J'N'C News 1/2021

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J’N’C News – Your insider source for the latest in fashion – Since 1991 – Issue 1/21 – Friday, 22 January 2021




Klaus Kirschner / CEO of Stetson Europe

IF YOU WANT TO GET AHEAD, GET A HAT It’s hard to imagine Stetson Europe without Klaus Kirschner. We met up with the CEO of the respected label for an interview about fashion statements, revenue per square metre and, of course, hats. p. 18


Ralf Kellenberger




BITS & Pieces


Ralf Kellenberger designed jewellery for Diesel for many years. But in summer 2020, he took the plunge and established his own label, which has already had a number of notable successes. p. 22

We asked Eveline Schönleber how German trouser specialist MAC is boosting its sustainability credentials and why it is setting an example in modern company management. p. 26

A new season with new demands: the latest collections for autumn/winter 2021 are a response to the growing need for comfort and our new stay-at-home lifestyle. p. 8

Berlin label Arys has reacted and adapted to the crisis faster than most. Find out what Japan has to do with that in our interview with Frederik Fritz Sturm and Kay Heldsdörfer. p. 15










WHAT ARE YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS? It feels a little odd wishing each other a Happy New Year in 2021, don’t you think? In light of the ongoing pandemic, the multitude of challenges it brings, uncertain prospects and even the absurd storming of the US Capitol building in Washington at the beginning of the year, many of us are finding it difficult to dive optimistically into the next few months or to bank on the fact that normal life will resume any day now. But, despite it all, we’re going to try, and will carry on persevering and making the best of the situation with the means we have. Welcome to the new issue of J’N’C News – in a new year and a new season! Although we’re still very much in lockdown here in Germany and will continue to be for the next few weeks at least, we really need to get the (already mutated) virus under control once and for all. And for our industry in particular, it’s a real race against time. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to radically (!) lock down the entire country for two weeks to find out where the sources of infection are lurking and bring the number of cases right down, but people’s opinions are still divided on that and such drastic measures also require a lot of guts from those in power. But as the German saying goes: it’s better to get things over with a short, sharp shock than to prolong the agony. What with the endless debates from left and right, constant news coverage and ever-increasing infection rates, COVID is everywhere we turn. So it’s hardly surprising that we’re not only starting to feel feel numb to it all, but also apathetic and weary. After three quarters of a year living with the coronavirus here in Europe and over a year globally, many of us are finding ourselves in a kind of pandemic vacuum. Turn to page 17 to find out exactly what we mean by that. But regardless of what the situation throws at us, life still has to go on. And that also applies to the autumn/winter 2021 order season in Düsseldorf. Amid the pandemic, the showrooms are keeping their doors open but are having to adhere to strict hygiene regulations and operate by appointment only. Berlin Fashion Week is also planning on going ahead with its schedule as intended – but will be digital-only this time. So the fashion carousel is continuing to turn – albeit in slow motion. Of course this is also having a hard knock-on effect on the tradeshows – but Gallery Fashion is already working on a plan B, a digital format that will run alongside the physical tradeshow and, if necessary, serve as a replacement in case the lockdown is extended. ILM Offenbach is also looking ahead and has made the decision to postpone its dates by a month, meaning that the show is now scheduled to take part in April. Pitti Uomo is currently pinning all its hopes on a physical event in February and if it needs to be cancelled, Pitti Connect will take over. The digital order platform will remain online from 12 January until the end of March. Not only have we, as an industry, learnt to suffer blows, but also to dish them out – metaphorically speaking, of course, in our fight against the virus. We spoke to Vito Catalano, Head of Distribution at Alife & Kickin (page 13), Frederik Fritz Sturm, Arys founder & CEO and Kay Heldsdörfer, Brand Director of Arys (page 15), as well as Marco Lanowy, Managing Director of Alberto (page 14) about what they have learnt from the crisis and what’s on their todo lists for the future. And speaking of the future: to find out what the AW21 season’s collections will bring and see our round-up of the best newcomers, head over to page 8.

The face on this issue’s cover, Klaus Kirschner, CEO of Stetson Europe, met up with Pierre D’Aveta in Cologne for an interview in person (all while respecting social distancing rules and before the latest lockdown, of course), where he revealed what brought him to Stetson and why you need guts to wear hats. Read his answers to these questions and more from page 18. We also caught up in person with Ralf Kellenberger, who only just launched his label in summer 2020 – find out what a basketball injury had to do with his career trajectory from page 22. And in our interview starting on page 26, Eveline Schönleber, Managing Director & Shareholder of MAC, explains to our editor Cynthia Blasberg what modern company management entails and how the brand’s sustainability agenda is being accepted by the retail sector. ‘The Last Word’ in this issue goes to Juan Carlos Gardillo on page 30. His heart beats for fair denim – a passion that we all share. I hope this issue brings you not only information and inspiration, but also a bit of welcome distraction from all the turmoil and trouble out there. The next time you see us will be in the upcoming issue of J’N’C Magazine. Until then, you can still find us online as usual. So, stay healthy, look after yourselves and, whatever you do, don’t allow the vacuum to suck all the optimism out of you!


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Club of Gents

New formalwear Copenhagen Studios

Bag to basics Accessories fans will be pleased to hear that the footwear label has now added bags to its portfolio. The design references the minimalist boots and sneakers by Copenhagen Studios and is such a perfect match that you’ll be asking yourself how you managed without a CPH bag for so long. For now, the range consists of just three models: ‘CPH 1’ to ‘CPH 3’. ‘CPH 1’ is a shopper available in smooth leather and suede. The smooth leather version comes in black and white, and the suede bag is available in five colourways including navy, natural and graphite. With sleek lines, its features take a minimalist approach: the bag does without inner lining and is fastened with a simple carabiner hook. ‘CPH 2’ is a midsized shoulder bag made of black smooth leather with a zip and cotton lining. The strap can be adjusted and thanks to its rounded, crescent-shaped silhouette, the ‘CPH 2’ adapts to your every move. And last but not least: the ‘CPH 3’ in black is a sporty cross-body bag. /cb copenhagenstudios.com

The boundaries are blurring – while there was no getting around a split suit in the past, it’s all about mixing and matching as you please these days. Since the vast majority of our time is now spent in our own homes, it’s perfectly fine to team a blazer with jeans and suit trousers with a print shirt every now and again. Proving that they got the memo, British menswear brand Club of Gents is bringing out a collection inspired by ‘the new normal’ for autumn/winter 2021. Fully lined bomber jacket ‘CG Ave’ is the centrepiece of the collection and can be combined with the ‘CG Cameron’ trouser models

Marc O’Polo Windsor

From Zurich with love

Upper casual

When traditional meets modern and business meets working from home: like no other year before it, 2020 has reinforced the necessity for innovation when it comes to comfort. This is also something that timelessly elegant Swiss fashion label Windsor is focusing on. Both in their men’s and the ladies’ collection, the autumn/winter 2021 season is all about combining classic pieces like blazers, chinos and blazers with luxuriously cosy items like knitwear, sweatshirts and hoodies. The ladies’ collection also boasts a new jacket style based on the classic denim jacket – not to mention long tweed coats and lambskin pieces. Coats are also playing a key role in the men’s collection and setting clear statements with voluminous cuts. Beyond that, the focus for the men is on ‘smartwear’, which includes split suits, chinos, round-neck sweaters and long-sleeve jerseys. Also playing an important role are the ‘Travel Collection’ that combines protection and function and the ‘Earth’ series that puts the spotlight on sustainability. /rd

‘Natural Simplicity’ is the overarching theme of the brand’s casual collection for autumn/winter 2021. Sleek, minimal and warm are three words that can be used to describe Marc O’Polo’s winter vision. Their response to the quest for essence and simplicity is a capsule wardrobe consisting of high-quality and sustainable key pieces: think organic cotton, loose and summery silhouettes and uncomplicated leisurewear in understated, natural colour tones, which go by romantic-sounding names like Dusty Lemon, Golden Hour and Blue Carnation. But the base colour palette is more down to earth with chalk-like grey tones and sleek off-white. Maximum minimalism is the message being sent out by Marc O’Polo, expressed in the form of durable key pieces that harmonise perfectly with one another and are sustainable: new organic knits, organic cotton styles with dip-dye effect and a sustainable down collection. The star of the coming winter is a modular ‘Big Puffer Coat’ with diamond quilting look and detachable sleeves. A collection that puts a new and modern twist on the preppy style. /cb




with turn-ups and chain, or the new cropped ‘CG Ned’ jeans in the washes Mid Blue or Light Blue. Rounded off with shirts with lapel collars and modern coats, such as the new A-line model ‘CG Merwin’, the collection offers a wide range of modern office styles. The colour palette ranges from earthy tones like brown, beige and grey to ochre and red to add a pop of colour. Classic patterns like tonal checks add a calming influence. /rd cg.fashion




Authentic sportswear


Oceans’ for September and ‘Protect the Forest’ for October with innovation and having fun with fashion both playing a decisive role. Together with a fashionable take on each individual theme, a muted colour palette and natural and recycled materials define the collections. /cm

The autumn/winter 2021 collection by sportswear brand Kappa is both comfortable and on trend. This season will see the label return to the popular 90s look and revisit some of its most popular styles. And what would the 90s be without the logo print? In Kappa’s autumn/winter collection, it is making an appearance as full relief embroidery or a woven logo tape and emphasises the fashionable sportiness of each of the pieces. The range includes jogging pants, sweatshirts, training jackets and half-zip and long hoodies. In terms of colour, sage green is setting the tone for the men, while the ladies’ looks are dazzling in vibrant purple – not to mention classic black-and-white combos. Other key trends include marble prints and teddy looks. The collection is rounded off by a selection of accessories including bags and hats. /rd



Forces for change In these turbulent times, s.Oliver’s autumn/winter 2021 collection is reminding us of our affinity with nature. As part of their We Care pledge, ‘Forces for Change’ is heralding the transition to a new awareness and proving it is possible to combine fashion and trends in a responsible way. Every month, they will be linking urban men’s and womenswear looks with key environmental issues including ‘Help Endangered Species’ for August, ‘Save the

