Bob Rijnders is a true denim veteran. With a passion for the blue fabric from early years on, he opened up his first, 100 sqm denim store 20 years ago in Hoogland, in the middle of Holland. Despite its remote location, Rijnders successfully serves a loyal customer base there, which allowed him to move to a bigger store location in 1999 and even open another, less denim-centered store in 2002. On a total of 600 sqm, Rijnders today offers a mix of casual mens- and womenswear including brands such as Second Female, Toms, Deus or Filling Pieces at his 'Best of Brands' store and a solid denim selection at the Butcher of Blue shop. Under the same name as the latter, Rijnders also runs his own little line of denim and vintage-inspired shirts. We spoke to him about his love for indigo garments and the retail business itself. Interview by Maria Hunstig

The Butcher of Blue (photo: Steven van Kooijk)
The Butcher of Blue (photo: Steven van Kooijk)
Why did you open your store? Tell us the story behind!
When I was a little boy of around six years old I was already intrigued about denim. My first pair of jeans were dungarees of the brand Trader that were way to big for me and my mom had to remake them to make it fit. So from that point the love for denim began and was a blue thread in my life so it became a natural thing to start in this industry. I wanted to be a free spirit and started my first store in 1995. At the moment I have two stores with a total of 600sqm, one focuses totally on jeans and denim related products, the other drives on a sophisticated, modern brand mix.

What are your current bestselling labels and styles?
Right now I sell Denham the Jeanmaker well and our own brand Butcher of Blue, but in general I sell all kind of denim types to all kinds of people. This makes my job interesting and never dull, denim is for everybody and for every age - that’s why I love my job.

Where do you order your products (showrooms or trade shows)?
It’s a mix where I get my brands and products from. This can be from a trade fair such as Pitti Uomo or Premium Berlin or via the regular showrooms where I still buy most items. I keep track on new brands and designers through social media, other retailers and the regular media channels and consumer demand.

Where do you collect information about upcoming trends and new labels?
Information regarding collection, trends and inspiration comes to me via different channels. This can be online, at fairs, festivals, during my travels, but also when I wander around at vintage markets across Europe.

Butcher of Blue collaboration shirt with Amor Luxr
Butcher of Blue collaboration shirt with Amor Luxr
Are there any new brands or projects that you are really excited about right now?
First of all “Your store is your brand”: my feeling says that this is the way we roll these days, so buy things you like and you will cater a regional fan base, in our case expanding throughout Europe. This game excites me every day. I am extremely proud of the fact that we launched the latest Butcher of Blue collection during the Amsterdam Denim Days last week including two new selvedge denims from the legendary Candiani mill in Italy. On top of that we did a collaboration or as we call it a “hook up” with French heritage label Armor Lux where we reinvented the classic Breton shirt [note: the hook being the main logo from Butcher of Blue, the Breton shirt being their key style for years].

Which denim trends do you see coming for fall/winter 2015-16?
Tight or wide who knows (smiling). I strongly believe that in denim trends some fits like the skinny and boyfriend always remain and the seventies look that you see nowadays with its flares and high waist is temporary but will influence the marketplace heavily.

How has your business changed in an ever-more competitive retail scene and how do you deal with it?
Of course the game has changed and will change, the total business and industry has changed and all retailers try to anticipate this as best they can, I always follow my own lead.

I strongly believe the classic seasons and its deliveries have become irrelevant, the consumer demand has become leading and requires fast response by offering the right product from the brands, practically on demand. Consumers can get their hands on new products daily through the web, buying shorts during winter time or find their winter jacket when the time dictates that to them etc. This didn’t happen 6 years ago. As mentioned before “my store is my brand” and it still develops in this process on a daily basis.

The Butcher of Blue (photo: Steven van Kooijk)
The Butcher of Blue (photo: Steven van Kooijk)
How often do you redecorate the store, how important is the interior?
Probably too much, as I believe its key to make the changes in my interior and presentation, this also makes my job fun. The stores’ interiors are extremely important to me, as they strongly influence my customers and inspire them to come back and support their local retailer, or, as I say “support your local butcher”.

What do you like about your location and your customers?
Best of Brands is based in Hoogland next to Amersfoort in the midst of Holland. It’s a destination store and my customers take the time to drive to my shop, so we need to make it worth the visit. Generally we strive to stay away from the beaten path and a location remote like ours offers space for creativity and opportunity for a great collection of various brands and labels as well as the physical space to focus on the development of the Butcher of Blue.

How important is social media to you? How do you make use of it?
It is important to let people know what you are doing especially with my own brand Butcher of Blue as well as for the two stores; this is how we communicate our brand to the whole world instead of keeping it local.

Social media is one of the main resources of consumer inspiration and product research, if we don’t manage to draw the customers’ attention we risk losing them in the long run so we spend a fair bit of energy on it and get great response.

The Butcher of Blue (photo: Steven van Kooijk)
The Butcher of Blue (photo: Steven van Kooijk)

Is there a role model for your shop? Any store – worldwide – which inspires you?
I don’t have one specific role model for a store, but of course I follow what is going on in the world in terms of shop openings and trending shop windows. I get my daily dose of inspiration via different kind of channels. This can be via social media, my kids, people on the streets or a dirty old army surplus store somewhere in the Dutch countryside, luckily most of it just overcomes me and my customers appreciate the authenticity in that.

Best of Brands / Butcher of Blue
Hamseweg 7-9
3828 AA Hoogland