Maloja is one of the few brands that can sell successfully both a technical sports collection and a streetwear collection. Founded twelve years ago in a small village in the Bavarian Alps in Germany, the brand has gathered an international fan base. Peter Räuber and Klaus Haas, the two founders of Maloja, tell about their international plans and special positioning between sports and streetwear.
Maloja is perceived as a brand that has its roots and market in the Alps. But you also grow strongly international. Where can we find Maloja already?
Peter Räuber: There are now three stores in South Korea alone. Our partner has opened the third Maloja Store, one of them in Gangnam, the most fashionable district of Seoul. We have also established our own subsidiaries in the USA and Canada. In the USA there have been dealers who have worked very successfully with us for many years. In 2015 we participated in a trade show in the USA for the first time. But it was clear: if you want to get there, you have to be present. Import is not enough to establish a healthy business. So we set up a branch office. We wanted to signal that we come to stay. Internationalization has never been a goal, but we have been pushing forward. But, of course, the Alpine region is our home.
In 2015 we participated in a trade show in the USA for the first time. But it was clear: if you want to get there, you have to be present. Import is not enough to establish a healthy business. So we set up a branch office.
Your collection is located between fashion and sports. How open is the sports retailer for your streetwear collections?
Klaus Haas: It’s always a challenge to convince our retailers and make our kind of modernity understandable for the sports retailer. Best example: Ethno-Looks. Three years ago, we had one of the most progressive collections ever, inspired by the culture of Bolivia and Peru. In the metropolises you could find ethno-looks everywhere, WGSN voted us the outdoor brand of the year. But do you think a dealer would have understood that? We have learned from this that we offer this modernity better in more homeopathic quantities. The customer is sometimes ahead of the sportsman.
It’s always a challenge to convince our retailers and make our kind of modernity understandable for the sports retailer.
Maloja had been linked to the modern Alpine look. Was that too tight for you?
KH: Yes, we were linked to the modern alpine tradition. But then we went 11,000 km farther away, to Peru, and that was too much for many. Of course, we were too early and too crass. For many, we didn’t look like Maloja anymore. We have learned from this: only about 30 percent of the collection can be so modern, the rest must be recognizable. But it was still good. It polarized and triggered emotions. The question is only in what turn we can afford to do something like that again. Since then, some partners are a bit nervous when we announce the new collection theme.
How has this been done economically?
PR: Until then, we have had between ten and forty percent growth annually. In that special year we came to Paris for the first time. We were not used to that.
Why are there so few young, innovative brands in sports?
PR: It is much easier to produce a lifestyle collection than a functional sports collection. The development, the processing, the technology - you just need more background knowledge. It is also difficult to survive the first years. We were fortunate enough that our fans were patient. We promised to improve, and that's what we did. It is impossible to start at zero and be top at the same time when you are a petitioner for every producer and you are the last one to be produced and delivered. And so you should win new customers. This is a proper hurdle for the beginning. When we started, it was basically similar to today - it were difficult times, the traditional brands had lost their importance. This also meant that people were open to new things and paid much attention to them.Formularbeginn.