Givn Berlin


Big hug

Style x function

Givn Berlin’s autumn/winter 2021 collection has the title ‘Embrace’ and is the Berlin eco and fair fashion label’s way of expressing a huge sense of longing, which it is translating into soft silhouettes and warm colour tones – conveyed by teddy, knitwear in cashmere blends and soft and flowing jersey. For the first time, Givn is working with a cashmere-modal fabric that is making an appearance in V-neck sweaters and turtlenecks. Classic cable-knit patterns can be found both in the women’s and menswear collections for a sleek winter look. By the way: all the knitwear is made from certified materials and the wool comes from certified organic animal husbandry. Givn is renowned for its reduced tailoring, a simplicity that is also reflected in its patterns and prints. The coordinated collections make it easy to mix and match the styles beyond the current season. And the collection composition also offers a new structure for order and delivery dates. /cb givnberlin.com

Alberto focuses on the essentials, working first and foremost towards more quality, something that has been firmly embedded in the trouser specialist’s DNA for almost 100 years now. The Mönchengladbach-based company has been working on the details of its brand identity and redesigned its logo studs and edging tapes, as well as using three-coloured buttons and material mixes on the inside waistband and pocket pouches for the autumn/winter 2021 season. But it’s not only the small things that count: their Hybrid Sports Pants reflect the current overwhelming need for comfortable leisurewear, which is why the range has been expanded. Perfect for all-day wear, the fabrics boast extras such as Stretch Energy with a brushed, water-repellent, warming and breathable fabric on the inside. A must-have in winter are the pants from the wool range with major fashion credentials in a retro striped design, glen plaid or Oxford-look check patterns. And cropped slim-fit chino ‘Rob-C’ is made from Organic Cotton Army Twill and equipped with flap pockets and stitching. All in all, a balanced collection that masters the art of combining the fashion zeitgeist with the ultimate quality and functionality. /cb alberto-pants.com




Camel Active

On the move Timberland

Climate-neutral by 2030

Under the name ‘Un-Routed Explorer’, Camel Active is presenting durable and functional looks for autumn/winter 2021. These include a number of organic and recycled fabrics and the newly developed, PFC and PTFE-free membrane teXXXactive, which is not only sustainable but also breathable and waterproof. From the autumn/winter 2021 season, this will be an integral part of Camel Active’s functional jackets. Marco End, Head of Menswear, and his team looked to authentic workwear as their inspiration. This explains why the focus is on cord, material mix-

es and rough and ready details like triple quilting, zippers and reinforcing tapes. The core idea behind the design of the collection was the cross-seasonal durability of the individual styles. Key pieces for autumnal layered looks include field jackets, parkas, utility shirts, cargo pants and boots. In these times of working from home, the collection also offers jersey styles as comfortable indoor alternatives. /rd

Timberland has set itself the mission of having a net positive impact on nature by 2030. To achieve this goal, the outdoor lifestyle brand is concentrating on eco innovations and its ‘Earthkeepers Edition’. For the autumn/winter 2021 season, they are presenting future-oriented new collections that should inspire people around the world to discover nature – and offering them the right gear to do just that, ensuring that they are protected from the elements and comfortable with every step they take. But urban exploration tours are also part of the Timberland philosophy. And to ensure our love of the great outdoors doesn’t lead to us inadvertently harming it, Timberland’s boots, shoes and jackets have been designed with nature in mind – following the ethos of giving the environment something back rather than just taking from it. Timberland is replacing 75 percent of the fossil-based materials usually found in EVA midsoles with renewable sugarcane and responsibly sourced natural rubber to make a natural, comfortable foam. And in the apparel segment, the brand is launching Re:Down insulation, which is made from 100 percent recovered and recycled down and feathers. ‘EK+’ is being added to the names of the products in the ‘Earthkeepers Edition’ collection that fulfils Timberland’s highest environmental standards. /cm timberland.de



A piece of history For autumn/winter 2021, British lifestyle brand Barbour is presenting a collection with a classic autumn colour palette that is also a nod to the brand’s unique character. Barbour dates back to the year 1894, when John Barbour opened his first shop in the coastal town of South Shields in the north-east of England. He established himself by selling all-weather clothing, which he made for sailors, fishermen and dock workers. Maritime men’s theme ‘Naval’ is now referencing this heritage and offering robust jackets made of waxed cotton, quilted nylon and waterproof, breathable materials with functional features like hoods and drawcords. Additional lines in the menswear collection include ‘Tartan’ and ‘White Label’. Barbour’s tartan pattern has always been an unmistakeable hallmark of the brand and ‘White Label’ is Barbour in its purest form. The women’s line also references the maritime theme. ‘Coastal’ is a versatile selection of jackets made of waxed cotton, quilted nylon, fleece and waterproof, breathable materials. ‘Modern Heritage’ is an homage to the company founder’s Scottish roots and Barbour’s extensive archive dating back to the year 1910. And based on Barbour’s archive pieces, the luxurious ‘Re-Engineered for Today’ collection offers wax and quilted jackets in modern silhouettes. As a member of the Better Cotton Initiative, from this season 100 percent of Barbour’s waxed cotton will be sourced through BCI. /cm barbour.com


Supreme weatherwear What’s life like at the moment? If you were to ask G-Lab, they would say it’s challenging, which is why they are delivering an autumn/winter collection for 2021 that should make things easier for us. Or at least as far as the choice of functional and well-designed outerwear is concerned. In GLab’s typical ‘fashion meets contemporary’ approach, they are presenting six new ladies’ styles as well as successful bestsellers like ‘Blossom’, ’Sakura’, ‘Flow’ and ‘Miora’ that will come in new high-tech fabrics and colours for AW21. The men’s collection also offers puffer styles and fashion parkas in different variations and lengths, including ‘Orbit’ and ‘Terra’, as well as the new edition of the popular G-Lab icons ‘Commander’ and ‘Explorer II’. A real highlight of the men’s collection is the newly developed high-performance material ‘Eco Tech’, which is made of 100 percent recycled nylon. And so with styles like ‘Orbit’, ‘Terra’, ‘Globe’, ‘Commander II’ and ‘Explorer II’, G-Lab is also offering sustainable jackets for the first time. In addition to their ‘Eco Tech’ shell material, they are also made with a 100 percent recycled polyester inner lining and PrimaLoft insulation consisting of 70 percent recycled polyester, therefore still guaranteeing the waterproof, windproof and breathable properties that G-Lab is renowned for. /cm g-lab.com



Brands closed / R.M. williams


WE NEED TO SLOW DOWN The autumn/winter 2021 collection by German label Closed has the title ‘Slow Down’ and is actually more of a mantra that aims to address the challenges we are currently facing. During the ongoing pandemic, Closed has recognised that people are longing for old values and a connection with nature. And to reflect that, the collection makes a clear statement while also satisfying our current need for protection and comfort. That applies to both the women’s and the men’s collection, the former of which focuses on effortless and timeless looks. Two unexpected figures have provided the inspiration for the AW21 womenswear collection: Richard Buckminster Fuller, architectural icon, designer, philosopher, writer and sustainability pioneer of the 20th century and German dancer and icon of the international dance scene Pina Bausch. A combination that adds a truly unique touch while still fusing effortlessly with our modern lifestyle. Freedom of movement, cross-seasonality and adaptability are just as important keywords as casualness and boundary-blurring. All of this has resulted in laid-back, slightly oversized pieces that stand out with their softness and flowing appearance. Nothing seems heavy or forced, yet the look is still stylish and to the point – which no doubt has a lot to do with the earthy and calming colour palette. But despite all the time we are

currently spending at home, Closed hasn’t chosen to eschew a strong denim collection. Looks include the new ‘Nolin’, a wide-leg fit jean with a slightly gathered waist or the new boxy denim jacket with wide shoulders. The autumn look for men is more reduced and functional, with a certain timeless simplicity running through the collection. And so upgraded basics and updated materials meet utility-inspired menswear essentials – or, in the words of Closed, “new meets familiar”. Utility elements subtly break up clearly structured basics, which, thanks to the technically inspired fabrics, are ideal for the autumn months. But Closed is thinking beyond the seasons and placing great emphasis on layering and durability. As well as the materials themselves, also playing a key role here are the loose silhouettes that Closed has also applied to everything from sports and workwear to minimalist tailoring. And the same goes for the denims from the men’s line: the new ‘Red Cast’ fit exudes an urban look, while ‘Slow Down’ also boasts a wide selection of sustainable denims and eco-friendly washing and dyeing techniques. /cm closed.com

R.M. Williams

From the Australian Outback to the rest of the world There are brands that simply don’t need a storytelling strategy because they write their own history. That is certainly true of R.M. Williams, RMW for short, because anyone who makes history is more than entitled to go by their three initials. In this case they are the initials of the founder of the Australian footwear brand – Reginald Murray Williams, who was already a legend in his own impressively long lifetime, which spanned almost a century from 1908 to 2003. Seasonal trends and looks are usually the drivers of the fashion business, including footwear labels. But things are different at R.M. Williams: the signature model of the Australian brand is still a boot made from a single piece of leather. It is available in various versions with different toe shapes, heels and soles. But at their core, all boots, whether for men or women, can be traced back to the design and the quality of the founding years in the 1930s. Originally developed by R.M. Williams for the farmers of the Australian Outback, they had to be pretty robust and fit perfectly. RMW also offers a range of widths for its Chelsea boots as well as half sizes. Several models like the Lady Yearling Boot or the

Burnished Comfort Craftman Boot for men are made on demand. At RMW they are especially proud of the fact that their clients wear their boots for decades and send them back to be repaired again and again. They have their Boot Repair Room especially for this service, where everything from the soles to the stitching down to the elastic inserts can be renewed and replaced. Because just like in the old days, every shoe is made by hand in 80 different steps. But globalisation hasn’t just passed RMW by: in 1989 the brand opened its first store in London and another in New York in 2016. Since November 2016, customers have been able to order their shoes online from all over the world. Alongside Australia and New Zealand, other key markets are the United Kingdom and Scandinavia. Europe, accounting for 36 percent of sales, is the top region for wholesale exports. And their product offer has also grown with leather goods like bags and belts being added and even outerwear and other apparel rounding off the range. But the true legend in this story is and remains the boots. /cb rmwilliams.com



