We’ve had the pleasure of working with Thomas Jablonski, co-founder of Stuf|f Fine Goods, for almost 7 years now. Together with his partner Stephan, he’s created a beautiful shopping experience in Düsseldorf that offers not only clothing, accessories, books and lifestyle goods, but everything down to the store fixtures and furniture. It’s pretty special to see well-made new clothing being displayed alongside decades-old furniture that has served its previous owners for generations.
Their bio on their website states that the shop is “dedicated to fine ‘soul made’ menswear and lifestyle goods that are well-crafted, have timeless design and can be styled in a contemporary, modern way.” We’d tend to agree, and if you’re following them on Instagram, the entire feed is dedicated to fit pics. That’s it. They have fun recontextualizing the denim and workwear they stock in new and approachable ways, and it shows.
Our EU sales agent, Matt Wilson, had a chance to link up with Thomas a few months back. Being the multitalented man that he is, Matt also shot some great photos of the store - we’re excited to share both the images and the conversation with you below.
It wasn’t a straight road to opening Stuf|f Fine Goods. Walk us through what you were doing before opening the store?
Stephan (co-founder and the “S” in Stuf|f) and I were “Mad Men”, working as strategists in advertising agencies. We still do. At least on a part-time, project basis.
Stephan and I started talking about our own business concept about 10 years ago. We would often discuss our plans for the future. What we want to do “when we are grownups,” because, you know, there are not so many old guys in advertising agencies. One thing was always clear. We would only start something that we were passionate about and identified with fully. Not just something that would supposedly make lots of money.
During my summer holidays in 2014, encouraged by my wife, I decided that thought experiments and ‘what ifs’ were not enough anymore. I developed the idea of “Stephan, Thomas und Freunde | feine Sachen” (Stuf|f – fine goods) at a beach club in Chalkidiki. When I returned to Germany I created (typical advertiser) a PowerPoint presentation detailing the concept, philosophy and cornerstones. I presented it to Stephan. He loved it.
Clothing and denim were one part of this concept, but it’s more about quality in general, friendship and a lot of egoism, haha! Our concept is, or at least could be, about everything that we love. All kinds of things where we have the feeling that it doesn’t exist, or at least doesn’t exist in the way we wish. Actually, we almost started with a hotel instead in line with this very same concept.
What are some of the things you brought over from your other gigs that you’ve been able to apply to the retail side? How are things different?
It's funny, we have our roots in advertising and communications but we do almost no advertising and steer well clear of these things we would have to pay for. We strongly believe that passion and enthusiasm will create an avid customer base. This is what we want to communicate in our store, on social media and in the conversations with our customers. It certainly takes longer to succeed but it will also last longer.
The mix of brands in Stuf|f is as eclectic as it is approachable. What draws you to the specific brands you stock?
As mentioned Stuf|f is a very egoistic business concept. We only sell what we personally love. And what we love are goods that are well-crafted and made with some soul, that have a story behind them, that have timeless design and - most importantly - that can be styled in a contemporary, versatile and modern way. We are more about fashion and style than about heritage; we don't sell uniforms or a specific style. We provide our customers with the ingredients to create their own style. Jan, Jim, Eike, Niklas, my wife Katja, we all have stuff from Stuf|f but our looks are completely different.
Tell us a little bit about Dusseldorf and the part of town you’re in. What are some of your favorite local businesses that you enjoy supporting?
I moved to Düsseldorf for a new job in 2001 and I didn't like the city, and wanted to move away as soon as possible. Now, 21 years later with 4 kids a house and my own business I'm still here. I think Düsseldorf is like a good pair of jeans. A bit stiff and clean at the beginning but the longer you "wear" it the more beautiful and unique it gets. Maybe it's just the wearer who has to get older and then you appreciate all this city has to offer. It gives you everything a big city does - arts and culture, fashion, lifestyle, nightlife - and at the same time it's small enough to easily get around by bike. Even the area I'm living in has a rural feel but it’s very central.
I like the area around our store. It's an evolving part of the city with lots of galleries and new, cool businesses but still very "kiez" (the German word cozy neighbourhood) and down to earth. Our beautiful espresso machine is being repaired so we get our daily espresso and latte machiatto in the small coffee shops around here like Oma Erika, Hüftgold and Cafe Kleinod. If you're at Cafe Kleinod at lunch time one day you have to ask Fabrizio what the daily special is. He makes the best Italian food in the neighborhood. The best bread in Düsseldorf can be found on our street at the craft bakery Bulle Baeckerei. And if you are looking for an exceptional gift or handmade jewellery and other great goods you have to visit our friend Moritz Wenz.
You have some amazing pieces of furniture in the store. Any particular favorites?
Our furniture is hand-picked like our clothing so I love all of them. If I had to choose 3 items I'd go for the French Vintage shelf from the 1950s, the Humphrey chair and the wooden vintage cinema chairs.