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Eone Co-Founder, Tim Fleschner: “Here Are 5 Things You Need To Succeed In The Fashion Industry”

We’ve reached a critical moment in the fashion industry. It’s the second largest source of pollution, exceeded only by the fuel industry. We’re plowing through natural resources faster than ever, and the system is designed to make people think they need to consume as much as possible in order to be happy. I think we […]

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We’ve reached a critical moment in the fashion industry. It’s the second largest source of pollution, exceeded only by the fuel industry. We’re plowing through natural resources faster than ever, and the system is designed to make people think they need to consume as much as possible in order to be happy. I think we need to rethink the fast fashion system. It’s not just a human rights concern when it comes to factory workers and working conditions, but it’s about making sure we don’t cause additional harm to an already hurting planet. Right now, sustainability is a bit of a trendy buzzword, but there needs to be a complete tide-shift in how people relate to their clothes. We need to have conversations, not only about the materials used and the production practices that accompany fashion, but about the culture of overconsumption that got us to this point to begin with.


I had the pleasure to interview Tim Fleschner. Tim is a Co-Founder at Eone: a watch brand with broad appeal and a core conviction that good design should bring more people in instead of shutting them out. Their signature product is the Bradley timepiece — a modern watch you can both touch and see to tell time. Tim has a special interest in entrepreneurship and serves as a mentor for BUILD, an organization that uses experiential learning through entrepreneurship to ignite the potential of youth in under-resourced communities. Tim holds a BA in Psychology from Duke University.


Thank you so much for joining us Tim! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Eone and the Bradley timepiece originally stemmed from a class project that our founder Hyungsoo Kim worked on while he was a graduate student at MIT. A friend of his who is blind told him about the watches available to people with vision impairments, and how each of those options had obvious design flaws. We set out to create a watch that everyone, sighted and blind alike, can use and enjoy. It was my sister Kristin, who lost her vision while attending Harvard Law School, who connected me with Hyungsoo as he was working on various prototypes. It was that introduction that sparked my interest and passion for universal design. Eone eventually launched on Kickstarter, raising nearly $600,000, allowing us to produce the Bradley timepiece.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?

After we launched on Kickstarter, we made a wish list of people we wanted to see wearing the Bradley. Stevie Wonder was at the very top. We tried to get in touch with his team, but we didn’t have any luck. Several months later, we were tagged in a social media post of Stevie Wonder performing at the Grammys. He was wearing our timepiece as he played the piano. We couldn’t believe that one of the most successful musicians of the 20th century was wearing our timepiece. We still haven’t been able to contact him, but we hope he is still enjoying the Bradley.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Before developing a timepiece with universal design, our goal was to make a braille watch specifically for people with vision impairments. We worked on the design for several months. Once we had a concept prototype, we arranged a meeting with a user group of 50+ individuals who were blind.

As soon as we began to introduce ourselves, one person asked, “Before we start, do you know how many of us can read Braille?” We quickly learned that only 10–20% of the blind population can read Braille. We were ignorant that our prototype would be useless to the majority of people with vision impairments.

We also learned the aesthetic — size, color, material — was equally important to the functionality. The user group also expressed they didn’t want another device that was specifically designed for them, but rather a product that was made for everyone while also being inclusive of their needs.

After this meeting, we scrapped our concept prototype and went back to the drawing board. This time, our goal was to create something that looked beautiful and was inclusive of both sighted and blind individuals. In fact, our company name Eone is short for Everyone.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The Bradley isn’t just a timepiece, it’s a story.

When I lived in Boston, I would commute to work every morning on the subway. People would often notice my wristwatch as I held onto the overhead handrail. They’d say, “That’s a neat-looking watch, how does it work?”

I’d explain how to tell time by touch, that we developed the watch alongside people with vision impairments, and that its namesake is Paralympian Bradley Snyder.

The Bradley timepiece is a conversation starter, and more importantly, it starts an important dialogue about inclusive design.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Slack off and daydream. Not all the time, but often enough to rest and reset your brain. Make time for play.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

The Bradley was co-designed by people with different backgrounds and abilities — designers, architects, students, teachers, and people with visual impairments. Eone would not exist without their expertise and support. We believe in paying it forward to these communities by partnering with organizations that align with our shared values. We currently work with three organizations: Kilimanjaro Blind Trust, Vision Care, and The Seeing Eye.

We’ve teamed up with the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust to create a special edition Bradley timepiece that has a direct social impact. Each purchase of the Bradley x KBT Timepiece helps blind children in East Africa read, write, and learn by either repairing a brailler device or providing a year’s worth of braille paper.