LABELS TO WATCH Carcel / Buck bags / terry towelling

Buck Bags Carcel

A good conscience Carcel does everything differently. Established in 2016, the label attaches great importance to sustainable, local production, high-quality fabrics, durability and the welfare of its female employees, all of whom are incarcerated in prisons in Carcel’s producing countries Peru and Thailand. Most of the inmates are single mothers, who have committed non-violent and poverty-related crimes and who, thanks to Carcel, are being given an opportunity to work and learn a skill that will help equip them for the future. Each piece by the brand is signed by the woman who made it, which is another way of honouring their work. Peru and Thailand were deliberately chosen as production sites – the natural, sustainable materials are sourced directly from the local regions and processed there. Carcel’s knitwear is made from luxurious baby alpaca wool from the Andes, while the silk comes from Thailand, where the brand is also profiting from the rich hand-weaving traditions. To avoid overproduction, the company produces in limited quantities and the simplicity of the pieces ensures that they are timeless and can be worn beyond seasons and trends. The collections are designed to last and, if they are taken good care of, can be worn for a lifetime. One last point that Carcel has implemented in its philosophy is its radical price transparency: on their website, the brand shows the cost breakdown of the final sales prices of each individual item. /rd carcel.co


Wearable sculptures Artwork or bag? Breaking all design conventions, Berlin artist Dennis Buck launched his Buck Bags label in November 2020. The handbag models are a mix between a sculpture, functional item and ‘it’ piece, with the unusual design made of silicone making each and every one of them a real eyecatcher. As a material, silicone allows the artist to create sculptural bag designs and therefore blur the boundaries between fashion and art. All the one-off pieces have playful shapes and, according to the artist, represent optimism, irony and self-expression – but always in a tongue-in-cheek way. Dennis Buck invests his many years of experience in painting and his work with fabrics and sculptures in Buck Bags. All these elements have been reflected in the launch of his own handbag brand – and the recently launched mini-sized models share the same appeal. They come in six spring-like, bright colourways and have ‘Buck’ lettering on the bottom of the bag. The campaign images, both of the first launch as well as of the minis, fit perfectly into the concept: the first one shows the bags being worn by models, but also presents them as individual objets d’art in cars and amid nature. And in the shoot for the latter, they were showcased against the backdrop of a retro office interior. The collections, consisting of only a few unique designs, are available to purchase from the label’s website. /rd buckbags.xyz

Terry Towelling

California dreamin’ Australia is whisking us off to 70s California – or as close as we can get without jumping on a plane: resort wear brand Terry Towelling from Down Under is perfectly capturing the beach vibe of the 1970s. Inspired by European summers and classic American poolside attire, the label has lavished all its attention on one fabric in particular: terry towelling, hence the name. Last summer, it was mainly terry towelling bucket hats that were riding high in the fashion stakes for the beach girls of Instagram – and the resort collection for 2021 is continuing the beachy, bright theme. New colourways like Mandarin, Almond, Lavender, Sunflower and Pistachio, which sound like delectable ice cream flavours, are finding their way into the collection and getting us in the mood for next summer or – hopefully sometime soon – our next beach vacay. Along with tailored and body-hugging shapes, classic, wide-cut silhouettes define the look of the pieces made of high-quality terry towelling. All styles are designed to be combined – two-piece sets will continue to play an important role in the new year and with Terry Towelling you can mix and match your favourite looks. Whether you opt for a kimono, shirt or singlet, or the slightly warmer, long-sleeved styles for balmy summer evenings, you’ll be beach-ready in no time. /rd terry-t.com



The future is bright, the future is sustainable Streetwear brand Alife & Kickin has been dedicated to sustainability and fair fashion since 2008. While the COVID-19 pandemic has left its mark on Alife & Kickin just like everyone else, the brand is still looking positively to the future and seeing its fashion customers customers becoming more aware and attaching more importance to sustainability. That’s a good sign for the future of the German brand, according to its Head of Distribution, Vito Catalano.

Interview: Renée Diehl

Let’s start with the ongoing matter of COVID-19: how has Alife & Kickin been dealing with the pandemic? It’s obviously also affecting us, but we aren’t letting it get us down. And the way we work with our customers is more structured, more focused and more empathetic than before. What effect has the year had on the brand, in terms of your range on offer, but also how you deal with retailers? What has changed? As we don’t want to dwell on just the negatives, here are the positive changes we’ve seen: cooperation between retailers and suppliers has become closer and more personal. Conversations, including the crisis talks via video conferencing, have been really understanding and solution-oriented.

The online business can’t work without stationary retail. How do you see the digital development and its relevance for retail? Is the coexistence of the two something that will be important in the future? Absolutely! The online business can’t work without stationary retail – and vice versa. Perhaps the focus is shifting at the moment. While online retail serves the basis segment, the entire experiential aspect of shopping usually found in bricks-and-mortar retail is currently non-existent. Fingers crossed that we will be able to get back to real-life experiences soon! What consequences is the pandemic having on sustainability? Do you sense a change in the customers? Are they making the shift towards ethical consumption?

I think that especially in these more mindful times, consumers’ buying patterns are driven to a certain extent by emotion: what is healthy, what is good for me, what can I support? In my opinion sustainable brands are better positioned than ever. Which is good for us, because sustainability was a high priority at our label long before the pandemic and we have become greener and more innovative with every collection.

The idea behind our ‘Choose Life’ campaign was the large step we took in terms of sustainability, which definitely had an influence on the design process. The campaign shoot for the collection was dedicated entirely to mindfulness. This current topic connects to the topic of sustainability more than ever. It could be read as an appeal to our customers: take responsibility for yourselves and your environment – in crisis situations as well as when buying clothes. Choose life. Choose sustainability. Choose personality. Choose charity. Choose LOVE. #wearelife.

You would have been represented at various tradeshows in 2020. What does the cancellation of these shows mean for Alife & Kickin Let’s stay on the subject of trends and COVID and and which strategies are you using to at least look ahead to the future: do you think the main partially replace them? focus of demand in the post-pandemic world will still be on cosy casualwear or will this trend start Yes, that’s right. Since establishing Alife & Kickin, to fade? we’ve exhibited at various Berlin fashion fairs It’s quite possible that the world of work will increastwice a year. As the touch and feel of our Vito Catalano ingly shift its focus to working-from-home options. collections is a strong selling point, the lack But whichever direction the trends develop in, I am of tradeshows is really regrettable. But we are happy that the design team of Alife & Kickin pretty much has the placing a new focus on our European showrooms with the local whole cosy and casual aspect covered. sales reps there – true to the motto “people buy from people”. At the same time, we are continually working on improving our And finally, what lies ahead for Alife & Kickin and what goals digital showrooms to ensure that the ordering processes are eashave you set for yourselves in 2021? ier, faster and, above all, more sustainable. Digitalisation is also Despite none of us knowing how 2021 will develop, we’ve still got determining our day-to-day life when it comes to trade fairs. Alife big plans: as a brand we not only want to present our collections, & Kickin will be exhibiting virtually at the Bielefeld online order but also spread our story and our message. We aren’t done with days as well as at the Digital Fashion Week on the Fashion Cloud the topic of sustainability by a long stretch. Alife & Kickin is continplatform. We are looing forward to meeting all visitors that stop uing to grow and we are planning, for example, to make all our by virtually! packaging recyclable. We also want to invest in charity projects and give something back to the environment. With its campaign title ‘Choose Life’, the AW21 collection seems to suggest that the changes we saw in 2020 were the alifeandkickin.com inspiration behind the design process. Is that true?




Marco Lanowy

Enthusiasm & pioneering spirit Alberto has managed to navigate its way safely through the COVID-19 storm, with the company’s own Concept Store also generating a good turnover throughout. In an interview, Marco Lanowy told us which concepts he thinks work best for retail and what drives Alberto. Interview: CyntHia Blasberg

You launched your new Alberto online magazine ʻAZineʼ this November. What was the motivation behind it and how has the feedback been so far? We realised relatively quickly that it was attracting people’s attention. It’s not only being seen, but people are really sitting up and taking notice and the consistently positive feedback is confirming that. But we see don’t really see it as a classic magazine; for us, it’s more of an exciting platform where we can write short, entertaining articles about things that interest us. And we are doing this by embedding our ideas and thoughts in a context that conveys the Alberto cosmos and lifestyle. According to Li Edelkoort’s recent trend forecast, we will be seeing “a mix of activewear with fashion” in summer 2022. I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that because Alberto has been focusing on fashion paired with functionality and materiality for a while now. What both inspires and challenges you? Our enthusiasm for innovation is ingrained in our DNA. But for almost the last 100 years, you can see that each of our collections has encapsulated the pioneering spirit that drives the development of our trousers from one season to the next. Currently, for example, we have a linen trouser in ‘Dynamic Superfit’. By adding a mere two percent elastane, we can achieve an impressive elasticity of 30 percent. The great thing is that not only are the trousers extremely comfortable, but they also have great bounce-back qualities. Everyone knows what normal linen looks like, especially in hot summer temperatures. Okay, sometimes that’s the desired effect – crumpled linen can also look quite classy. But there are also occasions where that look just isn’t suitable. That’s why with these trousers it was important for us to make the most of all the advantages linen offers, combined with a material that can really hold its shape. This is a prime example of what motivates Alberto and demonstrates how we experiment with design and materials to perfect our cuts, form, function and sustainability. Our ultimate aim is the perfect symbiosis of creativity and perfectionism. Or, to put it another way: a contemporary mix of experimentation and 100 years of trouser tailoring expertise.


