Two years ago, we spoke with Oliver Schultz for the first time. Together with four other denim experts, he founded the jeans label Five Fellas in 2017. The concept? An honest denim product that differs from the mass product, perfect fit, sustainable production and traditional craftsmanship at a good price. Time to ask if the Five Fellas concept has worked out and what the status quo is. A conversation with Co-founder Oliver Schultz:
How has Five Fellas developed since it was founded?
The brand has developed well since June 2018. We are never satisfied, that would mean stagnation, but we are absolutely on schedule and have made a few corrections here and there.
What kind of corrections? Was it about the collection?
It was not so much about the collection, but much more about the distribution and the corresponding agencies. We made adjustments there. We simply noticed that we had very different customer structures on the sales side. And that didn't always fit. This is something that has to develop.
How was the product accepted in the first season?
We noticed that the market in Holland started much faster than in Germany. I explain this by the fact that the Dutch people decide very strongly from the gut if they like a product and then have the courage to buy it. They are more open to new brands and have a good hand for selected products. In Germany, retailers are even more cautious. People in Germany prefer to play it safe.
What feedback have you received from your customers so far?
Retailers understand the product, but often find the price too low. But that's exactly our approach. We always wanted to focus on value for money. Many retailers have told us that we could be more expensive, but we find that the 180 Euro jeans or the just under 200 Euro jeans have a hard time in stationary retail. Due to the fact that we have also positioned ourselves well in the entire value chain, we can offer our customers this price range. We find the product good and comprehensible. Another feedback we get again and again is that we offer extremely good fits, we hear that from our retailers. Five Fellas Denims, for example, are placed next to Cambio on the shop floor because of their fit. We are at eye level with such brands. We make a separate fit for each pair of denims. We pay very close attention to calf, bottom - everything is taken into account. With Stefan Lohmann (one of the Five Fellas, editor's note), who used to be a pattern maker at Brax and is now a teacher at the Fashion Academy in Amsterdam for pattern development and clothing technology, we have the right man at our side.
What are the price ranges?
100 to 120 Euros for NOS products with a margin of 3.0. We deliver within 48 hours within Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland.
What makes your Jeans unique?
Italian fabics, traditional craftsmanship, authentic washings, excellent fits, highest sustainability combined with a contemporary look. Our claim: premium quality at an exceptional price. We offer a finishing concept based on a classic ageing process: Our jeans are available in four grades of ageing – 6, 12, 24 and 36 months. The concept is based on the look of your favorite worn jeans. A new fit concept: each of our four ladies and men cuts are based on the same torso, only the different leg style defines the silhouette.
Who are your customers?
We now have 200 retailers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands among our customers. These are smaller specialist retailers such as Jeans Schneider in Kühlungsborn, but also larger ones such as Bailly Diehl or Uli Knecht in Frankfurt and Hamburg. High-quality boutiques, which appeal to an age target group between the middle of 30 and 60 years, form our core. We never wanted to enter the very young market, but to address the 40+ customers. These people are no longer like our parents, but the look must still be modern and adapt to today's lifestyle.
How important is sustainability?
The topic of sustainability is exciting and is becoming increasingly important. Interestingly, I have the feeling that this topic has been a hot topic for three months now. Bringing sustainability to the shop floor has now also become an important criterion for smaller retailers. It's no longer a matter of a Nice-to-Have, but of putting this aspect very clearly in the foreground. This development is strongly linked to the issue of quality. If brick-and-mortar returns to a value awareness and can communicate this at the POS, then this is a good trump card compared to the quick click on the Internet. This brings us back to the subject of price ranges. A pair of jeans for 49 Euros is difficult in retail, how do you communicate this price? But with jeans that are produced sustainably, you can bring this closer to the customer by, for example, putting a cardboard display at the jeans and then communicating it better with the higher price. After all, we have always focused on sustainability. With Candiani Denim, we have found a partner who implements this to our complete satisfaction. I think the topic will be a real boost in 2020. There are hardly any retailers who say they are not interested.
What are the plans for the future?
Due to the high demand we offer Denim Unplugged, an addition of the limited edition part within the Five Fellas label. The prices are higher, between 140-180 Euro. Denim Unplugged is always limited to 555 pieces. For women we offer three fits. Boyfriend, Marlene and Slim. For the men, we are also increasingly going for the chino theme, but of course in denim. We will show the collection for the first time at the Premium in Berlin.