Magdalena “Lena” Terlutter and Leonard “Leo” Dobroshi have started their fashion concept store Boutique Belgique in Cologne’s hip and offsite area “Belgisches Viertel” (German for Belgian District) in late 2010. The shop offers current yet affordable women’s fashion and is the team’s second store after ‘Salon Sahnestück’, which has already been catering Cologne-based fashion lovers for five years. Interview by Maria Hunstig

One of the store's best sellers: tote bags by “Jute Beutel”
One of the store's best sellers: tote bags by “Jute Beutel”
What are your current bestselling labels? Why? Which ones are your personal favorite brands?
Tote bags by “Jute Beutel” and shirts with a tribute to Chanel and Co. sell very well at the moment. The prints and fits we are selling are partly designed by us and can only be found at our store.

What do you sell best in terms of denim?
Denim by Maison Scotch is unbeatable. People do care about brands, but they care more about shape. Skinny and tapered legs are very popular. Authentic finishes on the tapered and moreover pastel shades on the skinnies are the strongest in demand.

Do you sell more single pieces or complete outfits?
We are very outfit-oriented, even while doing our purchasing. This concept goes over to our sales marketing and around the store so that our customers are always shown whole looks. Most of them are quite appreciative and buy the entire style.

Where do you find inspiration for your buying?
We follow trend, fashion and lifestyle blogs on the web everyday. We travel a lot, which is very inspiring and we keep our eyes open for street looks in our city. This way, we are always informed about how to offer trends and themes commercially – even when directed at very informed customers. Our labels originate from all over Europe – Paris, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London – and we order most of the brands at international Fashion Week fairs. Everything is wildly mixed and our focus is placed on individuality and trend-factor.

Shop window decoration
Shop window decoration

Which is the most important garment for summer 2012 and what can we expect for the winter 2012/13 season?
White and light yellow cropped skinny jeans are favorite basic pieces. For winter, we look forward to cords, velvet and paisley patterns.

Which are the most important trends or product groups?
Right now? Print shirts and cool bottoms such as denims or chinos.

Are there any new labels in your assortment? Would you generally describe the shop as being rather experimental?
We don’t order by company, but by product. Generally speaking, we like to stick to a brand if the collection is on point. We are always open to everything. It just has to fit to our concept and it has to meet the high standards of our clients.

How do you differentiate from other stores?
There is no magic formula. Our store is simply very up-to-date and modern. We receive new goods every week and what’s taken is taken. So if you like something, you have to be quick.

Lena & Leo: "As Cologne natives, we obviously love our city!"
Lena & Leo: "As Cologne natives, we obviously love our city!"
What do you particularly like about Cologne, your location and your customers?
As Cologne natives, we obviously love our city and especially the Belgian District, which is the creative heart. We feel totally well placed here with our two stores.

How important is the interior, the atmosphere and the entire product?
It’s really important! We want to present a stylish and relaxed shopping atmosphere to our clients. If they like it, they can be advised or just be inspired. Visual merchandising and love for details and products are of key importance to us.

How is purchasing behavior developing? Do people want classics or rather unique pieces?
It’s a bit of both, ideally combined. The most important thing is to feel comfortable and not dressed up. It doesn’t matter if you get to that level with classic pieces or with special items.

Do you have an online strategy? Do you shop online yourselves? Is there a future for real stores?
We offer an online shop as a service because we have a lot of clients from Berlin, Hamburg and other German cities that follow our blog everyday. Perhaps there will be a real online shop in the future; we receive requests all the time. I personally think it’s great to shop face-to-face and to experience the look and feel of the clothing and the atmosphere of the store, to receive a nice bag and to talk to like-minded fashionistas. No online shop in the world can offer that.

Is there a kind of role-model store for the Boutique Belgique?
No, there is no such thing as a role-model store. It’s more the impulses that come from many different cities, whether it be a great light installation in a museum or the individual set-up of a flea market booth.

Boutique Belgique, Brabanter Straße 29, 50672 Köln, Germany -
Boutique Belgique, Brabanter Straße 29, 50672 Köln, Germany -