Weinheim. July 26, 2013. Turning to her colleague, Julia Chluba listens very carefully - giving her colleague her undivided attention. She likes people very much and it shows. “I get on with people very well,” explains the thirty-one year-old. “It’s extremely important to me that problems in the team are addressed immediately. I believe there’s a solution for everything.” Chluba is convinced that her success is due to good communication. The seamstress has managed the Freudenberg Group’s interlining’s fashion atelier - also known as an applications-specific studio - for the last 3 years. Marked-out designs cover the tailors’ dummies, scissors and pins litter the desk - a seamstress is hard at work at the sewing machine. Hot steam clouds the air - irons hiss. Interlinings, ensuring optimal shape for jackets, trousers and other garments, are manufactured and tested in the atelier for designers such as Louis Vuitton and other famous names in the fashion industry. Chluba looks after customers around the globe and is often away on business - in Milan, Turkey or Denmark. She also trains her colleagues in sales and in interlining technology.
“I only hope I’ll cope. That was my first thought at having been told I was to run the atelier in the future,” recalls Chluba. “A lot of my colleagues are older than me and my promotion meant that I became my trainer’s boss.” Not an easy situation. It took some time for Chluba to get used to her new role. “I really enjoy my job now as working together with other people, I can work towards changing things pro-actively,” she says. “It’s important to me that every associate has his own tasks for which he assumes responsibility and that he’s able to make decisions for himself. Only then can he be successful and perform well.” Chluba has enjoyed such freedom at Freudenberg right from the beginning.
A fashion atelier in a company – offering its customers technical products and services – is a very unusual work environment. “The mix of technology, handcraft and dealing with customers from the colorful world of fashion makes my job really exciting,” says Chluba. The demands on interlinings are high: clothing should flatter the figure and at the same time remain comfortable. A high degree of elasticity is achieved using so-called bi-elastic interlinings. Freudenberg has developed special elastic nonwovens for this – H-elastic-interlinings. All garments receive their shape only after sewing and they have to pass through up to 20 different processes such as printing, coloring and bleaching before they can be sold. The interlining must be able to withstand these processes unscathed. It should be suitable for many different types of garment, fit well and be able to endure heat and cold without losing shape.
Chluba managed the fashion atelier in Istanbul, Turkey, for three years. There she took on a lot of tasks in the field of applications engineering - for example, the selection of a suitable interlining for customers and performance and reliability checking. Today these are also her tasks in Europe. At first she found it difficult being away from family and friends – she knew no-one in Istanbul. However her stay there opened a window on another culture and made her more open and tolerant. In Istanbul, Chluba learnt diplomacy and how to deal with people sensitively as well as to communicate in a less direct manner. “My boss there used to say: I’ll give you tomatoes, cucumbers, vinegar and oil. And you make a salad out of the ingredients. But you’re responsible for how the salad tastes,” she recalls. “He didn’t always like the salad – but at least I had the chance to season it.” Chluba passed this piece of wisdom on to her colleagues.
And what has been Chluba’s greatest success so far? “That’s and easy question to answer. Convincing important customers to work with Freudenberg. And I feel an amazing sense of achievement when I manage to solve technical problems in a team with an open and frank discussion,” she says laughing. Chluba has also discovered a new talent. She loves being on stage. She really enjoyed hosting the Insights fashion show for the first time in 2010. Convincing, hosting, being in contact with the audience and reacting to them – these are the things Chluba enjoys. She speaks English and Turkish fluently, likes traveling and loves meeting new people.
“I was always very creative and loved doing things with my hands,” says Chluba. Even at the tender age of 19, she was busy conjuring up works of art with her needle and thread – whether costumes for her cheer leader group or an unusual pair of trousers. It was therefore a logical step for her to apply for an apprenticeship as a seamstress. “It was the best decision I ever made – except for marrying my husband,” she says. Following her apprenticeship, she worked in the applications-specific field and in shirts. Alongside developing her career, she successfully passed her master craftsman’s exam. She especially enjoys working with customers, advising and supporting them. “Each customer is different and I’m always working with professionals,” explains Chluba. “Most of them have very definite opinions and a particular approach. I never give them the feeling that I want to teach them something. Instead I try to convince them of the quality of our products and that my specialist knowledge can benefit them.” Chluba tries to reason with her customers and treat everyone as an individual. Her customers certainly feel well-looked after – thanks to her openness, friendliness and the time she spends with each person. This is her strength – because Julia Chluba is a people whisperer.