Retailer of the Week
09 Jan. 2014
Herbert Hofmann, Buyer & Creative Director, Voo Store Berlin
Herbert Hofmann has a job that many might be jealous of: he is buyer and creative director of Berlin's Voo Store, one of the capital's most stylish shopping destinations around. In its three years of existence, the 300 sqm store in a Kreuzberg backyard has not only developed an assortment that reflects the most hyped fashion brands of the moment plus selected up-and-coming designer labels but also arranged various collaborations and events such as an Isabel Marant pour H&M pre-shopping night last year. Here, Hofmann talks about the store's direction, his inpirations and how he is very picky with denim. Interview by Maria Hunstig
Why did you open your store? Tell us the story behind it!
Voo Store was opened 3 years ago by the founders of Luzia Bar in Kreuzberg. The idea was to create a place where designs that we love are shown and sold that we love! It's not about pushing consumption but about representing what we believe in and offering the service to preselect from the masses you can shop everywhere and whenever you want.
We have our in-house cafe Companion Coffee where you can get one of Berlin’s best brews, we sell bikes because we prefer biking over cars and we sell Austrian Hiking backpacks because their quality and design is amazing and has been for 50 years – its about a conscious lifestyle, its not just about wearing labels.
What are your current bestselling labels? Do you have any personal favorites?
We do have some bestselling brands like Carven, Acne or Nike – but they change in winter and summer seasons. Some brands are strong summer brands or the other way around.
I'm a huge fan of Libertine-Libertine, Carven and Hien Le!
Back part of the store
How important is the denim segment for your store?
It's pretty strong and getting even stronger – its stands a lot for the stores style. Denim is an everyday classic and with the right combination it works even for business outfits!
In terms of denims: Which cuts / shapes / washings / colors are most popular at the moment?
I'm quite picky with denim - applications and crazy washings are something I don't understand. We do have a wide range of jeans and colours/patterns and the cuts are all straight or skinny fit for men and women. Blue jeans and especially very bright blue ones are very popular.
Do customers search for favorite brands and special styles or do they buy spontaneously?
A lot of people buy brands they know, but we do have a lot of young and unknown brands, which is sometimes more exciting to show. Most of our customers are very “fashion educated” and might know them, but of course we do love to surprise customers with great designs that they haven’t heard of.
Where do you order your products?
We order in Paris, Berlin and Copenhagen. That's where we meet most of our designers and find a lot of inspiration!
What inspires you, where do you get your information about upcoming trends?
Many of my friends and people around me inspire me – for example, if I see a certain style or item and if I see it a second time I might think that it would work for the store. In general I don't want to follow trends. Of course it happens that a type of shoe is back in fashion but only because “all white” is the new thing. You wont see a lot of people buying more white pants simply because not everybody looks great in them. For other inspiration I always have my eyes open wherever I go.
Are there any new brands that you have ordered for the first time now?
We do carry new brands like Common Affairs from Sweden, MSGM from Italy or Filles a Papa from Belgium. It's very exciting to see if customers love new brands as much as we do when we buy them for the shop!
Front area of Voo Store
What do you think will be the key-pieces/trends in summer 2014?
The key pieces will include a lot of jersey tops with all-over prints, logos and block-striped pieces. Flowerprints are also very strong again. Birkenstock and Adiletten are so strong again this season and Adidas created a great story about the return of the Stan Smith Sneaker, which I love!
How do you stay in contact with your (regular) customers?
We send newsletters and use social media channels like Instagram and Facebook, but the best and most fun way is communication through our events. Events are fun - the interaction between the person showing the work, the customer and us is the best way to show what you love!
What do you like about your location and your customers?
The space is in a backyard and away from the usual shopping districts- that’s a great fact, since I'm not a fan of shopping while surrounded by masses of people. The shop is big and has a very laid back look and that’s the feeling we want to communicate. We sell fashion and show exciting designs and that’s fun – our customer should touch the items and explore what we have in every corner of the shop or they can just hang out and drink a coffee in our cafe. This laid back attitude is also what the customer appreciates and they feel that it’s real and we don’t just follow trends. They find handmade screwdrivers next to jewellery, books, sneakers or lightbulbs – there are no rules!
Voo Store also offers an exciting range of accessories, jewlery, cosmetics, home products and magazines
Are there any differences to similar stores in cities like Berlin, London or New York?
In general its definitely an advantage that we are still a small and young team and we can do whatever we want since are independent. With some shops you feel that it’s about increasing sales and the passion is lost. We want to keep that “handmade” touch. None of us studied fashion and we all have a lot of other interests, which keep us grounded.
Do you have an online shop? Do you run any social media activities?
We do have an onlineshop: www.vooberlin.com we also wanted to show a different approach there – experts tell us the design is not optimized for shopping but we believe in the style and that customers appreciate the inspiring blog look. We also work with Instagram, facebook and twitter.
Is there a role model for your shop? Any store – worldwide – which inspires you?
There's a lot of retailers that I have liked for a long time like Storm in Copenhagen or Opening Ceremony in New York, but the very inspiring shops are places like workshop-material retailer Modulor or small places where you can find things that are awesome if you put them in the right surroundings - like the Austrian hiking backpack!
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