It hasn't been to long ago when I introduced you to one of my personal highlights at the latest Berlin Fashion Week – Julian Daynov – buyer and portfolio consultant, currently working in a team of over 20 fashion high-profile-professionals on launching the European branch of the US retail giant Saks Fifth Avenue and it's premium off-price sister chain Saks Off 5th, soon opening in Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Heidelberg and Wiesbaden.
Right after our Berlin tête-a-tête, Julian and I kept on hunting for fashion and were bumping into each other at multiple shows and various showrooms and always had a good laugh and a healthy dose of fashion gossip.
Genuinely friendly, as he obviously always is, he accepted my invitation to grab lunch at Hotel Costes in between two appointments and talk about life and fashion, fashion and life. It wasn't too easy though, as he was greeting basically every other person in the lobby and was being hugged and kissed by another amazing looking man or woman every other minute... Next time we talk, i have to drag him to a place where no one knows him - a Mc Donald's or something.
Thinking back now, I still can't believe how precisely he kept on doing his selections at the showroomsafter these glasses of wine over lunch and on-the-side could not stop scanning the outfits of everybody around, pointing out the exact style names, collections, seasons and brandshey all were wearing – it seemed that on top of everything else he had on at that particularly cold Parisian day, he was apparently hiding a fashion encyclopedia somewhere under his Vivienne Westwood mountain hat...
I am so glad it worked out with us in Berlin and Paris already and hope we will turn this into our small and nice tradition – lunching and gossiping at every fashion week.
Now we are talking...
Last time we met, you were watching the Berlin shows and it was very exciting for me to hear your thoughts on our local heroes. To be honest, I was very surprised how many of them you actually knew. Now, couple of weeks later, i see you here in Paris wearing nothing else, but German creations, although you basically have access to any bespoken name in the industry. How come?
Oh, how sweet, you really exposed my outfit, good eye! Well, you totally got me there – i guess i have a pretty fresh but very intense love affair going on with German fashion design and I keep on falling in love deeper and deeper with more and more German designers fashion week after fashion week and to be honest, started wearing a lot of their stuff myself. This is usually a great sign and a well appreciated compliment to the guys, I hope they accept and enjoy, as i indeed like them and wear them super often.
Thinking back now, i have nearly multiplied the German participation in my dressing room by 50 in the last 5 to 6 seasons. At the moment, i most certainly have over 50-60 pieces by pure German fashion designers and I am positive this number will be growing on.
I mean look, even now, here at Paris Fashion Week, the holy grail of Fashion Month, i am wearing an outfit by a German super talent Hien Le. Yesterday when you saw me at the Acne show, i was head to toe in Vladimir Karaleev - another Berlin star i admire; at the Balmain party, i had an Odeeh piece on and got asked about a million times who that gorgeous kimono was by.
Obviously, German designers are making a fantastic job and earn a lot of appreciation and attention, when it comes to design and creativity, but sadly, once we start talking about sales and retail penetration, things look quite different. They kinda aren't that well understood and celebrated in their own country, which is very sad I find. Considering the spendings for fashion in Germany, they should be easily able to scratch off a piece of that sales-pie, but hey, it's definitely not easy if your prospective clients adore rather Ulla Popken, Jack Wolfskin and Betty Barclay and see these as dominating fashion influencers, rather than you as a young, fashion-forward visionariy. It is not just customers to blame though – names and brands of German designers are still niche, not yet meaning much to the more mass-customer, who makes it sweet for them not only on investing money and effort in creating fashion, but also in selling it and earning from this.
From a fashion point of view, there is most certainly the capacity and a doubtless justification for these young guys to hang next to those iconic fashion giants; From a brand management and retail perspective though, it is a bit of controversial and less-profitable, if you present still "labels" next to "super-brands" and have to justify the relatively high prices of they carry, compared to a Fendi, Gucci or Valentino.
We all know it is hard to produce tiny units, we all know it is not that easy to sustain without any huge investor in your back, but in most cases the customer does not think about this rationally and still takes her purchasing decision in favor of a "big brand" and rather buys that Céline pair of pants than the ones by a new-name-guy, who's pants are as expensive as those of the French powerhouse, but mean basically nothing to the client and don't necessarily give her a topic to talk about over coffee with her brand-slave-friends.
Although you travel basically every day, you spend a lot of time in Germany.
Please tell me your honest opinion about the way Germans dress.
Oh, Gosh, that's a really tough one! I hope i will not earn too much hate with the next lines...
Well, i have somehow learned to sustain a healthy dose of political correctness in terms of that topic, but speaking about this makes me sort of emotional and I guess you would badly love to hear me bitch-around this topic, right? - LOL
Don't get me wrong here – I love my Germans! Starting with the daily grumpy looks they give you at the cashier, the airport or elsewhere and ending with the 3/4 cargo pants in corduroy they pair with technical outdoor jackets and awful shoes (quite frankly, i think the Outerwear and Shoe taste of Germans make me suffer the most, but that's a whole other chapter), but it is a crime what people are wearing these days. I am happy enough to be surrounded nearly only by Germans, who dress really, well, care a lot about fashion, but this is kinda the nature of our business field, so it's natural.