Edelkoort also said that she expects stores to reduce the size of their product assortments and focus if they want to survive. What do you think the future of stationary fashion retail will hold? I think product expertise and focus are two really important elements. Going shopping shouldn’t just be like walking into a warehouse stacked full of goods. Of course customers want to be able to experience a product and be inspired and persuaded of its values. So everyone in our industry – and naturally that includes retail, regardless of the store’s size – needs to stand for something. Customers appreciate well thought-out product ranges and excellent customer service. Those that do it well and concentrate on an inspiringly put-together portfolio and convey their expertise will prove popular among customers. Even amid the pandemic, your Alberto Concept Store in Mönchengladbach has been reporting very good sales. What’s your explanation for that? With the Concept Store in our hometown, we started sending out a signal about our expertise and service years ago – by providing a carefully conceived and clearly defined offer and because we fulfil people’s wishes. I should remind you that our clientele comes from as far away as 300 kilometres to buy our trousers. They shop with us because we have great products and also offer excellent customer service. To what extent can the success of the Alberto concept store be applied to other sales areas, such as your pop-up stores, for example? In my opinion, you need to fill every product with life. That also applies to us. The human factor is decisive in retail. Specialist sales staff are more important than ever before. If we could implement that even more successfully in the retail trade, it would be a huge win. We need enthusiastic people and professionals on the shop floors who can show an interest in the customers’ needs and find out what they want. But to do that, you need to be able to understand your customers first.

What are the elements that make for a perfect store? If, as a customer, you get the impression that the sales assistant knows their way around the world you live in, then you automatically form a kind of connection. You feel like you’re in good hands. Just a mere presentation of the products, no matter how good, is no replacement for this feeling of being understood. The sales assistant and their background knowledge also play a crucial role because it’s in their hands how much and what the customer buys. It is their job to figure out where the strengths of individual brands lie so they can then buy in products based on that and also showcase them in their best light. So, moving away from a convenience store feel, a well-selected range can really go the extra mile. The priority topic for the future is sustainability. And obviously this also plays a role at Alberto. Germany’s Federal Development Minister Dr Gerd Müller wants to get a supply chain law passed by the end of this legislative period. What is Alberto’s stance on that? When it comes down to it, it’s a shame that we even need a supply chain law. The proposed criteria, such as linking it to the number of employees, show where the focus lies. The draft law doesn’t affect us at all at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we are shirking our responsibilities. On the contrary in fact: at Alberto, every consumer can find out what they want to know about the manufacturing and procurement process. However, I am firmly convinced that this can only be the first step of many – the term ‘circular economy’ comes to mind. Here’s a little example: at Alberto, we pay a lot of attention to how much of the material we use can be recycled – and how sustainable that actually is in reality. The use of recyclable materials often has very little to do with the conservation of resources. And – at least if you want to look at the bigger picture – there are other factors. The longevity of products, for instance. Here, too, retail buyers play a decisive role because surpluses can be avoided if more thought is put into the buying process. And the consumer is also part of this cycle. Which brings us to the crux of the matter: we are all part of the bigger picture and all need to play our part. alberto-pants.com


Brains behind the Brands Frederik Fritz Sturm, founder & CEO and Kay Heldsdörfer, Brand Director, Arys

A ROUNDABOUT WAY TO SUCCESS Arys, pronounced ‘Air-ris’, is one of those young sustainable outerwear labels that is way ahead of its time – or at least way ahead of the country that it comes from. Functional, minimalist and futuristic are three words that perfectly encapsulate the spirit of the Berlin brand. J’N’C News met up with its founder Frederik ‘Fritz’ Sturm and Brand Director Kay Heldsdörfer for a virtual interview. We found out what Arys is doing to defy the climate crisis, what they learnt from 2020 and, above all, what German fashion professionals and end consumers can still learn from the Japanese. Interview: Cheryll Mühlen

Fritz, you don’t originally come from a fashion background – how did you end up establishing Arys in 2014? Fritz: I had finished my studies and was working in the health sector as a company consultant, but still living in the Neukölln district of Berlin in a student flat. We were all real tracksuit fans and I was permanently on the lookout for an all-in-one solution: tracksuits that you can wear pretty much anywhere. When the mass-manufacturing textile factory Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh in April 2013, I had the seed of an idea in my head to create my own responsible anti-fast-fashion label. So my flatmate and I started doing some sketches and coming up with the first cool functional aspects. Through friends of friends, I met some people who were working in the fashion sector who then made us our first prototypes. Somewhere along the line, Ispo heard about us and we even won an award – and from then on, things just kept moving in the direction we are now going in. That’s a very brief summary. Turning up at Ispo certainly increased our visibility and Japanese buyers also noticed us. German heritage style sells really well there, even though, to be honest, the German market is extremely conservative and in part really complicated. Looking back, it was quite a roundabout way of getting to where we are now because we had no idea what we were doing and tried out a lot of things, but that also helped me a lot. Whenever I was told that something wasn’t possible, I wasn’t always prepared to accept it. How would you like the German market to change? Kay: I have a request for the end consumer: it would be great if they would think a little bit more about what they buy. The other request is directed at the sector in general: stop filling the market with a constant flow of new products! The natural flow of products means that prices are never stable, which poses a genuine problem for us.

Kay Heldsdörfer, CPO & Brand Director

A lot of brands seem to have learnt quite a few lessons from 2020 and put together more modest autumn/winter 2021 collections. Fritz: The brands adapt to what the end consumer wants. And no doubt there is a lot more talk than action in some cases. Fashion should be regarded more as a craft than a mass product. The appreciation for Florian Gerum, CSO the work that the people behind the brands put into the products they make pretty much goes unseen. It’s a really sad state of affairs when you have to apologise to customers for prices between 500 and 600 euros. If you looked at the calculations, you would see that those are quite narrow profit margins. My wish, of course, would be that in times of COVID, people’s awareness of this would be raised. The same goes for the current store closures and the associated lack of footfall in city centres. That needs to be supported more. Simply buying less online and actually being able to hold products in your hand again. Brands like Arys really live from the quality and haptic of their products. It’s certainly not easy to ignore the digital world right now. How will Arys be adapting to this in 2021? Kay: We want to digitise our production processes for spring/ summer 2022, in order to be even more efficient, faster and to consolidate our resources – with the supplier as well as at our end.

Fritz: I am actually a little bit concerned about where this rapid digitalisation is headed, especially when it comes to trade fairs. If everything goes digital then it’s no longer about the best products anymore, but more about the best graphic designers, photographers and videographers. Our core USP is good products and not good videos. Talking of products, what are the plans for your collections in future? Considering that the winters seem to be getting warmer… Kay: We see a lot of potential in breaking up the traditional concept of seasons. That’s why we no longer have classic autumn/ winter or spring/summer collections. Of course we still stick to the drop dates, but Arys has a seasonally-independent collection that is updated or improved regularly. In addition to that – for autumn/ winter 2021 – we introduced what we call our ‘Trans-Seasonal’ products, which are based on the layering principle. You can wear the pieces from that collection from October until March, perhaps even into the summer if you leave out the warmer layers. Fritz: It’s important to me that we don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel, but that we are also future-oriented, because we already design products today that would still work fine in ten years. The most you can expect as a designer is to create a signature design that always works and will stand the test of time. Let’s get back to the topic of Japan. The country gave you a kickstart and their approach to fashion is quite different to the one here in Germany. Which values do you think you could transport to the German market? Fritz: The fact that Beams got in touch with us back then was really a stroke of luck and we soon noticed that Japan is the perfect market for us. As I said, they have a deep understanding of quality, finishing and design. We’ve been selling there Frederik Fritz Sturm, since 2017 and since 2019 CEO & founder we’ve also had a loyal streetwear fanbase here in Germany. That’s likely down to our success in Japan. Buyers, at least those who know Beams, are well aware of the influence this retailer has. So it’s definitely a compliment to have been picked up by them. Kay: The Japanese curate their products. They don’t hang all squished together on carousel hangers to be rummaged through. They have a completely Matthis Sarnighausen, COO different approach to turnover per square metre. We learn a lot from them, and it also influences our work for Arys – on the one hand in terms of products, but also in terms of our philosophy. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we are rarely seen as a ‘German brand’ but more as a brand with a Japanese touch. Do you also use that ‘touch’ for your own stores? Fritz: We are planning to refresh our store concepts and definitely want to reflect the Japanese mindset. If we manage to impart some of that appreciation to the German customer that would be great. Until now every trip to Japan has been like a holiday for me. I feel appreciated there, whereas here you just get to haggle over prices! (laughing) Looking back, how did you wrap up the year 2020 and what’s in the pipeline for Arys in 2021? Fritz: Despite the difficult situation, we have managed to expand our customer base. We have succeeded in implementing clear

structures in terms of the pricing structure, as well as with regard to our product lines, ensuring that our collections will be easier to understand in future. In 2021 we will also be running our label with four partners who will be enriching the operative end of the business with their wealth of experience. In addition to our long-term COO Matthis Sarnighausen and me, Kay will be taking on the post of CPO, contributing his extensive expertise in the product management department (Jack Wolfskin, Sympatex). And the quartet will be rounded off with CSO Florian Gerum (G-Star, VF Company), who will be responsible for international distribution. Kay: The crisis also turned out to be an opportunity that we seized. But we also learnt a lot and that’s why, at the end of the year, we proactively started thinking about what it would mean if the second hard lockdown doesn’t end soon as planned. We still have a buffer before the delivery dates but what kind of retailer wants to take on products if their store doors have to remain shut? That’s why we thought about those eventualities beforehand and how we can react and what our options are. Fritz: We’re optimists. It was a good, shitty year! (laughing) But we did the best with what we had. And our positioning as a brand hasn’t suffered. Quite the contrary in fact, we’ve actually improved. The cards have been reshuffled. The whole sector has been given a good shake-up and all we can hope for now is that we all learn the right lessons from it. arys-berlin.com



Bronx and Banco


Brøgger 16Arlington

Michael Kors

Elie Saab Salvatore Ferragamo

Trends 2021


Lupe Gajardo

Pantone 17-5104 Ultimate Grey and Pantone 13-0647 Illuminating is the colour duo unveiled at the end of 2020 as Pantone Colour of the Year 2021. This is only the second time that two hues have taken the top spot – the last time was in 2016. “The union of an enduring Ultimate Grey with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude. Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a colour combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted; that is essential to the human spirit,” said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Institute.