We’ve partnered with Vision Care, an international relief organization dedicated to the prevention of blindness through global projects and initiatives. Through special initiatives, Eone has allowed Vision Care to provide important ophthalmic surgeries to their program participants.

Eone proudly sponsored the training of guide dogs through The Seeing Eye, an organization that works to enhance the independence, dignity, and self-confidence of blind people by providing expert breeding, care, and training for Seeing Eye dogs.

We continue to carry out our brand mission through our partnerships and dedication to providing a functional, inclusive device for all.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” — Anaïs Nin

Find the courage to embrace uncertainty and fear — it allows you to grow as a person. Often times when you’re younger, you have a plan set in place, which can sometimes be hard to veer from. If you have everything figured out, it closes you off from other opportunities.

Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

At Eone, we’ve been championing universal design since the get-go. It’s probably the most important tenet of our mission — to design objects that can be used by everyone, regardless of ability. It seems like today, fashion is moving faster than ever and it has been really gratifying to see the fashion industry begin to incorporate universal design elements into their products. Target, for example, recently launched a collection of clothing for children with sensory processing sensitivities. The garments are all designed to minimize discomfort for the wearer when the fabrics make contact with skin. Even industry giants like Nike and Under Armour are incorporating elements of universal design into their products. Under Armour launched the MagZip, a zipper that uses magnets to close and can be operated one-handed. Nike is advancing technology in the fashion industry by developing a robotic self-lacing sneaker, which has the potential to completely change the footwear industry. It’s a really exciting moment in fashion right now, not just for design lovers, but for all people who experience the world in different ways.

What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.

1: Timeless Design — We always lean toward classic design elements instead of relying on trends. It takes confidence for a brand to do this well. The first timepiece model we launched is still one of our bestsellers.

2: Create things that people don’t know they want — When we launched, there was chatter that our watch would only find customers in people who were blind or vision impaired. There was doubt whether sighted people would be interested in our product, but now they make up our biggest customer segment.

3: Include your target consumer in the design process — We began with an idea to make a watch that would be accessible for the blind, but it was only through conversations with people with vision impairments that we were able to produce the Bradley — a timepiece with broad appeal that cuts across different ability levels.

4: Don’t rely on stereotypes — People like breaking the rules, and brands shouldn’t be afraid to embrace that. Men like to wear rose gold! Women like watches with large faces! The industry has always been shaped by rule-breakers, and timepieces are no exception.

5: Incorporate sustainable practices where possible. — All of our packaging is 100% recyclable. It’s one small step in a larger system, and every little bit helps!

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

We’ve reached a critical moment in the fashion industry. It’s the second largest source of pollution, exceeded only by the fuel industry. We’re plowing through natural resources faster than ever, and the system is designed to make people think they need to consume as much as possible in order to be happy. I think we need to rethink the fast fashion system. It’s not just a human rights concern when it comes to factory workers and working conditions, but it’s about making sure we don’t cause additional harm to an already hurting planet. Right now, sustainability is a bit of a trendy buzzword, but there needs to be a complete tide-shift in how people relate to their clothes. We need to have conversations, not only about the materials used and the production practices that accompany fashion, but about the culture of overconsumption that got us to this point to begin with.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

People with disabilities comprise the largest minority group — a group that cuts across every demographic and includes anyone who might become disabled at any point in life through injury, disease, or the process of aging. (Which is potentially everyone). Shouldn’t design prioritize the needs of a significant segment of the population?

We need to consider what our design values say about what else we value. Do we value equal opportunities for people with disabilities? If so, it needs to be reflected in our design principles. There’s nothing wrong with valuing quality design for its own sake, but it is crucial that we recognize the limits of good design and its tendency toward ableism and exclusion.

In order to do good, good design needs to consider the needs and abilities of as many users as possible — a principle known as inclusive design. Inclusive design is a remedy for the pervasive disregard for people with disabilities in the design of products, structures, and services. Instead of assuming a one-size-fits-all user experience, inclusive design aims to please a wide range of users whose needs and levels of ability vary.

Inclusive design needs allies who promote equality and inclusion for people with disabilities through transformative design. Because we build our world and everything in it, inclusive design has a unique opportunity to literally change the world. Think about it: making products, services, and structures accessible for people with disabilities means that we are actually creating a more equitable world where our actions back up our claims that people with disabilities matter.

So what does it mean to be an ally of inclusive design? If you’re a designer, adopt inclusive design principles. Businesses have the opportunity to become brand leaders by providing inclusive products and services through in-house design teams and carrying inclusive products. And as consumers, we can all embrace, promote, and demand inclusive products. We have the opportunity to vote with our dollars and reward these efforts with our purchases.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Eone on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eone/

Tim Fleschner on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/timfleschner/

Tim Fleschner on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/timfleschner/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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