Sportswear International talked to Yves Hanke, owner of BOYS BOYS BOYS in Hamburg, about why it doesn’t take you a suit and a white shirt anymore to look chic these days and why simplicity can be fascinating. Interview by Lena Elster

What are the current bestselllers? Why? What are your personal favorite brands?

Next to the ‘Logocollection’ of the house label  BOYS BOYS BOYS, including tanks, t-shirts and jute bags, the absolute bestsellers, 5Preview still is one of our most popular brands, especially the t-shirts with their prints inspired by other brands or fashion houses. Also more than successful is also the second line of Damir Domas, Silent. The reason for this I see in the extraordinary quality of the fabrics and the simplicity of the cuts which completely supersede the use of prints or other decoration. The pieces are supercomfy without looking like casual- or loungewear.

Which jeans labels are selling best? Do people shop according to their favorite brand, style, or just by impulse?
We sell Monkee Genes from the UK very well, as well as April 77 from France. We offer skinny fit styles by these brands and our customers definetely buy these brands because they are ’fans’ of them. I think it’s important to create a basic look with jeans labels and a matching life spirit and to stick to it. Image and the positioning of a brand are highly important today in order to stand out of an overwhelming wide range of labels. I think April77 succeeded in doing this very well and this makes customers becoming fans and returning consumers; although of course the quality has to be right – which is the case.

Do customers rather buy single pieces or entire looks?
It totally depends. Brands like DRKSHDW by Rick Owens work best as an entire look because the separate pieces often play with proportions and when you don’t wear the styles in the ‘right context’, there’s something wrong with the overall picture. Otherwize, we can recognize a trend to a sometimes even absolute brand loyality which means that many of our regular customers exclusively shop one or two brands which reflect their look and image of their personality and aesthetics the most. They come, for instance, completely dressed in Henrik Vibskov and further expand step by step their wardrobe with more Vibskov styles, so you can actually say that more entire looks are sold.
BOYS BOYS BOYS assortment
BOYS BOYS BOYS assortment

Where do you buy your stock? What inspires you? How important is the dialogue with your customers?
Twice a year, I visit Paris for the Men’s Fashion Week and attend shows, fairs and showrooms, where I order the main part of our assortment. Berlin with its Fashion Week becomes more and more exciting year by year, but still has a long way to go in order to keep up on the international level. I also make orders there, but not as much.

The biggest source of inspiration after the fairs is with no doubt the internet. The dialogue with our customers and regular clients is very important to me. BOYS BOYS BOYS offers an intimate atmosphere without being confining. Every label is in its own way special and has a history that I’m –if desired– communicating.

What is the most important piece for summer 2012?
I try to avoid making statements regarding must-haves. To me, authentic, washed labels are interesting that are innovative, integrate trends, but put more focus on the overall picture and the feeling behind the brand instead of always trying to create these must-haves (that are quickly out-dated again) or to orientate themselves according to trend colors. A piece gets exciting when it speaks for itself and doesn’t loose its attractiveness within one or two years. As a trend, I notice the tendency to fashion that is comfortable but at the same time also formal. To look chic, you don’t need a suit with a white shirt anymore, a well-fitting t-shirt with a jacket and a low-crotch-pant (which by the way is one of the key items at the moment and still will be next summer, to become more concrete now) can definitely catch up.

What are the most important trends/product groups?
The early ‘90s for sure will further influence collections; clear lines à la Helmut Lang on the one hand and the courage to go for color and prints in wild mixes on the other hand. At BOYS BOYS BOYS, it will definitely get more colorful, combined with a bit fetish-inspired pieces and accessories; otherwize we stay true to our credo which means to offer everyday, but special fashion and to rather stay away from fast moving trends.

Did you add any new labels to your assortment? Are you taking any risks, in general?
As new labels for the f/w 2011/12 season, we welcome Odeur, a Swedish label, Qasimi from the UK and Asger Juel Larsen, a fresh graduate of London College Fashion MA. Moreover, we have added Matistache, a young label from Berlin. BOYS BOYS BOYS is definetely adventurous because we offer many brands that are still unknown in the mass-market by supporting newcomers and brands that aren’t established yet, and we are always looking for new and fresh influences.

Plaese tell us something about your most interesting labels.
As one of the most exciting fashion designers of our times I see Rick Owens, who is represented in our shop with his second line DRKSHDW. In my opinion, he has its own way of looking on men’s fashion and is both forming styles and courageous.  Damir Doma, also represented with his second line, is as exciting. His unusual differently constructed cuts are distinctive, but without being to obvious, they are incredibly wearable and often fascinating in their simplicity.

Which things make your shop stand out from others?
When we developed the concept and the assortment, as well as the selection of the location, it was especially important to me that the shop completely differs and stands out from all the other shops in Hamburg. I wanted to create a somehow adventurous inspiring place which is exciting and sexy, exclusive without an elitist demand, and addresses all senses. A place that grabs my attention as a customer due to its uniqueness and its aesthetic, where I would like to return to, and that somehow maybe is also provocative. Moreover, many of the labels that we offer you do not find in Hamburg anywhere else, sometimes not even in Germany.

What do you like most about your city/location/customers?
Hamburg is a city where you rarely find such concepts like the one of BOYS BOYS BOYS. There’s just a handful of truly new and innovative concepts, that’s why the city is very interesting for me as a location. What I like about my customers is the fact that they attach importance on quality and a good product and even though they often dress with a lot of understatement, they are also very willing to expand their wardrobe and to change.

How important is the interior/the atmosphere/ the whole package?

Like I already said, BOYS BOYS BOYS is there to inspire, to evoke feelings, and to address all senses. I want to surprise and at the same time also be coherent regarding the concept, the assortment and the interior. The whole package is obviously the sum of all factors and I have tried to match this from the beginning of the concept development until the final realization. The store now is located in St. Pauli between the ‘Schanze’ and the ‘Karoviertel’, deliberately between the party district and the shopping mile.  The store is ‘stage-managed’ from the location to the interior, every detail is chosen for a reason and sometimes pushed to the limit. I would say that the store is definitely an adventure and more than just a sum of the different factors.

What about the consumer behavior? Do people rather buy classics or special pieces?
We almost don’t sell any classics, there are many others who do a great job by doing this. At BOYS BOYS BOYS, you’ll find the special, the unusual and extraordinary, and this is working in a conservative city like Hamburg.  If this is a trend, I cannot say, men have definitely become more conscious when it comes to their clothes and are less scared to dress fashionable or different.

How important is the online shop? Do you shop online yourself? Are there still going to be real stores in the future?
The online shop is an important part of our business, especially because we almost exclude walk-in customers except some adventurers. The gross of our sales we still generate with our real store. The biggest plus of the e-commerce in my opinion is the unlimited accessibility. But even as practical as it is, e-commerce cannot replace regular business in brick-and-mortar shops. Often you want to feel the items, convince yourself from the quality and to get advice. E-commerce is a great add-on and will further grow, but it will not outsource regular sales business.

Is there any store that inspires you?
Definitely Colette in Paris, although the magical glamour has vanished a little bit; Darklands and Apartment in Berlin are great shops with very interesting concepts. Moreover, I really like the small but very nice WOK-Store in Milan and Wut Berlin in Tokyo seems to be interesting although I have never been there.