arguments.
Nový Svět is a place with beautiful atmosphere and amazing peace, although only a few meters from the main touristic attractions. What is living there like? Do you get a bit of the surrounding rush?
I think it is a really special and peaceful place and we have tourists here but only those who are really interested in visiting here. When we were founding this café, the main thing we cared about was the atmosphere of the place and not the potential profits we could get and having prices in euros. We are happy about the opposite really, having loyal customers who walk here daily from Břevnov or Dejvice, sit down, and absorb the peace of the whole street. At the busy weekends we still have Czech customers who don’t mind waiting for a table. We are happy to meet people who come once every week or two. We can see their kids growing up, build relationships with them, so the customers don’t see us only as a café, but as a place between work and home where they can drop by and relax. This is what we’re trying to achieve.
You are the main barista here. How is working with old great Faema and Doubleshot coffee for you? Do you enjoy any other alternative methods of coffee preparation? Where did you gain barista’s skills?
It is I and two other people and we can’t say who is the main barista. We often talk about what coffee grains we want and about catches from abroad. Working behind the bar at our place is quite specific. We try to be the café where you can get a truly delicious cup of coffee but we don’t have enough means to be as good as, for example, EMA espresso bar where they have the opportunity to play with it a bit more. On the other hand, it is not our goal. We have on-going debates here about what the ‘bigger espresso’ means for people. I was learning barista skills myself at first, we had a small espresso maker at home and because my dad loves good coffee, I always tried to do more. I have formal training from the Roberto Trevisan’s School of Coffee. My whole family received it. But you only learn how to make a nice cup of coffee by practising. Jarda Tuček from Doubleshot helped me a lot too. I think that he has done a lot for Czech coffee culture and Doubleshot is one of the best and the most stable coffee roasting rooms in Prague and we always enjoy cooperating with them. My co-worker Martin has experience from Canada and New Zealand, and Alina used to work at Mamacoffee and other Prague cafés. It can be said that they are way more experienced than I am but it is me who makes them care about details such as placing the teaspoon in the right position. Our coffee machine Faema E61 is not only time-tested but also a design element and the heart of our business. My dad and I fell in love with it at the first sight. There are better and more efficient (and expensive) coffee machines but we wanted something that will help to create a special atmosphere and people like it. Alternatively, we would be happy to make you a drip from the popular Hario V60. You can often try three to four different cups at the bar. I personally enjoy experimenting and trying new alternatives very much but there is not enough time to try new technologies, unfortunately.
Coffee culture in the Czech Republic has progressed a lot in the last couple of years. Is there still somebody of your customers who would order a simple Turkish coffee?
It is true that coffee culture has been progressing rapidly and it is amazing. There used to be very few places with delicious espresso and flat white but there are plenty in Prague these days. I’m afraid, though, that it might turn into the ‘art for art’ principle because excellent coffee places will only get a special sort of customer. This is for example what we are trying to change - by helping new uninitiated customers to understand the types of coffee that we have and to choose the one type they will enjoy the most. I get the order for Turkish coffee several times a week but there is nothing wrong with it. The way is to explain to them why we don’t have Turkish coffee on our menu, effects that it has on health, other options that they might have at home, and, of course, to help them find what they are looking for, whether it be an Americano, drip, etc.
You are also famous for delicious cakes and pies. Do you have a usual menu or does you mum enjoy experimenting? What would you recommend for us to have with our coffee?
It is hard to say. My mum tries to balance the menu so everyone can find what they like. Plus she always adds something extra and exciting. She also uses seasonal ingredients, now, for example, we have a rhubarb pie. Specialities on our menu are raw non-baked desserts and new gluten-free brownies without flour.
Apart from the family coffee business you study filmmaking. How do you want to link these two professions in the future?
(laughs) We will see. They are both very different. However, you need a cup of good coffee when filming and cafés need good directing. What I am really interested in is connecting the public space with art and creating local community spaces and subcultures. This doesn’t need to be just about film and photography but also literature, music, and creative community events. Coffee places were always the spots where political and socio-cultural movements and opinions were formed. This declined during the communist era and after the revolution it moved to varied student associations and other places where a regular person doesn’t have access. I would like to revive this, to move it back to coffee places, to provoke ordinary customers’ minds. Thus the customer would feel a connection to a certain place. This is my personal strategy for Café Nový Svět in the future – the possibility to build a new multicultural place in Prague’s Hradčany.
You’ve been in the fashion environment for 8 years. How would you describe the development of your brand? What situations were of cardinal importance?
It’s been a game for me the whole time. Something that I love, something I’m keen on. I’ve moved from sporty colourful street style fashion to the fashion that is more feminine and minimalistic. Although saying that, it’s still based on sporty and comfortable design and functional materials. The moment of cardinal importance for me is when I manage to establish a relationship with some of the local companies or a nice boutique.
You’ve managed to get orders since your studies of fashion design. But you left school before your graduation. Retrospectively, do you consider it as the right move?
Everything has its reverse and obverse side. I think that my learning process by the method of try-fail helped me gain a lot of experience, albeit making a lot of mistakes and odd decisions :) Nobody paved the way for me how to do fashion and, therefore, I found my own, which I consider as an advantage. However, at the end I graduated from Multimedia and Design at Tomas Bata University in Zlín, which I studied long-distance.
Today you have a team of people helping you with ODIVI. What was the first time you realised you need more people? Do you surround yourself with your friends only at work?
I didn’t realise it for a long time. I thought that I had to do it myself. Wise advice from my friend made me realise that I need assistants and interns. My family and friends used to help me in the first instance but today I have interns from abroad and new people who joined us through our call on social media. They can gain experience, we share our contacts with them, barter and at the end they get an opportunity to create their own project.
What was the main inspiration for your spring collection? How long do you work on one collection? What is the most exciting phase?
SS14 DUBIK collection was like the end of one sentence and the beginning of a new one. SS15 and AW15 come from my passion for travelling. They are about the moments when I have the feeling that I can do everything, about extreme contrasts, sea, mountains, timelessness, moments, and superheroines. A collection like this takes about a year and a half to realise. From the first thoughts and designs, through a pattern production, photographing, fashion show, to its final stage of delivering it for customers. I enjoy most the moment of unpacking a new freshly-printed catalogue.
Do you design models for yourself too? What do you feel the most comfortable in?
I do and in the end the models usually end up in our Essentials collections. Variable dresses are made for me as they can be worn in every situation. Most of the time you will see me wearing leggings, oversized t- shirts, men’s second hand shirts, and sweaters. Coats are my weakness – I tailor a colourful ODIVI one for myself each year. Instead of a purse I prefer an ODIVI backpack or fanny pack.
What Czech or foreign fashion brands have interested you recently?
I enjoy Local Icons in the Czech Republic - the connection of young designers, traditional brands, and production makes sense to me. I love Polanka, enjoy Petra Ptáčková, and laugh the most with LaFormela. If I was looking to expand my closet I would shop in Slovakia at Drevená Helena. Nanushka and Dori Tomcsanyi from Hungary fascinate me with their readiness and world-wideness.
Do you plan to promote ODIVI abroad? Which city do you consider to be the main fashion centre? What about Prague?
Not only with ODIVI. I would generally love to travel more often and at the moment I’m determined to achieve it. I see cities in a more complex way than only from the fashion perspective – I enjoy the energy, people, architecture, food, and everything around. This also forms how I perceive fashion in a city. I’m after the undiscovered: young designers, hidden studios, concept stores, or flea markets. All those cities have something about them and they are all different – I can’t choose one. The same goes for Prague.
(Iva Burkertová, founder and creative director of ODIVI)