What are the challenges of being a fashion brand on the market and in the world today? The fashion world used to be a lot smaller and easier to fathom.
There are a few basic rules that have always been true: You have to come out with a new product four times a year and you have to hit the zeitgeist every time. You have to surf a wave, figuratively speaking. If you’re too far at the front of the wave, meaning too progressive, then no one will understand what it is you’re trying to do. If you’re behind the wave, you won’t get any momentum. So you have to always and repeatedly hit that wave. This is a challenge that has always been there, even before the Internet and online shopping. Through the constant exposure through Instagram and the online shops of globally competing brands, however, this challenge has become more acute. Today, we are competing with the whole world.
To what extent can you just go through with something and boldly say: this has timeless validity and we’re just going to do it this way?
I think if you’re new and you want to make a name for yourself, you have to turn that into a philosophy and always – to put it positively – confound and surprise. At Windsor, we tend to think in terms of long-term men’s themes. It’s not so much the eighteen-year-old trendsetter who I have to toss something quick to every now and then so that he buys it. Because our pieces also aspire to last longer than just one season. That makes us think and act for the longer term.
What role do brick-and-mortar stores still play in the world of online shopping?
If you create a touchpoint where people are advised and it is explained to them what the brand stands for, you create a commitment, a positive experience. And ultimately, it’s always the experience – that’s the beauty of it, and it’s something that can’t be digitized: You put something on and feel it. You go out on the street and ideally you get some form of -positive response to it. That’s something that will never happen online. In that respect, you can digitize in the design, in sales and in the communication process, but at the end of the day, it’s always about the real product. And if you have a modern product of good quality that outlasts short-term trends, then you will prevail – of this I am certain. That’s something you have to remember: that your main focus is on the product and that everything else should be as coherent a complement as possible.
Would it be correct to call Windsor a conservative brand?
I wouldn’t say that. We’ve always been very much a ready-made brand, but in the last ten years there have been a lot of changes in the way you can combine ready-made garments. For example, jackets are no longer just worn with plain chinos, a shirt or tie; there are many more ways to express yourself. What’s true is that we still do tailoring; our biggest product group in women’s fashion is the blazer, for men the jacket. And that will always be the case. I should also mention that even twenty or thirty years ago there were brands that were very conservatively classic, but Windsor has always been a little more casual.
How have the pandemic and working from home changed things?
The pandemic forced us to take a two-year break from selling suits. We would have made a killing on jogging suits, but we deliberately decided not to do that because it would destroy the brand. So we decided not to shoot for short-term sales at the expense of brand identity. As far as casualization in general is concerned, I now see a countermovement. I might still be working from home these days, where I can put on a comfortable sweater, but when I go out, I now have a newfound desire to dress up again. From the great variety of outfits for men and women, we are also seeing that people are becoming much more expressive and bold.
Still, the classic look is disappearing, especially when it comes to neckties.
For me, it’s relatively clear that they will lead a wonderful niche existence. If you look at pictures of the first Black Friday stock market crash from the 1920s, the men on the street are all wearing a suit and a shirt plus a tie and a hat. Look at Wall Street in the 1970s and 1980s, and everyone is still wearing the exact same outfit – but no hat, it’s gone. If you turn the clock forward to the early 2000s, the shirts are still there, but the ties have disappeared, the former archetypal symbol of masculinity. And now, in Silicon Valley, no one wears a shirt anymore. So it goes. But there are still a certain number of fascinating men who wear hats and listen to vinyl records, just as in fifty years there will be people who drive combustion engine cars. But they’re not following a dress code anymore. They’re doing it because they feel like it.
Could you define the term “coolness” from a fashion perspective?
I think when I see someone who makes the word “cool” pop into my head, I always notice that it’s someone who ( . . . )