In Conversation with Retailer Andreas Murkudis –
If Berlin has a voice in fashion it is the one of retailer Andreas Murkudis. It’s not a scream but a subtle tone that sticks to your mind and speaks from a gut feeling. A prophet in exile, the former director of the Museum der Dinge opened his first multi-brand store in 2003. Negotiating between the world of art and fashion his clients share an educated desire that seeks for profound products. I joined the team around Murkudis in 2017 for the preparations of his soon to launch online store. The office located close to the store in busy Potsdamer Straße is an actual flat with high ceilings, stucco and a freestanding tub. Apart from the many desks and chairs, this place doesn’t resemble an office at all. Photoart by the likes of Mitch Epstein and Seiichi Furuya is hanging on the walls and nothing is functional to the point of compromising beauty. Andreas would be there early around 8am and when you left work in the afternoon you would sometimes find the office completely rearranged and reorganized in the morning. He works in silence with a pace that would resemble clouds moving in a calm sky, barely recognizable, yet nevertheless powerful. When he decided to build an online store it came natural, that it was about creating a space of intuition in a highly opportunist digital environment, where people find only what they have been google-ing for. Besides the direct path of consumption lie treasures that one must find the muse to come across. In conversation, Andreas talks about the future of retail, the status quo in fashion and the concept of leading his customers astray.
K: Andreas, do you buy online?
Andreas: Anne buys online for me. That reminds me I still owe her money.
K: But what about clothes online?
Andreas: No, I have never bought anything online. I have enough clothes myself, also I’m not into fashion. But what is the reason for your question?
K: The reason for my question is the fact that you are about to launch an online shop.
You are in good company, Céline has announced that they are working on a web shop after years of resistance. Why now? Has it become a necessity?
Andreas: Actually it is not necessary at all. I am still not a fan of selling online. As you can see I am investing all of my time in my physical store here in Berlin, to constantly improve its functionality and beauty.
We sell over 30000 pieces per year, so we financially don’t need the digital.
The online shop for us cannot be a copy paste of the analog store because we have so many changing products of over 200 labels, that it would take forever to update the web presence. We would need a dozen of photographers taking images in shifts to make that happen. I am old school I want that clients come to my shop.
The most fun part about my job is to interact with your customers, to really get to know them and be able to get an immediate feedback on your work to than later buy collections with this knowledge in mind.
K: What does prospering retail look like today?
Andreas: To succeed in retail today you need to be highly specialized, search for special products and be aware of your role as a mediator between designer and customer. What makes your product special? What can it bring to your client? A pair of jeans or sneakers can be bought online because in this case its a pragmatic purchase. But take for example an Oyuna cashmere jacket, you rarely find them online, also the haptic aspect is missing, you wont feel the quality of the material, you need to experience it. Some of my clients I know for over ten years now, they are interested in spending their money consciously. We rarely attract people that buy just for the sake of consumption.
K: What is the concept of your online store?
Andreas: Our online store in the end is not showcasing products we sell in our store, what you’ll find are objects that are seasonless, that mostly come in small quantities. We tried to do something new here. I decided to put pieces from my personal collection up for auction, to make it special. I am happy to share things like the SIX Magazines by Comme des Garcons that have never been on sale to beginn with. That’s also why the starting prices are moderate. Some pieces start at 20,00€. 500€ is the most expensive one for a pair of Raf Simons overlong leather gloves.
K: Together with the online store you will host 4 auctions of objects from your personal collection. Is it difficult for you, to let them go?
Andreas: Not really. I am carrying these things with me for almost 40 years now and I got rid of a lot of it already. The invitation to Helmut Lang’s first show from 1985 for example, I left behind when we moved into a new apartment because I thought it was not as cool as the one from 1990 which we are now selling online.
It looks like a simple telefax. Many people only know the iconic images in the lookbooks and magazines I collected from Pinterest. So I thought, why not get them out there? It’s an almost didactic mission to show what fashion offered back then. Some objects I already collected with the purpose to sell them. I had the idea of a photo book room in my store, now this room is taking place online in the auctions. Wisely I bought two copies of most of them, so its not too hard to sell some.
K: Do you see more auctions coming up in the future?
Andreas: No, we do these four auctions and this is it. Otherwise it is nothing special anymore.
K: An auction of artifacts of fashion history reflects a nostalgia that has been present in the creative industry for quiet a while now. It sometimes feels as if fashion is looking for validation in the citation of iconic images.
Andreas: Fashion has become something very fleeting. So yes, validation is a value in demand. Many people act like they know fashion when in fact they don’t know fashion at all. I wouldn’t mind, but these people do not reflect the changes that the whole fashion industry is currently facing. To me it is questionable why someone light like Claire With Keller is appointed as designer of a heavy label like Givenchy. It has to be okay to ask these questions. I know Claire for a little while now. She started with knitwear design at Chanel, then she switched to Pringle of Scotland (a brand Andreas has a long relationship with). At Pringle it didn’t go very well for her. Then, very surprisingly she took the leading role at Chloe multiplying their sales in just one year.
K: Lately many creatives from different angles of the industry are taking over the design part and it seems like artistic direction doesn’t necessarily have to match. For example Ion Rogers the former Apple Music executive just became the chief digital officer of LVMH. Or lets remember Justin O’ Shea for traditional Italian menswear house Brioni who before was a buyer at Mytheresa with no experience in fashion design at all. Business of Fashion lately argued that editors have become the latest picks as creative directors at design houses due to the increased power of social media and storytelling in fashion.
