fashion

Ready for take-off: Ambitions of Berlin streetwear trendsetter Highsnobiety


Highsnobiety is more than a print or online magazine. Innovative retail
concepts, cross-sector collaborations and its own collections have
attracted international attention for the Berlin streetwear expert. In
addition to its headquarters in Berlin, the platform also has locations in
New York, London, Amsterdam and four other cities.

The latest addition is a pop-up store at Zurich Airport, which opened on
15th November. The retail space sits between the stores of luxury brands
such as Bottega Veneta and Gucci, as well as retailer Jelmoli. The pop-up
offers a range of clothing, accessories and other products such as
collectibles, magazines and other lifestyle objects. Brands on offer
include fashion houses such as Jil Sander and Balenciaga, local brands such
as On Running and Burgundy, and Highsnobiety’s own products.

At the opening of Gatezero, FashionUnited spoke with Highsnobiety
founder David Fischer and chief commercial officer Max Berger. In the
interview, they reveal what plans the platform is pursuing as a retailer,
what role collectibles and other products play and what collaborations they
have in store.

Max Berger (left) and Herbert Hofmann, head
of buying at Highsnobiety (right), at the Gatezero opening | Photo:
FashionUnited

Why did you choose Zurich for Gatezero?

Berger: Zurich, or Switzerland, is a bit like the Old Luxury
Mecca
and stands for watches and basically a lot of luxury.

It was an extremely good fit to go to the mecca of Old Luxury
with a “New Luxury” concept. Moreover, Zurich Airport is a beautiful
location. It is important to us that we feel comfortable with the space we
display in and the brands that are in the area. That is definitely the case
here.

Are you currently planning any other pop-ups?

Berger: We had a very ambitious roadmap before Covid. We took over the
Selfridges Cornerstone in January 2019. At that time, we had already
planned this concept [editor’s note: Gatezero]. The idea was actually to go
to Nordstrom, Isetan and Galleries Lafayette – to roll out Highsnobiety
pop-ups in department stores. And then the pandemic hit.

We then focused completely on Gatezero. A retail space alone is not that
innovative – as is the case in travel retail – so the added value that we
bring as a publisher and storyteller is now the best combination. This is
also reflected in the fact that we were able to inspire brands like Comme
des Garçons or Loewe, who are closing doors rather than opening new ones,
to embrace such a concept.

Gatezero pop-up at Zurich Airport | Photo:
Louise Melchior

Online and at Gatezero, you also offer products beyond fashion. How
important are collectibles like kits, decorations and other objects from
brands for fashion retailers?

David Fischer: Several factors come together in this area. The bottom
line is that we have all seen a million t-shirts, shirts and sneakers. We
see it as our job to find new things and exciting themes for the
Highsnobiety community. This also includes collectibles, because it is
easier to surprise with such things than with the next sweater. The
category around collectibles, gadgets and accessories works incredibly well
for us and also allows us to distance ourselves from other retailers.

What about NFTs?

Fischer: It is an important topic that is on everyone’s mind right now.
But it fits particularly well for us because the mechanics in this NFT
world match those of the streetwear and fashion world. Limited NFTs,
temporary NFTs, the whole idea of collectibility and the
perceived scarcity that comes with NFTs are all themes that we at
Highsnobiety have been observing, describing and documenting in our world
for 16 years. Accordingly, the audience and community know the area very
well, which is why it will come relatively naturally to our
community.

For our “Not in Paris” initiative in June, we did a test on the topic of
NFTs. Together with RTFK, we designed NFTs and sold them for 80,000 US
dollars. It’s amazing what’s possible. It’s also a diversification of
online power that goes hand in hand with crypto and the like.

Highsnobiety founder David Fischer | Photo:
Highsnobiety

What will be the next step in this area?

Fischer: What we’re seeing a lot of in this NFT space right now is
ultimately like a kind of NFT art – digital objects that are all about
ownership and that can eventually be resold for more money. It’s going to
evolve quite a bit and then there will be many digital products that we can
put on our avatars and express ourselves digitally in 3D worlds. Art,
culture, fashion and sneakers are all areas that will be translated into
this new world.

We are in the middle of the cold season. What trends do you see in the
outerwear sector?

Fischer: I always have the feeling with outerwear that everyone buys the
same thing and the trend goes through certain cycles: everyone runs around
in Woolrich, everyone runs around in Canada Goose, everyone runs around in
The North Face, everyone runs around in Moncler. All these brands –
including Stone Island – have now had their cycle. Some, however, manage to
stay relevant in the longer term.