Alexander McQueen

Xander Zhou




Illuminating (Yellow) & Ultimate Grey



ARE YOU ALSO CAUGHT UP IN THE PANDEMIC VACUUM? A new year, new opportunities, new mindset, new hope? Lately our lives have felt like a roller-coaster ride, hurtling between the emotional highs and lows of optimism and disappointment. An attempt to capture the mood and momentum of the new year.

text: cheryll mühlen

“Finally!” was the general consensus everywhere on New Year’s Eve 2020/21 when the clocks struck midnight and everyone seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. We’ve all been desperate to see the back of the pandemic year, with the hope that the new 1 replacing the zero at the end of the 2020 would bring a new (better) era. 2021 – we’ve been waiting for you! But let’s be honest: 2021 is only a number. The start of a new year won’t automatically change anything about the global situation or even closer to home in our daily lives. That is more or less down to us. But how are we supposed to muster up the energy for that when we’ve been feeling less empowered than ever in the past few months? The phrase that springs to mind here is ʻpandemic fatigueʼ. Many of us feel like we are in a kind of emotional vacuum that isolates us from any extreme reactions. We are neither particularly exuberant, hopeful or optimistic, nor are we extremely afraid, sceptical or pessimistic. No doubt this is one of the side effects of the constant onslaught of headlines with all its COVID-related terms and phrases such as pandemic, lockdown, social distancing, infection rates, protests, conspiracy theories etc. Sometimes it can all get a bit too much. But just burying your head in the sand and ignoring the whole thing would be akin to refusing to look reality in the eye, a mere avoidance tactic. We are also becoming immunised to the horrors of the pandemic news, countless exaggerated predictions about the immediate future or the confusing lack of action from the politicians – and we’re not just referring to our own rather hesitant government, but globally too. Although at least we had some good news from across the pond at the end of last year: the official inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the USA on 20 January 2021 and the accompa-

nying inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first female and first woman of colour as Vice President marks a politically and socially important turning point, a sign of stability in times of radical instability. Let’s hope that an element of peace will now come to the White House and with it also more peaceful times for the country that has been so bitterly divided by Donald Trump. Have a break(down)? A sense of peace is something we all sorely need right now. Over the festive period, many had hoped for a respite from the craziness. But a lot of the potential distraction that these days traditionally hold in store – even sledging on nearby hills or mountains – were declared high risk activities. Museums and galleries are shut, Netflix has lost its allure and we’re all dreaming of something to do other than just going for walks in the park. Yes, of course these are luxury problems. But we were so busy longing for 2021 to come around that we forgot we were going to have to take the challenges of 2020 with us into the new year. So the break seems, in retrospect, little more than a quick gasp for air before diving straight back under again. So how can we break through this apathetic feeling, the melancholy, the contradictions, the frayed nerves, the lack of decision and the confusing flood of information? The only important New Year’s resolution for 2021 While subdued disillusionment may have replaced our initial anticipation, we really need to hold on to the tangible prospects and keep them firmly in our sights. The vaccine is one of them. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said as much on 5 January

2021 in a press conference about the plan to curb travel within Germany: the restriction of 15 kilometres for regions with a weekly incidence rate of 200 and higher per 100,000 people doesn’t perhaps look like good news to be kicking the new year off, but the vaccines are providing us with “a perspective for a normalisation of everyday life and a return to a life without pandemic-related restrictions.” And of course she’s right. Because herd immunity, and that is the new collective hope, could be achieved by the middle or end of the year at the latest. We don’t know that for a fact. We can only hope. And that hope is definitely more justified in 2021 than in 2020. No question: it’s difficult not to be overwhelmed by the sustained lockdown, the restrictions on social interaction, job and money worries and rising (rather than falling) infection rates. But amidst the sobering projections, a certain determination is also making itself felt. 2021 is giving us reason to be optimistic, even if the finish line still seems a long way off. Every crisis also holds an opportunity – that’s something we said here at J’N’C back in spring 2020. And even though this saying may have worn a little thin over the last few months, it is still valid. Okay, the longed-for return to normality won’t come until the second half of the year. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But as Matthias Horx, author of the Future Report for 2021 and founder of the Zukunftsinstitut (Future Institute) wrote: “We have left our crumbling comfort zone behind us. But with regard to the future, that’s not a bad thing.” The report promisingly brands 2021 as “the year of decisions”. So we may as well decide right now to learn to use the vacuum to our advantage – not as a depressing state of limbo but as a turning point between the past and future. And who knows? Perhaps this will allow us to break out of the exhausting groundhog-day feeling and take back some control for ourselves.



Brains behind the Brands Klaus kirschner, CEO of Stetson Europe


HATS Klaus Kirschner has been in the hat business “for a hell of a long time”. He was 16 when he started his apprenticeship at a hat wholesaler in Nuremberg. From there he gradually worked his way up before joining the ranks of Stetson and becoming the majority shareholder of Friedrich W. Schneider in 2007 – the company that has owned the European license for the traditional US brand since 1998. We met up with the CEO at the company’s Cologne headquarters to talk about attitude, 2020 and, of course, hats.

Interview: Cheryll Mühlen with Pierre D’Aveta, Photos: Markus Bronold

In the old days, people didn’t leave the house without a hat – men and women included. But that’s no longer the case. So what kind of significance do hats and caps have these days? For my generation, who were practically forced by their mothers to wear a hat only to pull it off again as soon as we were out of sight, we are now living in a world in which headwear is clearly a fashion statement. Hats are no longer a normal part of the streetscape, and I don’t think we’re going to see that again anytime soon, but a hat or a cap can make a statement and really emphasise an outfit. And without wanting to sound too preachy, scorching hot sun can burn the scalp and as unfortunately not all men are blessed with a head of thick hair, a hat can also provide useful protection. But what about in this era of working from home – away from sunny outdoor places? We have noticed that a lot of people have been buying hats especially to wear at home. That saves them the effort of styling their hair in the mornings and after their Zoom call, they can just take it off again. Our goal, and this is what makes Stetson so exciting, is to cater to as many income groups as possible with a democratic collection. And as we are a niche product, we also want to – and have to – cater to as many age groups as possible. It really makes me smile when jeans designers say things like: “My target customer is between 25 and 45 and earns X euros a month.” I can’t think like that. I make caps and hats for anyone and everyone all over the world, regardless of whether they are 18 or 90. Even if you make caps and hats for everyone – fedoras, trilbies, Panama hats, peaked caps or bucket hats – individual hat styles are regularly elevated to mainstream trend status. Baseball caps or beanies, for example, are


real staples now. But which styles do you think are en vogue today and what are your trend predictions for the future? The thing with hats is that – no matter if they’re straw or felt – you need to have the guts to wear them. Which means? You need to own it and feel comfortable in your own skin. If you wear a hat, you will be seen. You can put on a baseball cap or a beanie without being noticed in the masses. But in my experience, you work your way up from a beanie to a baseball cap to a sports cap and then from the sports cap to a hat at some point. But the further you get, the more you will stand out. You have to develop a strong sense of habit. And a hat is less practical. You have to take it off in the car... Maybe it’s just a cultural thing. In places like Texas, it seems like every other person is wearing a hat. Yes, but they also have cars that are so big that you don’t have to take your hat off.

The most important thing is that you see yourself and think you look amazing. That’s true. But as you said, hats are a statement and to wear one you need attitude. Above all, you need to be self-confident and authentic. What are the most important points to consider when buying a hat? I think it’s important that the hat fits you. But there are also rules of thumb. For example: a tall person can get away with wearing a larger brim,

while a short person should maybe stick with a small brim. But the most important thing is that you see yourself and think you look amazing. That’s the key. If you’re working on the shop floor, you can try and help the customer to find the right hat for them, but you can often tell by their posture when they feel comfortable and have found a style they really like.

Hamburg and Frankfurt, as well as one on the German island of Sylt, which is also managed by our Berlin partner. Then there is another location in Perugia, Italy that’s managed by one of our customers. We are in the process of continuing our expansion plans, but it needs to be fun for both sides.

Selling hats is a pretty unique business… Let’s put it this way: more trousers are sold than hats. But the nice thing about hats and caps is that you can just put them on and don’t need to spend much time in the changing room. Just go into the store, put on different hats and try them out. So it’s better to try on one too many than too few.

The important thing is to concentrate on the things we can influence ourselves. There’s no point in complaining about something you can’t change anyway.

How is the market doing? Are you satisfied with the way hats and caps are being showcased or would you like to see an improvement? I firmly believe that every store should stock hats. This has nothing to do with my own interests, it’s simply what I think. But for many retailers it’s a challenge to find the space for hats on the shop floor. If you calculate sales per square metre, it doesn’t seem as lucrative because you need a relatively large amount of space to display hats – simply for the fact that you need to have different sizes in stock. In our stores, of course, we do this well. All stores have a system that ensures a good mix of individual presentation and having different sizes to hand. It’s important for a customer to be able to pick out the right size for themselves if there is no sales assistant nearby to help them. Does Stetson have any mono-brand stores in Germany? Actually, no. All our stationary retail spaces are run by our partners. We have them in Berlin,

What makes Stetson so unique and why should people come to you rather than going anywhere else? When it comes to quality and performance, we are way ahead of the game. I don’t want to brag and say that we are the best of the best in every product group, but when it comes to good value for money, Stetson products always come out on top. And that’s exactly what we aim for when we make the collections. Our prices aren’t just based on the brand name ‘Stetson’; they are justified by the fact that our products really are worth the price. Your product development is in-house and you manufacture mainly in Europe, but you also sell the American products. Correct? We produce wherever we can – with one caveat: that we do it with the best manufacturer for that product. But let’s be honest, getting a baseball cap manufactured anywhere other than China


Brains behind the Brands Klaus kirschner, CEO of Stetson Europe

According to Klaus Kirschner, if you want to make a statement, wear a hat.



Brains behind the Brands Klaus kirschner, CEO of Stetson Europe

Hats are easy to transport – as demonstrated here by a member of the Stetson team.



