A conversation with Karen François

A funny lady who has her finger on the pulse of pop culture and general randomness. Besides being a full time content creator for VRT, she also runs a successful webshop KOAREN. A digital palace, filled with various items all tailored to her dry humor. You may have seen her doormats and mugs floating around on Facebook. Or you may have heard people talking about those ‘Ik wil naar Huis’ tote bags. We wondered how she is handling the corona crisis and if she sees new opportunities for her business.

Hi Karen! First of all, how are you doing in these weird corona times?

“Okay. Never thought going to the supermarket would be the highlight of my day.* Or emptying my mailbox! I’m actually receiving lots of amazing postcards. Definitely one of the few benefits in these weird times. This morning I received one from Marco Borsato with ‘nee je hoeft niet naar huis vannacht’. I got it from a friend, not Marco himself, unfortunately. Other then that: I can’t stand or hear another video call. But everything is going to be alright.

* I did buy a t-shirt that says ‘ANDERHALVE METER, BITCH’, because uhm ‘ANDERHALVE METER, BITCHES!”

How are you experiencing the crisis on a professional level?

Fully participating with the mass hysteria! No, I’m actually still working for VRT. At home, which is something I hate, since I really like spending time with my colleagues. My pug Jean-Bob has become my regular work buddy, but that brings its challenges when it comes to brainstorming. Besides that, I’m still doing my thing, everything is a bit on hold for the moment. I’m taking my time.

You’re the proud owner of your own very cool webshop. Have you noticed a change in the shopping behavior of people?

Gee, thanks! I’m not necessarily selling more than usual. But due to some personal drama, I’m just not as focused on it. It is nice to receive little messages people leave when placing an order. These happen more than before, and are weirdly more original too. Maybe it’s a coincidence. I don’t know. Yesterday, somebody asked me to marry them via “note to shop owner’, haha (Marry Me!) And today, somebody asked if they could get a refund if their baby turned out ugly. (I sell birth cards with ‘Oef, ’tis ni lelijk’). We may have lost a lot of things during this lockdown. But they won’t get our sense of humor.

Are you adapting your way of working to the crises? Are you approaching things differently?

For my day job at the VRT we’re looking for new ways to stay as productive as possible. From brainstorming in Excel to ‘Lab Olympics’. This is a sort of game between colleagues where everyone receives the same assignment, just to stay sharp. I actually won one of the rounds and received 100 folding balloons, which I’ll be using in the future to make folding animals. Yes, I’m 28. Leave me be.

Will there be a new collection happening, inspired by our current lifestyle?

People are asking for face masks, but I’m going to let that pass by. For the products I sell on my webshop, I gain inspiration from daily life which is currently, literally, on hold. I don’t really feel the urge to bring out a new collection, such things need to come organically. At the beginning of the lockdown, I did produce a tote bag with ‘Ik ben thuis’, a corona variety from the classic ‘Ik wil naar huis’ tote bag. That one was pretty obvious. But there’s already happening so much, I don’t want to surf on a wave in which we’re currently drowning. 

How do you see the future evolving?

I don’t look too far ahead, especially now. I do think and hope, perhaps a bit too kumbaya of me, that in the future we’ll stay this caring. My neighbour surprisingly left 6 cans of Ice Tea in front of my door, just to help me control my soda addiction. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want him to do this on a monthly basis in the future. But the urge to help people, now more than ever, is something I find really beautiful. So hopefully that’s a staying trend.

And finally, do you have any tips for our readers on how to pass their time?

Buy chalk and go draw penises in front of your friends door. Buy flowers from your local shop and surprise people. Send cards. Let people know you love them. And if that doesn’t work: go ahead and bake some sourdough bread, just like half of my instagram feed is doing apparently. 🙂

> Stay in the loop. Check out Karen’s Instagram.