Canada Goose, The North Face and Moncler are by no means fleeting stars.
However, they have to work hard at maintaining their relevance. Especially
because jackets are fundamentally expensive. Most people buy one jacket in
winter and not five. Accordingly, it is important to be at the top of
consumers’ minds. Products like Moncler’s Genius give brands a lot of
energy, make them inspiring for a young clientele and extend the lifecycle.

What is selling well in your online shop right now?

Fischer: The online store consists of three buckets. There is a highly
curated third-party bucket where we buy and sell external brands wholesale.
In that bucket, we have high-end luxury brands like Jil Sander or Margiela,
footwear and on top accessories, gadgets and collectibles. All this sells
well. As long as the brand has a certain position with the audience, the
price is almost irrelevant. We sell everything from 80 euro Carhartt pants
to 1,300 euro Acronym pants.

The second bucket is our own brand, which also sells very well. We do a
lot of basics, some of which are finished with graphics. A strong runner
for us.

The third bucket is collaborations. The Highsnobiety x Nike running
collection, the Braun collection and the super sunglasses. These sell best
and fastest because they are topics that are extremely heavily charged by
us on the content side, are highly limited and are usually only available
for purchase from us. An exception to this was the Dickies collaboration,
which was also available at Union LA, Selfridges and Goodhood London.

On Running Space in the Gatezero pop-up at
Zurich Airport | Photo: Louise Melchior

Are e-commerce sales a compass for Gatezero or do you follow your own
strategy here?

Berger: The idea of resortment is to bring in a certain local
adaptation. We specifically chose brands like On Running, Burgundy,
Victorinox to reflect the location in the range.

Apart from the locals, streetwear then meets high fashion?

Berger: The idea is to choose this New Luxury approach and to
add our own Highsnobiety touch – a combination of high and low, of
streetwear and luxury – to not only go for these hypes.

Let’s not forget that we as Highsnobiety do not only see ourselves as a
streetwear blog or sneaker blog. With this concept, we want to address the
culture pioneer, the tastemaker, who may not be a fan of
Highsnobiety, but gets attracted by the product range.

On is also one of your current collaboration partners…

Berger: Exactly, due to the delivery bottlenecks, unfortunately the
collaboration with On did not arrive in time for the opening [of Gatezero],
but hopefully it will come soon.

Fischer: The capsule collection consists of an On x Highsnobiety sneaker
and several other products that will probably be released early next
year.

Gatezero collection: cap (45 euros),
t-shirt (55 euros), longsleeve (65 euros), hoodie (105 euros) | Photo:
Highsnobiety

Are you planning to expand your own collections even further?

Fischer: We will continue to expand the collection and collaborations.
However, our goal is not to create a complete ready-to-wear collection as
in the case of 032c. Collaborations allow us to tell more stories and
activate different products through content.

How do you approach a collaboration?

Fischer: A good example is Braun. We go into the archive and curate
vintage products and new products from Braun, do a collaboration with the
new products and a matching capsule collection. Every detail of this
capsule collection – from the colours of the labels to the prints – is
inspired by the Braun design codes of the last 100 years. Translating that
and telling the story of this brand to a new young audience are the themes
we thrive on as a team.

Overall, Highsnobiety seems to be much more than a magazine by now. Is
this still the company’s core business?

Berger: We are a publisher at heart and always will be. Of course, we
have also built various models around this culture pioneer
audience in recent years and they are always at the centre. But we also try
to get in touch with this audience through different [other] points of
contact. Gatezero is one such concept. But it can also be a festival, our
e-commerce store or different [other] activities.

Gatezero pop-up at Zurich Airport | Photo:
Louise Melchior

Is that the strategy behind events like Berlin Berlin or Not in
Paris?

Berger: Exactly! As a publisher, you can scale by generating more reach.
But in the end, you lose your top positioning. We decided to go with this
culture pioneer and not to scale too much in terms of our
publishing product.

What do you generate most of your sales with?

Fischer: The Highsnobiety brand has been around for 16 years and the
e-commerce business for two and a half, so it’s still super fresh.
Accordingly, the main turnover of our company still comes from our core
business, which is a combination of publishing, media and publishing and
marketing. Over the next few years, however, this will be divided between
these two business areas [publishers and retailers].

Recently you also opened a new office in Amsterdam. Why did you choose
this location and what role does it play in the international fashion
industry?

Berger: With Highsnobiety’s B2B division, we help brands with a wide
range of services. Cultural Consulting is one of them: „How to show up in
culture.”

We always try to act more locally because we mostly work with the global
headquarters. But they also require us to be anchored in the local culture
and scene. That was also one of the reasons why we opened an office in
Amsterdam. There are very relevant brands from our cultural context and
there is an interesting creative culture.

Highsnobiety invited FashionUnited to the opening event in
Zurich.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.de. Edited
and translated by Simone Preuss.



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