Brains behind the Brands Klaus kirschner, CEO of Stetson Europe

Stetson was founded in 1865 by John Batterson Stetson in New Jersey. Since 1998, Klaus Kirschner has been running Stetson Europe and successfully carrying on the legacy.

is nonsense. Sorry, but I haven’t seen any good ones coming out of Europe or the USA. There aren’t any US factories producing decent baseball caps anymore. Is that really true? From my point of view, yes. And they all come from China anyway. So why should I go somewhere and sit down with someone and explain how to make a baseball cap when someone already does it well elsewhere? And even there I can pay a reasonable price for it, I can pay attention to the quality, I can pay attention to the fabrics, I can make sure everything is fine in the factory, but there’s no point in going to another country just for the sake of it. And that’s exactly what I do with the Panama hat in Ecuador because that’s where it originally comes from, after all. So you get your goods from different production facilities? Yes, worldwide. As Stetson is a traditional brand, let’s talk about your history for a moment. How do you navigate such a historic company into the future and through crises like the pandemic? There are some things you can’t influence. At some point during the crisis we sat down together and thought about what we could do. And this is a great collection. We simply have to bring great products like these onto the market, so that people can enjoy buying things again and that even if they don’t have a lot of money now, they will want to buy a new product eventually. That is the element we can influence. And with everything else, it’s our job to adjust the costs so that we can somehow ride out the storm. We have to help our

customers as much as we can and then we’ll get through it together. The important thing is to concentrate on the things we can influence ourselves. There’s no point in complaining about something you can’t change anyway. You’ve been in the business for around 25 years now and have a lot of experience under your belt. What lessons have you personally drawn from this time? The changes themselves haven’t been too dramatic, but things are always in a constant state of flux. And you have to be constantly changing with them, or even better, anticipating the changes. That applies to the products and the sales structure. Next week we will be filming the collection presentation that we would usually be doing in person with our local representatives. That’s something new for us and also quite difficult, because we still have a lot to learn. But there’s no way around it because I have customers all over the world who used to come to Pitti and won’t be travelling to me just to buy a few hats. Aside from the fact that travel is now difficult or impossible anyway. It still remains doubtful whether Pitti will actually take place. I don’t think the fair will be happening any time soon. Of course I’d be more than happy if things turn out differently, but I don’t see that coming. Our sales reps can still travel, but we would still prefer to present the collection to customers who would otherwise have placed their orders at a trade fair. But I don’t just want to send pictures, I want to tell them something about the products. Our hats may look the same as a no-name product on a picture, but when you hold one in your hand and someone tells you a story about the

product, you can see the difference and then you know it’s worth the price. It has definitely been an eventful year. What are your hopes for 2021? Anything but a repeat of last year – that would be nice! (laughing) But what am I hoping for? I’m not a dreamer: things aren’t going to improve again overnight, but I do hope that by the middle of the year, also thanks to the vaccine, the situation and our lives will get back to normal. And I hope that the businesses of as many of our customers as possible will survive. We have granted a lot of payment deferrals; I know that customers want to pay again when they are ready, but that doesn’t always mean they can. It’s a really difficult time for many, but we are all hopeful that things will have normalised by Frankfurt Fashion Week. What are your thoughts on the new event? It’s a bit of a shame, as I really thought the last Berlin event at Tempelhof was amazing and ex-tremely promising. We had a good show at Selvedge Run – and there was also a bit of nostalgia in the air. The customers I talked to felt the same way and so, like I said, I think it’s a shame. I just think that Berlin has a special flair in the international arena, and now they have also built a great airport at very short notice and so quickly! (smiling) I understand the background and there are also advantages to Frankfurt as a location, I don’t want to be negative, but I personally believe that the relevance of trade fairs has been lost. In terms of men’s fashions, we have a flagship in the industry with Pitti, which provides orientation early on in the year. That’s where you get to talk to the important customers and hear what’s going on

and where things are going. People are always positive. And yes, you always have to lower your expectations a little after Florence, but that’s what motivates you and gets you in the mood for the new season. Any kind of tradeshow events that follow from that don’t really matter – whether in Paris or Berlin or now Frankfurt. The whole concept has lost its significance. My expectations are low, but I’m curious to see how it all pans out. To round off our interview, we would like to find out your preferences when it comes to hat styles. If you had to choose: fedora or trilby? Fedora. Cap or bucket hat? Cap. 8-panel, 6-panel or flat? 8-panel. Beanie or peaked cap? Peaked cap. Cowboy or bowler hat? Bowler hat. Panama or straw hat? Panama. And last but not least, what is your personal all-time favourite hat style? That’s a really hard one, but I would say an old American-made Stratoliner – from Stetson, of course. It was launched at the same time as the first jet plane so it’s a true classic. stetson-europe.com



Brains behind the Brands ralf kellenberger, OWNER & FOUNDER OF RALF KELLENBERGER



Brains behind the Brands ralf kellenberger, OWNER & FOUNDER OF RALF KELLENBERGER

Even as a small child, Ralf Kellenberger would watch over his gem-setter father’s shoulder while he was at work setting gemstones in gold and platinum. And, until she retired, his mother was a jewellery designer who worked for clients like Rolex and Chopard. His family background inspired Ralf, who now lives in Frankfurt, so much that in summer 2020, he founded his own eponymous jewellery label. In our interview, he reveals how a basketball injury set him on his future path, why German professional sports club Eintracht Frankfurt is one of his customers and what he is planning for the future.

Interview: Cheryll Mühlen with Pierre D’Aveta, Photos: Markus Bronold

Did you always know that you wanted to work in the jewellery industry? I was unsure at first because jewellery is a luxury product. But then I had a life-changing experience.

to discuss the collections with Andrea Rosso. He has meanwhile become a good friend and I’m still regularly in touch with him. it was an incredibly amazing time, in which I learnt a lot – and obviously also for my own label.

What was it? As I’m two metres tall, I was obsessed with basketball and on the verge of becoming a professional player. But, due to an injury, that didn’t happen. Instead, I did a goldsmith apprenticeship and jewellery design degree in Pforzheim. I then took part in a prestigious competition in Idar-Oberstein and came second. So I seemed to be on the right track.

What made you want to set up your own label? Diesel’s design office is based in Frankfurt, or should I say the office of my actual employer at the time, Fossil. They acquired the jewellery and watch licence from Diesel but closed the design office a few years ago. I didn’t want to move away from Frankfurt because this is my city, so I decided to stay. They even offered me the opportunity to continue working for Diesel from home, which I did for a while. But ultimately the desire to set up my own label was stronger.

Before recently establishing your own label, you were a senior jewellery designer at Diesel for ten years. What did you learn during that time? I was at Diesel from 2009 to mid-2020. They discovered me at Premium in Berlin and asked if I could design for them. And from then on everything just fell into place. I started out as a junior designer there, but they soon realised that I really understood the concept of Diesel jewellery and could give it a new touch. I pay a lot of attention to detail and quality is important to me. Those are values that my parents have passed down to me. Back then, my aim was to get the best out of Diesel’s costume jewellery brand. I was responsible for the design and technical realisation and communicated with companies in China about the product development, went there several times in person and visited the production sites. But I also used to visit the headquarters in Italy

Some great opportunities have cropped up for you since then and your loyalty to Frankfurt is also paying off. Like the upcoming Frankfurt Fashion Week, and you’ve also been working on a special project with Eintracht Frankfurt… It’s crazy to think about everything that has happened in these past six months, despite COVID. I have a real passion for jewellery, which I live and breathe. So the fact that I’ve been given the honour of making the signet ring for Eintracht Frankfurt, the ‘Adlerring’ (or Eagle Ring), is incredible and something that I’m very proud of. It seems like it’s a matter that’s really close to your heart. Absolutely. And the rings are proving very popular.

What is important to you when it comes to your own label? For me, it always comes down to quality and timelessness. I invest a lot of work in every single piece, sometimes even up to one year. I don’t base what I do on the latest trends but try to work intuitively. It’s just something you have to have a feel for. The designs are driven by emotion. But you must have various sources of inspiration too... I find my inspiration at flea markets. That’s also where I discovered some fantastic ideas when I was at Diesel. We travelled a lot – to Nepal, Kathmandu; and saw all those different fonts and lettering, it was like a whole new world. But the Rose Bowl flea market in Los Angeles also really inspired me. Old, lost elements like buttons, badges or knives is what my entire jewellery line is based on – and the art of putting these lost elements in a new context. You design your jewellery at your atelier in Frankfurt but where do you have it produced? In Pforzheim, the jewellery city of Germany, where I was also born. So I feel connected to it in two ways. In the last few years, fewer and fewer companies have been manufacturing there, which is why I feel obliged to give something back to the city. And regardless of where my label will take me, I always want my jewellery to be ‘Made in Germany’. As well as at your Frankfurt atelier, you also sell your jewellery exclusively through the B74 concept store. Are you looking to expand?

Tokyo would be great because the people there love high-quality jewellery and are just as obsessed with details as I am. That’s why Tokyo is a very important city for me for the future, but Paris, London and New York are also cities that I can really identify with. Setting up my own stores there in the future would be a dream come true. So far, you only make jewellery for men. Is a women’s collection on the cards? It seems to me that men in general are attaching more importance to their appearance and therefore also placing more value in jewellery. They also see it as an investment because silver and gold has increased in value. And signet rings have seen a massive surge in popularity in recent years. But I also have female clients who come to me for chunky pieces, not the delicate or filigree ones that are currently on trend right now. This year I’ve planned my first women’s collection, but that’s all I can reveal about it for the time being. Apart from the fact that it definitely won’t include any delicate, filigree or thin necklaces! I’m sticking with the typical Ralf Kellenberger attributes like weight, strength, expression, character… Now that you mention these attributes, please describe your label to us in three words. Quality, authenticity and sustainability. Speaking of which: you work with companies that attach a lot of importance to sustainability. What does that mean exactly? All companies that I source from make sure that they work in a responsible and resourceefficient way. I use gold metals with a so-



Brains behind the Brands ralf kellenberger, OWNER & FOUNDER OF RALF KELLENBERGER

called CoC certificate (Chain of Custody), for example, and the gemstones in my pieces all come from Idar-Oberstein – the gemstone capital of Germany. For amateurs like us: where are the biggest differences between gemstones from IdarOberstein, for example, and those from the internet? The difference is incredible. In the case of gemstones such as labradorite, it’s similar to diamonds. There are diamonds that cost 10,000 euros each and others that cost 800 euros. It all comes down to the colour and the transparency. When a diamond is really opaque and has inclusions, it doesn’t have this ‘fire’ effect. When a good diamond is turned, it reveals a breathtaking fire spectacle. That also applies to the labradorite: when you look into it, you see this spectacle of colours – whether you’re inside or outside; depending on the light, the bracelet is constantly changing and scintillating. But if you get a cheap stone from the internet, that doesn’t happen. The stone just seems flat and dead. That’s something


I really keep an eye out for. These are the details I am talking about. Take my stone marble bracelets, for example: I don’t use cord like most people, but instead string the stones onto a highquality silver chain. So it’s also the hidden details that make the difference for the end consumers. Exactly. That also applies to the fastener. When you fasten it and hear a click, then it’s a sign of quality. So it has to ‘click’? It has to click. Could you imagine doing any collaborations? For several years, my mum designed watches for Rolex and sometimes she would also bring the watches she was working on home with her. Back then she also gave me a Rolex Submariner that I still wear to this day. I was fascinated by it all then and it has also been my dream to design something for Rolex as well, just like my mother did.

