Our brand's success in the European market thus far has much to do with the relationships formed through one of our first accounts there, Burg & Schild in Berlin. One of the partners there, Kay Knipschild, went on to open up Red Wing Heritage shops throughout Germany: first Berlin, then Hamburg, and finally Munich. He brought with him Christian Josh Heise (Josh to us), who we had met during his stint as an administrative manager for Burg & Schild. His love of raw denim, rugged boots and hardcore music resonated well with us from the beginning and we were excited to find out that he partnered with Kay to open up a denim-focused shop in Munich right next door to the Red Wing Heritage shop called Statement Store. Now well into their second year of operations, we took time to chat with Josh about how he's enjoying the city and how the store has been received.
When we first met, you were working with Kay at the Red Wing Berlin store. What were your responsibilities there? How did the experience prepare you for your current position of shop manager at Statement?
I started to work for Kay when he was still co-owner and founder of Burg&Schild, which was somehow the birthplace of the success of the Red Wing Shoe Stores in Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich. From the small shoecorner within this denim mecca of Berlin, the three Red Wing Shoe Stores arose. Both selvedge denim and the goodyear welted boots Red Wing Shoes is offering have their roots in American workwear and are in my opinion one of a kind when you start talking about heritage and widely hand- and purposed made, high quality goods. I was an odd-job man within the company back then. Accounting, operating the office, establishing and managing the online shop, and of course retail. From 2013 on, when Kay was solely responsible for the Red Wing Shoe Stores I became something like a general manager. But the both of us were still all about denim and vintage clothing aside from our daily business with the Red Wing Shoe Stores.
When the opportunity came up to open a denim store in mid-2014, the both of us were spontanous and complete in every aspect: we have to do this! The store is literally next door to the Red Wing Shoe Store in one of Munich’s most creative, exciting and eclectic areas - the Glockenbachviertel, which has a huge history in traditional retail and crafts; the neighborhood is open-minded and upfront.
All in all, I am not sure if you are ever fully prepared to start your own business, but I guess your passion drives you and I think this is what the people see, feel and like about the Statement.
What was the motivation to open a denim-focused shop in Munich?
There was not one motivation in particular, it was just the perfect window of opportunity. As the possibility came up, when the landlord contacted us, there was at no point the question "if" we should do it. It was more like, we have to do it. Perfect time, perfect place. The next deliberations and thoughts were basically of how we wanted the store to be. Germans are really conservative to a certain point and tend to think in boxes and this might lead people to lose their openess to many things in different ways. Inspired from experiences we had in the past and from befriending retailers and brands all over the world, we did not want to reinvent just another denim store. Rather, we wanted to create a place where each and every guy no matter how tall or large he or his wallet is finds a perfect pair of jeans for himself. A small local business for uncommon crafty things, where people love to pop by. A men’s store without frivolity and egos.
Not to forget, Munich was somehow a blank spot on Germany’s denim map. There were a few stores who did great in pioneering selvedge denim (e.g. Gasoline Alley) and without them the success of Statement would not even imaginable, but all in all there was not even something close to the eclectic selection of denim brands the Statement is offering today. So with all due respect, you might see Statement and all people involved in it as kind of selvedge missionaries in Germany’s wild south.
Now that you’ve spent almost a year in Munich yourself, what can you tell us about the city? What are its residents like, and how are they responding to the aesthetic that Statement is bringing?
The city is a beauty and somehow like Berlin without any graffiti. Germans have certain hackneyed cliches about Bavaria and especially Munich. Most of them are not true, except the buzz about Oktoberfest. People are friendly, candid and wear their hearts on their tongues. Lots of creativity and culture and a certain drive and focus, which Berlin sometimes is missing.
In regard to the way the people approach the idea of a denim store, it’s kind of diverse but uniformly and positively appreciated. Customers can be overwhelmed and maybe a bit shy or aloof at first because of the selection of items we are stocking (which no other store in that plenitude and purity did before in Munich) but usually customers appreciate our honest guidance and advice and basically everyone comes back and becomes a regular customer. Of course our chain stitch hemming service is a benefit and a unique feature too, as we are the only store in Germany momentarily offering chain stitch hemming to their customers.
What are some of your favorite local businesses that you like to support?
Impulsively there are two places which come into my mind right away, and I am a regular customer of both of them. Firstly, Man vs. Machine, which is THE coffee spot in Munich and right around the corner. I know you are worshipping good coffee as well and you would love it, that's for sure. Super friendly staff, in-house roastery and best place in town to start the day.
Secondly, there is one of Munich’s finest vintage & antiques stores, which is called Sams & Son. In my opinion the best adress for uncommon things in Germany’s south. Definitely a must visit for your next to trip to Munich.
While writing these words, I just realized that both Marco (owner Men vs Machine) and Piere (Sams&Son) are immigrants to Bavaria like myself, as you might know. Maybe there is something about Munich which appeals to guys from the North, not sure. Anyway leave all perceptions about Munich behind and the city will definitely surprise you!
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