Andreas: Maybe it is about storytelling, but apart from the stories around I barely see content in these clothes. Take brands like Vetements, Off-White or Palmangels that are everywhere at the moment. They are not famous for their high-quality product. It’s all about social media and creating news for the media. It feels as if designer shifts and the choice of their creative successors are widely influenced by that. If someone would ask me to become a designer I would have to recline because I am not a designer. I wouldn’t know where to start. There is a difference in knowing what looks good and making the clothes. People believe the hype. There is barely any critic these days. If people don’t like a collection they just don’t talk about it. Direct critic has become absent. Everything is just great.
K: Are you optimistic about the future?
Andreas: I am an optimist always. However the change that people would eventually turn towards buying smaller brands instead of only relying on the big names has been proclaimed for over ten years now, and we are still waiting. Funnily in my shop its the smaller brands that sell very well. Of course there is Céline and Dries, but people ask for the less known.
K: What do you think of the „See-now-buy-now“ model where collections go on sale the moment they leave the runway?
Andreas: From my viewpoint it didn’t stand the test. The problem with this concept is, that it comes at a high financial risk. Smaller fashion houses use part of the buyers budget to produce a collection in the first place. In the current system you are selling and before production. Imagine producing a whole collection that no one wants to buy in the end, it doesn’t take a lot to go bankrupt.
K: Do you feel the frequent changes of designers when you are buying the collections?
Andreas: Totally. I find it odd to see that many buyers stick to their preset budget for a design house although the creative lead and direction has changed. When Alexander Wang took over Balenciaga after Nicolas Gesquiere, I saw people buying for the same amount they always would sans regard to the collection.
People are good at sticking to a canned concept.
K: You just returned from the show season F/W17 . What was your highlight?
Andreas: Dries van Noten. The whole concept with women like Kirsten Owen and Amber Valletta was amazing. Also the new collection of Comme des Garcons with the whipped cream topping dresses has impressed me. I definitely want to buy one of these.
K: Before opening your own shop you had no experience in retail. Did you ever have a mentor?
Andreas: Definitely. Carla Sozzani was a pioneer in the field of retail. She used to show museum exhibitions in the upper floor of Corso Como. I remember a Man Ray exhibition that came straight out of a well-known museum and into her shop. To me it is complete and unique. The space at Corso Como was a car workshop, when designer Romeo Gigli turned it into a Showroom. Carla was his muse. When they separated she made up the shop from scratch.
A concept store is a selection defined by the person behind it. It’s about credibility. Back in the 1980s you would find hideous pottery on sale at Corso Como, but you knew that Carla Sozzani (the founder and owner) liked it and that she sticks to it. Which makes it credible. It’s the same at my stores, I have pieces that I can identify with no matter if everyone agrees or not. Also I am such a bad salesman that I really have to like something in order to be able to sell it. (laughs) I really like being in my shops as long as I don’t have to sell.
Print gewinnt – Ein Luxustag bei der F.A.S.
Ich stehe vor dem Verlagsgebäude in der Mittelstraße. Die Türklinke habe ich schon zweimal heruntergedrückt, die Klingel geht ins Leere. Hinter mir taucht der Herr vom Empfang auf: „So früh?.“
In meinem Büro ordne ich erstmal den Schreibtisch.
Öffne die Tür, der Gang liegt immer noch im Dunklen. Keiner da.
Frau D. die Sekretärin schaut gut gelaunt in mein Büro: „So früh? Das ist ja wie in einer Rentenanstalt hier – Sommerloch!“
Kinder rennen schreiend durch den schlauchförmigen Rundgang der die Büros verbindet. Herr S. plus Kinder ist da.
Arbeitsauftrag von Frau D.: „Gehen Sie doch mal zu Frau K., die zeigt Ihnen wie das Layout funktioniert. Herr S. ist heute nicht da.“
Ich schaue in Frau K’s Büro und klopfe an die offen stehende Tür. Sie schiebt das Fenster mit dem Kombinationsspiel an den Bildschirmrand und schaut mich achselzuckend von der Seite an: „Gut ich hab Mahjong gespielt. Ich könnte Ihnen jetzt zeigen, wie das mit dem Layout geht, aber ich bin echt ausgebrannt gerade. Lassen Sie uns das verschieben, ja?“
Konferenz: Fast alle da.
Frau K. kommt in den Konferenzraum, nimmt sich den Aschenbecher und geht wieder.
Alle da, Kaffe leer.
Ich sehe im Biomarkt LPG diesen Mann und ich weiß er ist wichtig für mich. Zuerst sehe ich nur seinen Rücken, er kniet vor dem Kakao-Regal. Seine schwarzen, kurzen Haare, seine tiefen Augenhöhlen von der Seite und Augenringe. Ein bisschen Hedi Slimane. Er sieht schlau aus, instinktiv, klar und sensibel. Er trägt einen schwarzen Rucksack und sieht mich nicht. An der Kasse treffen sich unsere Blicke komplett ungewollt und ich weiß, jetzt weiß er es auch. Immer wieder schauen wir uns an ich weiß nicht was ich sagen soll, und ich kann auch gar nicht, denn ich hab keine Stimme, Lungenentzündung. Ich verlasse den Laden und spüre seinen Blick im Rücken. Ich treibe mich noch eine Weile auf der Straße vor dem Eingang herum, finde ihn aber erst als er schon weit entfernt ist. Er dreht sich um und sieht mich nicht aber er sucht auch. Dann gibt er auf, geht um die Häuserecke und ist verschwunden.