What will the next five years hold for Ralf Kellenberger? That’s a very good question. I left Diesel in mid-2020 and have only been running my own business for six months. Amid the whole COVID situation, some incredible things have already happened, including a pop-up store at luxury department store Breuninger and the collaboration with Eintracht Frankfurt, and I’ve also made a lot of other valuable contacts which makes it hard for me to say where I’ll be in five years. I haven’t drawn up a precise plan. I just roll with it and let things happen. There are no limits.

locations are constantly opening. And if we leave aside the crisis for a moment, the city is constantly in motion. Frankfurt will rock the show with its great energy! And through the Fashion Week, which is attracting international attention, we now have the chance to represent its true face.

Let’s move onto the topic of Frankfurt Fashion Week. Are you looking forward to it? Yes, very much so! I believe that FFW is a huge opportunity for Frankfurt. The city is really underestimated. A lot of people just see the area around the main train station and think that Frankfurt isn’t an attractive city. But I’ve really got to know all sides of Frankfurt – and I believe that, in terms of business and its economy, it’s very strong. I’m seeing all the growth that is happening here, new

Hotel or campervan? Campervan.

To finish off, we have a few intuitive either/or questions for you. Inherited or bought? Inherited. Beach or mountains? Beach.

Silver or gold? Gold. So, gold in a campervan? Exactly! (laughing) ralfkellenberger.com


Brains behind the Brands Eveline SchĂśnleber, Managing Director & Shareholder at MAC

Incorporating natural materials like wood, glass and marble, Mac’s HQ are nestled in the idyllic landscape of the Upper Palatinate Forest.



Brains behind the Brands Eveline Schönleber, Managing Director & Shareholder at MAC

Deeply rooted in nature Every year, MAC sells over six million pairs of women’s and men’s trousers, making the company one of the leading trouser specialists from Germany. However, these days modern company management isn’t only expressed in figures, but also in terms of sustainability. And way before the big sustainability hype started, MAC had already been moving in the right direction.

Interview: Cynthia blasberg

From getting rid of the metal eyelets on hangtags (1997) and achieving compliance with the European Chemicals Regulation REACH (2007) to their first jeans made using organic cotton (2008), MAC’s sustainability efforts are extremely forward-looking indeed, especially for a conventional label. As if all that weren’t enough, the brand from Wald/Rossbach near Regensburg in southern Germany was also awarded GOTS certification in October 2020. And you just need to look at the company headquarters to see the roots of its commitment to sustainability. Incorporating natural materials like wood, glass and marble, the building is nestled in the idyllic landscape of the Upper Palatinate Forest. Bat boxes hang under the eaves of the headquarters and on trees. And the entire outside area is home to 20 bee colonies, whose hives are looked after by a beekeeper. We caught up with Eveline Schönleber, Managing Director & Shareholder of MAC, to find out what modern corporate management entails, how the retail sector is responding to their sustainability agenda and which MAC jeans model is her all-time favourite. An integral part of modern company management is taking sustainable aspects into consideration, for example in the choice of materials and production. MAC started getting a handle on this very early on. Where does the company’s sustainable commitment come from? Basically, sustainability is in MAC’s DNA. Since the company was established, we have committed ourselves to treating people and nature with the utmost respect. This is reflected in the company’s headquarters in Wald/Rossbach, a light-suffused building made of natural materials and surrounded by flower meadows and waterways where the entire development of our trousers takes place: from the design, material research, pattern development and pre-production stage down to the first sewn samples. Pretty much all of the production takes place in Europe. All fabrics and trimmings come from Germany and Europe. And we have had a close, trusting relationship with all our suppliers for years now. From your point of view, what else defines a modern company? A modern company combines experience and know-how with fresh, young ideas and constant innovation. It should never settle for the status quo. Here at MAC we invest significantly

in the growing desirability of the brand and drive forward a lot of innovations. In addition to sustainability, digitalisation and diversity are also topics that we are focusing on at the moment.

the brand, but also the retailers. And we are also providing extensive image materials and content, which retailers are free to use for their own online shops and social media channels. Corporate culture has taken on new dimensions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing and lockdowns have meant that we are all working from home again and video conferences have had to replace meetings in person. What is your experience of the situation? And what did your day-to-day business look like, when developing the new collection for example? On the whole, we have been managing very well. We reacted straight away at the end of February and cancelled all trips to protect our staff. Right at the beginning we purchased 100 laptops so that even more of our employees can work from home. A lot of meetings were held online. Apart from our design meetings, which we have still been holding in person up to now. With physical distancing and masks, of course, but still on site and in person. That is also very important for the creative process, which only works well if you’re in constant personal contact.

MAC has been GOTS certified since October 2020. Which processes did you have to adapt or change in order to comply with the GOTS criteria? The strictest environmental requirements and extensive social criteria apply to our GOTS product groups. This affects the entire supply chain from the raw materials to its processing and the sustainable production through to the final delivery of the trousers to the retailers and the transparent labelling of the products for the end consumer. To get GOTS certification, we only had to make a few small adjustments – to the labelling of the goods, their storage, the commissioning and the delivery to retailers. You have drawn up a ‘10 Point Plan’ for your sustainability objectives. One of the biggest challenges is implementing an effective system so you can monitor yourselves. How are you implementing this? Our team from the CSR department is entrusted with implementing our sustainability goals and ensures that they are observed. At least once a month we sit down in a larger group to discuss various measures and the progress of our goals with the other departments. And audits by external service providers, which we undergo at regular intervals, make our development visible. You say that the product and sales are the primary drive of the company and regard these factors in the same cycle as ecological and social commitment. And of course the sales of the collections have to be sufficient in order to keep this cycle going. So it all comes down to the retailers. How are retailers and end consumers reacting to MAC’s sustainability agenda? The feedback from retailers is extremely positive, especially because consumer demand for sustainable products is continuing to grow. Sustainability yes, but not at any cost. The fit and look of the trousers have to appeal to the end consumer, and if they are sustainable on top of that, then all the better. But this aspect will continue to gain in significance in the future and we are focusing more and more on sustainable aspects when sourcing new fabrics.

Eveline Schönleber

In 2020, retailers were unable to sell their AW20/21 collections as usual, which of course also puts the aforementioned cycle at risk. What are the solutions, also for retailers? And what repercussions is that having on the collections for AW21/22? Fortunately we have a large, modern NOS range, which is being gratefully received by retailers. This means we can offer a top service and reduce the risk for the retail sector. We have streamlined the pre-order collections for AW21/22 slightly, but without sacrificing the fashionable highlights. MAC always aims to be a strong and fair partner to retailers. We are organising additional promotions at the POS and our merchandising team is also supporting the sales assistants on the shop floors. We are investing in exclusive media cooperations, which are achieving a push effect in the retail sector and have also extended our public relations work, which is not only benefiting

Neri Oxman, architect, media artist and, in a sense, also a researcher, is an inspiration and role model for you. What is it that you admire about Oxman in particular? Neri Oxman is a professor at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Both her work and her approach are incredibly exciting. She doesn’t see people as the epicentre of design and architecture, but nature. With this in mind, she uses synthetic biotechnology and digital methods to develop materials and entire processes that leave no trace whatsoever on the planet. Because a future without waste is an amazing goal to work towards, don’t you think? Let’s conclude our interview with a style question: what’s your all-time favourite piece by MAC? My all-time favourite is our Dream Jeans. These jeans are phenomenal at flattering the figure and the fit is one size smaller than your usual size. That makes them the favourite jeans of many of our customers. We sell them all year round in classic colours and washes as part of our NOS range. And every season we add new trend colours and washes, which we are incorporating into the seasonal NOS range. mac-jeans.com



Business news

Berlin Fashion Week

European Capital of Creative Industries for a sustainable future Due to the current lockdown in Germany, Berlin Fashion Week will be a digital-only event this time: with the next edition scheduled to take place from 18 – 24 January 2021, Germany’s capital is positioning itself as the ‘European Capital of Creative Industries’. The repositioning marks the start of a visionary idea to strengthen Berlin as a fashion location and develop it in a sustainable way. “The city of Berlin, as the host of Berlin Fashion Week, is reflecting on its globally renowned strength as a creative, cosmopolitan and multifaceted metropolis and underlining its importance as the most significant location for national and international creatives in Germany,” it says in the official press release. With a cross-disciplinary concept that is putting the spotlight on innovation, sustainability and digitalisation, Berlin is focusing on its DNA as the European Capital of Creative Industries. At the ‘new’ Berlin Fashion Week, established highlights like the runway shows of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week will meet recurring events like Der Berliner Salon and new crossover formats like the Reference Festival and Berlin, Berlin by Highsnobiety – all broadcast on the online Fashion Week platform. To support the repositioning of Fashion Week in the German capital, the Berlin Senate has provided a significant investment package worth 3.5 million euros for 2021 alone. /cm

Transformation & sustainability

place extra orders and exhibitors can showcase their collections again at the existing stands. A shuttle service will ferry visitors between Offenbach and Frankfurt. Plans are also being made for an accompanying line-up with digital offers. /cb

