The Joop brand no longer has much to do with its founder. Her boss Thorsten Stiebing explains in the podcast “The Zero Hour” why young women are sometimes dressed more conservatively than their mothers, why he isn’t particularly worried about the shops dying and how much Wolfgang still has in Joop.
There is a lot of bad news in the fashion industry. You hear about bankruptcies at Gerry Weber, Baldessarini and Pierre Cardin. Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable?
Thorsten Stiebing: Actually, it’s been that way since 1992, when I finished my studies. Even back then it was said that things were going to be very difficult in the textile industry. There are various things happening in the market at the moment. Corona was a case where we all sat there not knowing what would happen the next day. We are used to a certain volatile environment in the industry.
What does Joop do better than the others?
A good team helps, trust in the people you work with. And it was clear to us early on that the product was very important. This is what the end consumer ultimately encounters. We had a brand legacy through Wolfgang Joop. But the products have to be functional and visually correct.
Things aren’t looking particularly good in retail either; the bankruptcy of Peek & Cloppenburg has been in the news. Are your sales channels weak?
Of course that concerns us. These channels play a major role, especially in Germany. We have to be happy that there are companies like P&C or Wöhrl that are heavily involved in this retail sector. But we also have our online channels, which are very strong this year. But I’m actually a fan of stationary retail; I once did an apprenticeship there. I like going into the city and finding something. Of course, this also includes good service. And that’s something that retailers can work on.
Now Joop could also go into his own boutiques and try to get more from the chain. Why don’t they do that?
Multi-brand retail is very important for us. But of course we have been pursuing a strategy for our own channels for years. This includes the shop within the shop – we have developed 130 of them in the last few years. If you go to KaDeWe in Berlin today, you’ll see how Louis Vuitton and many others have built their things there. Unfortunately, the main departments around it sometimes look a bit uncharming. It’s interesting: the top floors, i.e. the 5th floor or so, are always great, great range, great presentation, good salespeople. And then as you go down, it eases up a bit. But retailers are working on it. However, high investments are required and this cannot happen overnight.
Isn’t there also a risk for the brand?
The shop in the shop can still look great if the rest isn’t right. There are different actors. We have clearly decided that we want to work with P&C or Breuninger. And we see potential there in the future too. But I agree with you: If it smells like chicken in the textile department, then shopping fun is a bit hindered. I also say that to those who want to work with us.
And your own shops?
We’re on it. We will occupy the big cities with Joop stores in Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt. They’re running well too. Your brand is named after a man who no longer has anything to do with the company.
How much Wolfgang is still in Joop?
I’m a big advocate of DNA in brands. Roots are important. The most important thing is to recognize this DNA, the question of what you want and what you can build on. We had to think about this for ourselves in 2015. Wolfgang Joop’s personality is pretty clear. Inspired by a certain intelligence and with a certain stylistic combination. We were able to build on that. One advantage is that the brand can be developed. We’re not just Nordic and cool or Italian and floral. We can adapt and bring things together. But we don’t spend the whole day thinking about what Wolfgang Joop would think or do. That’s why we have young designers.
Does Wolfgang Joop still contact you sometimes?
No. Our owner speaks to him on the phone from time to time. But we have developed independence, like a child that can eventually walk itself. And we can do that quite well.
Who do you consider to be your target group?
I’m not an advocate of target groups, I find it incredibly boring. Mothers today want to be like their daughters. And my daughters are more conservative than my wife. It’s totally mixed up, and that’s what makes things interesting. That’s why we made a gender-neutral collection. The girls go to the Cro concert wearing boys’ T-shirts that are way too big for them, totally oversized. That’s what makes things funny too.
You say you don’t believe in target groups. Don’t you become arbitrary when a brand is actually there for everyone?
Fashion is there for everyone. And people pick and choose what they want from a brand. Of course we do market research. But it is clear to me that when it comes to fashion, the DNA must above all be clear. Then it can also be sold widely.
Is there a fashion trend from the past few years that really surprised you?
What surprises you the most is when things come back that you didn’t think were cool at all in the past. I grew up in the 80s and 90s. I recently saw a singer on YouTube that I thought would have been spot on in the late 80s. I also found it funny that the mullet is coming back. That’s quite surprising.
There is a strong trend towards casual clothing in the office. What doesn’t work for you?
For us it doesn’t matter at all. We deal with designers who can wear whatever they want. We don’t have a dress code. I just don’t like a certain level of negligence. I like wearing t-shirts and turtlenecks, but I also love shirts. And you can currently see that the shirt is coming back. I was also happy that the suit came back because this is important business for us.
But is there a no-go for you personally that is aesthetically out of the question for you?
Personally, I always find flip-flops on men a bit difficult. But otherwise I’m totally easy.
The conversation has been shortened and smoothed for better readability.