BWGH has already been doing quite a lot of collaborations. What’s the difference to your new team-up with Puma?
We have done collaborations with Colette, Opening Ceremony, Kitsune, Ronnie Fieg and Clot. They are very great brands but small labels compared to Puma. For example, working with Ronnie Fieg, who is one of my mentors, is totally different: I just meet up with him for lunch and we decide to do things. If they are sold out, then that means it has been a good project. With Puma, things are happening on a whole new level. We have started an ongoing collaboration for a full wardrobe collection like the ones Puma made with Jil Sander or Alexander McQueen. Before we accepted the offer, we spoke about it with the whole team and now it’s a real commitment. We are very anxious about the collection because we are far from being Jil Sander right now-we are just a small group of cool kids, doing our thing. Thanks to Puma, we can do something that we would have never been able to do alone because footwear design is completely different to doing a clothing line. Creating sneakers with a sportsweargiant is a childhood dream for me. And thanks to us, Puma will become even cooler because we are a young brand with a lot of energy and dynamism. It’s a winwin situation!
But don’t you fear that BWGH might lose some of its cool by becoming more mass-market?
At the moment, we have around 400 stockists worldwide and there are few brands this size that became a staple. Look at brands like Acne or A.P.C.-they have quite a lot of retailers around the world and they are still cool because what they put in the shelves is still just a really good product with good price points and good brand energy.
Fifteen years ago, this upper streetwear culture was really small and indie but thanks to the Internet it became global. So why not be global at this point of time? As long as we are proud of what we do, I don’t care about losing some of my coolness. And as long as I do something with perfection, I hope it will be cool anyways.
What’s the formula for becoming a hip brand?
We owe everything to our retailers-without them, there would be no brand. So it’s about selecting the right shops with people full of energy who want to be much more than just a store in a city but rather a small movement. Our ideal stockist is someone who mixes designers like Raf Simons and Damir Doma with streetwear brands such as Stussy.
In season one we just showed T-shirts at the trade shows, then sweaters, shirts and finally a full wardrobe. Retailers decided to follow us. And of course our collaborations have helped us a lot image-wise. I also used to be the assistant of Stephane Ashpool of Pigalle, which is the leading streetwear company worldwide to me. By him I learned many things about creating the image of a brand.
There seems to be a rise of avant-garde European streetwear brands in recent years. Where do you see yourselves?
I think on one side you have core US streetwear brands like Supreme, Stussy, Diamond, Huf or Undefeated and on the other side you have European designers who try to be right in the middle between streetwear and high fashion. Supreme & Co have the perfect energy but the garments of brands like Acne are technically much more advanced. Now if you take half the technical skills of the one side and half the energy of the other side, you have exactly what we try to embody.
My label and its style and vision are getting more and more timeless each day. Even if the streetwear community might say it has lost its identity, I don’t think it’s a really big deal because we now have a head-to-toe collection with many timeless pieces, which will in the end help to establish the brand. The importance is to have a solid foundation: if we are still here in five years and even more in 15 years, that will be the true success. I don’t care about the trends and I am not scared of them.
As you now offer a full wardrobe collection-do you plan to launch your own retail?
As soon as we have the money, we’ll do it. The problem of wholesale is there is always an intermediation. We can imagine that sometimes a store doesn’t reflect exactly the message we want to give to our consumers. That’s why we absolutely want to develop our own retail network.
We are a culturally minded brand, and need the possibility to say: we love art, if you like the atmosphere and what we do, come and be part of our tribe. Last year, we already ran a very beautiful pop-up shop for six months next to l’Institut Francais de la Mode, in Paris. The artist Yves Klein inspired me for the design and all the walls were painted in Klein blue. It can be a nightmare to finance a 100-sq.-meter [1,076-sq.-foot] space like that in a chic neighborhood in Parisbut step by step we’ll get there!