Transformation is one of the keywords of Frankfurt Fashion Week, which is set to take place from 5 – 9 July 2021. With the new fashion event, Anita Tillmann, Managing Partner of the Premium Group, and Detlef Braun, Member of the Executive Board of Messe Frankfurt, want to pave the way for a forwardlooking, more sustainable fashion and textile industry. At the press conference at the beginning of December 2020, initial plans and key elements of the industry event were presented. To achieve its sustainable goals, Frankfurt Fashion Week has brought an important partner on board: Conscious Fashion Campaign (CFC) in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP). Building on the existing collaboration between the UNOP and Messe Frankfurt, the aim is to develop FFW as a platform that supports the fashion industry in further evolving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and helping to guide it into the ‘Decade of Action’. The aim of Frankfurt Fashion Week is for all exhibitors and participants to align with the Sustainable Development Goals by 2023. The SDGs are the central theme of all FFW’s formats. A sustainability award for outstanding, innovative, sustainable design and other categories will also be launched at the summer event. As well as the expected areas of B2B and B2C, fashion segments like women’s and menswear and of course conferences and fashion shows, visitors can also look forward to a new format: ‘The Ground’. The concept consists of different trends: denim meets Generation Y meets high street. And the hybrid business-to-people format (or B2P for short) is showcasing iconic brands for a future-oriented target group. The choice of exhibitors will range from trimmings brands to direct-to-consumer brands as well as conventionally distributed denim, sneaker, lifestyle and performance labels. Formats such as the ‘Community Space’ and the ‘Community Content Stage’ will offer new opportunities to showcase brands, products and processes. Exhibitors will be selected based on their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, which means that potential exhibitors of ‘The Ground’ will have to fulfil at least five of the 17 SDGs. ‘The Ground’ will be held at the Frankfurt exhibition grounds alongside B2B tradeshows Premium, Seek and Neonyt. /cb




ILM Offenbach

Xtra Order Days during Frankfurt Fashion Week Messe Offenbach is presenting a new tradeshow concept for 2021: Xtra Order Days by ILM. Coinciding with Frankfurt Fashion Week, the event is due to take place from 6 – 8 July 2021. ILM is making the most of the opportunity to offer an extra ordering event and also add footwear to its portfolio. This new date is a way of looking ahead to the future following a particularly difficult year: after taking a hard hit by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the September 2020 edition of the leading international leather goods fair was knocked on the head at short notice by the City of Offenbach – despite the carefully planned precautionary and hygiene measures in place. Shortly afterwards, the event’s Managing Director Arnd Hinrich Kappe began talks with Hesse’s State Premier Volker Bouffier and brought the City of Offenbach on board for the newly planned Xtra Order Days. And the XODs are now starting to take shape. The new order event is dedicated to bags, shoes, luggage and accessories. Here, specialist retailers will have the chance to

Frankfurt Fashion Week

Axel Arigato

New spaces in Hamburg and Munich In collaboration with KaDeWe, high-end Swedish footwear brand Axel Arigato has opened two exhibition-style retail spaces within department stores – at Alsterhaus in Hamburg and Oberpollinger in Munich. German customers, whether in the north or south of the country, can now admire the Axel Arigato quality up close while enjoying a luxurious shopping experience. The new Axel Arigato space at Alsterhaus is on the first floor and follows a conceptual approach – as well as a retail space, it is also used as a kind of gallery with interesting architectural elements. The Brutalist influence is obvious: industrial design elements such as exposed concrete form an exciting contrast to the soft, smooth surfaces of the brand’s footwear models on show. With minimalism in mind, the colour palette of the interior is limited to grey and royal blue. In Munich, Oberpollinger’s Axel Arigato space is also on the first floor, right next to the entrance, and in good company next to brands like Palm Angels, Off-White and Stone Island. Curved shelving guides the customers past the styles and is open on both sides to encourage interaction between the customers and sales assistants. With these two new store areas, the collaboration between KaDeWe and Axel Arigato is strengthening the brand’s presence on the German market. /rd axelarigato.com



The last Word Juan Carlos Gordillo, founder of Juan Carlos Gordillo

Juan Carlos Gordillo

The last word … belongs to Juan Carlos Gordillo, founder of Juan Carlos Gordillo Juan Carlos Gordillo is an up-and-coming designer from Latin America who has been dedicated to sustainable and responsible fashion right from the get-go. He tells us what he hopes to gain from the synergy between larger and small companies and why it’s up to the end consumer to vote with their wallets.

Interview: Cheryll Mühlen

To kick off our interview, what are the five words that best describe your label? Honesty, transparency, denim, upcycling and art. Why and when did you start your own label? I’ve been creative from an early age and have always worked as a freelancer. It was in 2018 when, together with my life partner, I decided to register my name as a label. We wanted to protect my name because we realised that it’s important to formalise things in the business world. By creating my own label, I have my own liberty and freedom to express my personal creative style. You’re from Guatemala – not an obvious fashion hotspot. So what makes fashion in your country so unique and what could we learn from it? Yes! I am a proud Guatemalan, but I agree it’s not exactly a fashion hub, and maybe it will take time to become one. I also recognise that I am not directly involved in the local fashion scene – my designs are inspired by external influences. However, here in Guatemala we have an incredibly rich and beautiful tradition of high-quality indigenous textiles. On top of that, we also have the opportunity to learn from other countries in Latin America and leverage their experience in becoming more known within the fashion industry in the future. You say you have a passion for “Western country culture” and “Spanish Andalusian folklore”. What inspires you beyond that? As a Guatemalan who is proud of my Latino blood, I am inspired by Latino culture and its diversity, which can inspire anyone who wants to discover it. I also take inspiration from every courageous person who, despite their circumstances, doesn’t stop dreaming and creating ideas, which are perhaps new for society, but then go on to revolutionise our world. You stand for ethical fashion, so when you design clothes you use upcycled fabrics and give a second life to pre-loved materials. When you use new fabrics though, you make sure they are organic and biodegradable. But where do you source your materials from?


And how do you make sure they are what they claim to be? Are you checking certificates? Ethical fashion has been important to me during my entire fashion design career. The industry still has a lot of work to do to in becoming more environmentally and ecologically friendly. In my work, I approached this issue in two ways: the first was the use of reusable fabrics that can be recycled, upcycled and re-worked in order to give that fabric a new and second life; the second was being able to work with certified fabrics where the guarantee and traceability are fully documented. These opportunities came through my 2018 work at Vienna Fashion Week and my 2019 work on the Planet Rehab Capsule Collection, using materials from Tencel x Lenzing and Tejidos Royo. But we also have to acknowledge the fact that for independent designers, especially in Guatemala, the traceability of materials is either expensive or impossible, or both. This is compounded by the fact that a lot of the material in the country has been imported from elsewhere. As you already said: “The industry still has a lot of work to do to“. You also said that “real change must start with the big players. Most multinational fashion companies say they are bringing change to the fashion industry, but they are not.” Can you go into more detail on that? It is true that I said that, and I still think the same. However, today I would add that in order to make the attitude and commercial change on the part of the big companies a reality, there also needs to be a push from the consumer side. Consumers also need to be aware that a shirt costing five dollars at retail is not a product that can be sustainable or good for our planet. Our goal should be that our consumers are aware of their purchase choices and vote with their wallets to create added pressure for industry practice to evolve and bring sustainability to the forefront of the full life cycle of a garment. As long as the consumer is unaware and doesn’t feel responsible, then it’s clear that not much is going to change. What can independent designers like you do to change that? It could seem like a fight between David and Goliath.

I think that large and small companies have a role to play within our market, so I don’t see it as a fight, but more as an opportunity to collaborate. From one perspective, as an independent designer I can be free to promote my philosophy, values, honesty and transparency of my work. From the other perspective, working with the wider industry, independent designers have the opportunity to push the sector towards more sustainable practices. My previous work within the fashion industry has allowed me to promote my creative aspirations and work with the existing infrastructure of the industry at large. Denim is your passion and everyone has their own reasons for loving it. What are yours? Because of its versatility and timelessness. Denim has the ability to transcend any occasion, beyond social class, rich or poor, formal or informal settings; it can be dressed up or dressed down, denim-on-denim or even with a formal shirt and jacket. As an independent designer, denim allows me the liberty to create across a wide range of garment styles and seasons. Has denim reached its peak yet? No, never! As long as there are creative minds passionate about denim, there will always be innovations, which means denim will be around forever. Styles and processes may change, but denim is part of both our cultural past and our future. As for the future there is still lots to look forward to in terms of the innovation of fibres (including, biodegradable, compostable, recycled) and the technology used to create them (zero water, laser). I personally look forward to seeing more ecological denim available to consumers and more transparency within the industry, so consumers know how their products are made. If you could choose one collaboration partner, who would it be? That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many people and organisations I would love to collaborate with across the industry – everything from fashion houses and brands to sustainable textile mills or events. However, it’s important for me that collaborations create a synergy and are aligned to my values of sustain-

ability, innovative aesthetics and the promotion of what can be achieved with denim. My favourite collaboration would be where I can highlight ‘Juan Carlos Gordillo reinventing denim’. That would be a very proud moment for sure. What was your proudest moment in your career so far? I have had the privilege of being recognised for my work and been given platforms on which to show my work and promote my values. A memorable moment was when I was selected as Creative Director of the ‘Planet Rehab’ collection that was presented at Bluezone at Munich Fabric Start in 2019. This gave me the opportunity to work with influencers and companies in the industry, showing that with hard work, effort and willingness you can promote sustainable fashion, while also demonstrating creativity at the same time. Working closely with Tricia Carey from Lenzing, Mr Panos, Tonello, Officina+39 and Tejidos Royo was a real privilege and a great learning opportunity, not to mention the professional satisfaction as the collection was exhibited at several fairs as an example of ‘Sustainable Denim Fashion’. It gave me the recognition that my values, philosophy and hard work have all been worthwhile. And where would you like your brand to be in the next few years? I recently launched my first online shop and updated my website to promote my work, values and catalogue my achievements in my fashion career so far. This year, my unique, upcycled products are available online through my store on the platform Etsy. It’s the perfect location to reach consumers who are committed to ‘fashion upcycling denim’ and are also aware and value products made by independent creators like me. The buyers on this platform recognise and value the unique products and the hours of creativity that go into the development of my creations. I also hope to continue and expand my creative collaborations with partners to create a synergy between me as an independent designer and the industry to help promote ecological and sustainable denim fashion. juancarlosgordillo.com



PITTI UOMO Florence February 21-23 2021 Fortezza da Basso Padiglione Centrale