Karima Hartit has been working in fashion retail for almost 10 years so it was rather a question of time until she opened up her own clothing store. Together with her boyfriend Jörg, who has a knack for vintage furniture, she finally swung open the doors of ‘Goldmarmor’ in the contemplative town of Darmstadt in September 2014. In a light and beautifully furnished ambience, the two sell selected (and often Scandi-minded) womens- and menswear by names such as A.P.C, Ganni, Libertine-Libertine or Hope plus accessories and jewelry by PB0110 or By Boe and a selection of add-on product from magazines to unusual perfumes. We spoke to Karima about the challenges of running own retail, the perks of being based in a small-scale city like Darmstadt and what a ‘feel good atmosphere’ really means. Interview by Maria Hunstig

Goldmarmor's black marble façade
Goldmarmor's black marble façade
Why did you open up your store in the first place? Tell us the story behind!
The idea of having an own store has been in my mind for a long time. I have been in textile retail for almost 10 years now and had since had the dream of trying out an own concept and realizing my ideas. My way to work has always led me and my boyfriend past the location which is now our store and from the very first day we have been in love with the great façade of the store, carried by black marble and golden window frames. These have also been the inspiration behind our store’s name “Goldmarmor” (German for ‘gold marble’). When one day there was a big “Closing” sign hanging behind the windows, our moment had come.

What has been your biggest challenge in leading the store so far?
Surely the eight week period before the opening during which we had to deal with renovation, buying and financing. But as so often, we were able to cope with that and open the store at the beginning of September 2014 thanks to helping hands, the support of our labels and a lot of own efforts. As I have been a longtime fan of Skandi labels and have some favorite brands, I was able to do the buying very focused while my boyfriend coordinated the rebuilding measures in-store.

Which is the most important ingredient for successful retail?
In retail, everyone always talks about the ‘feel good atmosphere’, although this of course is a very generic term. For us, this mainly means being close to our customers with personality and empathy. It’s not about foisting our customers on buying something but more about being a trustworthy contact person who inspires the customer to try something new without forcing her or him.

Which are your current bestsellers (brands as well as styles)? Which is your personal favorite brand?
In accordance with the season and the mild temperatures, coats in all variations are our bestsellers. More than that, our customers are always looking for unusual cuts and high-quality fabrics which are usually hard to find. My current favorite brands are for instance Ganni with its beautiful printed patterns and Libertine-Libertine with its special cuts and shapes.

Accessories play a big part, too
Accessories play a big part, too
Do customers come over planned or do they rather shop spontaneously?
Both. With a lot of heart and enthusiasm for fashion we have been able to build up a large fan base in quite a short time who comes along regularly to see what new things we have in-store. At the same time, there are many fashion enthusiasts who pass our shop windows by accident and are drawn into the shop by the styles and the atmosphere.

Where do you purchase your assortment? At trade shows, in showrooms?
We mainly by our collections in Copenhagen, although Copenhagen is also much about inspiration and hunting for new labels. But as we also have a thing for local designers, we also like to come to Berlin for ordering or visiting showrooms across Germany.

Where do you inform yourself about trends and which do you focus on for next summer?
Hunting new trends is a potpourri of different impressions for me. It’s a mix of streetstyles, fashion shows, traveling, magazines, blogs and personal preferences, all put together in a big mixer and in the end, what comes out each season are my style favorites. But I also love to discuss fashion and trends with my friends and a glass of red wine - this always gives me a completely different view on my job as buyer and shop owner.

How do you keep in touch with your regular customers?
We try to give our customers a reason to think of us and of course visit us with a selection of events. For informing customers about upcoming things and collections, we like to stick to classic communication via mail or e-mail, but also the communication via social networks is a major aspect to keep in touch with our regulars.

Hartit sells contemporary mens- and womens fashion
Hartit sells contemporary mens- and womens fashion
What does your store have that others don’t?
On the one hand we offer a selection of labels that you cannot find on every corner and which stand out with their cuts and fabrics. On the other hand we try to render the store a personal touch and atmosphere that cannot be copied.

What do you like about your location, the city of Darmstadt and the people here?
Darmstadt is not a big city and that’s exactly what makes it so appealing, it’s why we have such a great bond to our customers. The walking paths of our clients often lead past our store and so many come along spontaneously to talk about fashion, try on and buy things. We love the new Theaterplatz which is located only a few meters from our shop. It is great to sit there and enjoy the sunset over the city, and walking there you will always pass Goldmarmor.

Do you have an online shop? Which social media channels are you making use of?
Up until now we do stationary retail only, also because we are convinced that this is the only way to render optimal care and advice to your clients. However this does not mean that we don’t think about the topic of online retail at all. We use social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr to keep our followers updated on what’s new and interesting in-store.

Is there a role model for your shop? Any store worldwide that inspires you?
Role model would be the wrong term as so many shops are very individual and targeted to their city’s own needs. But of course there are always stores delivering inspiration and ideas, but I wouldn’t like to pick out one – too many great concepts out there.

Store address
Wilhelminenstraße 4
64283 Darmstadt