Now back to your question and speaking of the average German, it is a catastrophe. One you exclude the major cities and certain areas in there, Germany hasn't really moved on in terms of Fashion, i am afraid. If you drive out of Berlin, Hamburg or Munich, you fill find yourself caught in a time capsule, stuck in a bad old-time-movie, but hey, if you look at the US, it is the same: the states are not New York and LA, where most of the people you see look cool. Sadly, we can not all be like the Italians - even in the crappiest village in the mountains, will find proper-dressed people.
Anyhow, back to Germany - i have the feeling it is all still so much trimmed into aspects as Function and Utility, Fashion is not really present as a focus, to be honest, so I keep on asking myself how do all these uber-cool and fashionable brands keep up with sales, when actually, only a tiny bit of Germans care about them?
The mass customer, which actually earns our money (it is not necessarily the tiny portion of fashionistas retailers live from, you know) is less emotion driven when it comes to spending money and always thinks twice before a purchase. This is why your country is probably one of the most flourishing markets for better-value concept, and so interesting for our Saks Off 5th idea, for example. Being rational and questioning everything - from production quality, through origin, up to price - the German client does not make a fool of himself so easily, he does not fall into these advertising traps to fast, he knows what piece of apparel he needs to buy, often has a pre-set budget limit and cares more for garment quality and function rather than fashionability and latest trends; he brakes fashion through his own prism and always wants to pay less, always. Even in the States, this so called "Geiz ist geil" mentality is a term retailers coming to Germany get confronted with, it describes the market well, i guess.
Which German brands do you think are capable of a mass-market-success, when it comes to foreign markets?
Oh, you already have your export super-brands with Porsche, BMW, Audi, Mercedes and all these awesome gadgets German super-brains fire out, but when it comes fashion, things are pretty limited, i think. Of course you have the sport giants as Adidas and Puma, Hugo Boss, Bogner, MCM, Escada, Jil Sander (currently Italian owned though) and a couple of other ones, but mostly all from the "old-school" times, when fashion and retail were being done another way. There hasn't been anyone new, more contemporary, edgy, really high-end-fashion oriented (i am cutting off Demna or Damir both growing up in Germany and of course Lagerfeld being German himself, since they turned global after leaving Germany, actually), who achieved something groundbreaking globally and placed a brand in the epicenter of fashion. Hmmm, really weird, right?
I know very well though, that it is certainly not due to the lack of suitable players; to me, the lack of big contemporary German names in global fashion is rooted in the missing investment of a bigger player. Of course talent and sense of fashion are essential, but financial back-up is key as well.
Although we keep on saying that right now, it is so much easier to set up a brand, because the internet with all Instagram and Facebook and all, give you the opportunity to push things for free, but hey, it takes so much more than just landing into the social media feeds of a couple of hundred or thousand fashionistas and having 10000 likes – barely any of these like buys a product and brings a transaction, if you are not backed up with a promising campaign or your stuff is being stocked by some high-profile retailers.
Right now, i thing, from the more progressive-daily-wearable-extravaganza brands Dorothee Schumacher, Odeeh, PB 0110, Lala Berlin, Steffen Schraut could have a good chance for an immediate success, if stocked at a couple of the global big retailers; in terms of the more contemporary-mass-market ones, Set, Oui, Closed are good candidates.
As for the other German ones, who could set some fire in boutiques and concept stores around the world, i believe a lot in my personal favorites as Vladimir Karaleev, Hien Le, Boulezar, Nobi Talai, William Fan would be just WOW! Along these, I have some new super favorites ones I recently discovered and truly adore Rianna + Nina - too fabulous ladies doing breathtaking one-of-a-kind kimonos out of authentic Iranian fabrics and GmbH - a cutting-edge very new and very fashion-forward label from Berlin i am excited to see more from.
What are you most excited about in fashion recently?
Acne introducing a new denim line in April; J.W. Anderson in general, be it at his own brand or Loewe; be it with his fashion or art creations; that whole "See now, buy now" thing; Clare Keller going to Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci moving to Versace – i think this might end up being a good combo; Off-White as a whole and where is it all going; how long will the Gucci obsession last; what else explosive can Demna do with Vetements and Balenciaga; the big retailer moves in the US; are eBay and Amazon going to make that shift into proper fashion stores; The Margiela X Hermes exhibition in Antwerp, my summer wardrobe :)
Did you ever want to have your own boutique?
Every day, but i don't think I will be selling fashion in there - Hahahahah
That came really unexpected, what?!
No, just kidding, i will surely be having apparel in there, but the focus will be more on jewelry, art and design objects – just a few of my other passions. Oh, and trust me, ideally, the store should be just a seasonal escape at the seaside; i would buy all on my own; i would work all on my own; i would make a proper siesta every day around noon and a fiesta after work. I think a spot on Mykonos or Malibu or somewhere in South Beach would make me pretty happy. If that's too much to ask, even Ibiza would do too.
When are we having lunch again?
Well, whenever you are in Berlin next time OR latest at some fashion week, New York would be a good one to hit together, don't you think?
Thank you Julian for this most exciting lunch. We'll catch up in Berlin next week I hope. This has to be continued. You made my Day!
Tolle Sachen von Odeeh findet ihr auch bei uns im Shop!