Is running one of the most sought-after and exclusively distributed streetwear brands of the country and producing gaming shirts for a massive electronic goods chain mutually exclusive? Not in the world of Dusan Cvetkovic and Chris Boszczyk, aka “Duki” and “Fu.”
The two met when playing against each other in competing basketball teams–yet still became friends. In 2008, when both were originally working at Munich basketball brand K1X, they started their own label Beastin, which would soon become the German “it” streetwear brand of the moment, not least due to support by illustrious wearers ranging from A$AP Rocky to what feels like half of the Bayern Munich players.
In late 2012 they found their answer to a more commercial market and established their second brand Cayler & Sons “with eight caps and a vision” as Cvetkovic puts it. “We never made ‘real’ money with Beastin and then had the idea to use all the creativity and production know-how that we had collected to create a new, more mainstream entity with a younger target group.” Their bold snapback caps with in-your-face graphics instantly hit a nerve. The 8,000 caps of their first run would quickly multiply, culminating into as many as 300,000 caps per year at peak times.
But you should never rest on your laurels (or topsellers) and Boszczyk and Cvetkovic know that well: One of their greatest skills is probably the attentive observation of market trends and the quick reaction to them. Nowadays, caps only make up around 40% of the Cayler & Sons business which grew into being mainly an apparel line. “The caps business is regressive. When we started, snapbacks were a trend item with hip hop artists such as Chris Brown, Tigha, or Lil’ Wanye all wearing them very prominently. But amongst the most important artists of today–take Kanye, Drake, Future or A$AP–none of them is a cap wearer”, says Boszczyk. “We are pretty good at identifying trends. These days, all the kids want ‘90s heritage logos by Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Nike etc. But we cannot offer or make up that heritage so we have to think of another market niche to fill.” One of their recent attempts to do so is with their own denim offering. On a price level between €80 and €100, their All Day Denim (ALLDD) sub-brand, which runs under Cayler & Son’s more premium and minimal Black Label offers “price aggressive denim with a top notch look” and does so pretty successfully: some of the ALLDD jeans currently range amongst Zalando’s top sold products Boszczyk points out.
Another point of attack is footwear. After last year’s “excursion” with Cayler & Sons Shoes, where the founders registered a “rocket start, flying very high and then falling very hardly” as they phrase it, their new footwear baby is the Project Delray brand, which they jump-stared in just three months, as a reaction to feedback from the specialized footwear trade. In its first season, s/s ’17, the brand sold 35,000 pairs of shoes; its core model being the lightweight sock runner “Wavey” (you’re not too far from it when you picture a crossbred of Adidas’ Tubular and NMD styles), retailing for €80 to €90.
We are pretty good at identifying trends.
And there is another new brand run under the Cayler & Sons entity: Hands of Gold, under which Boszczyk and Cvetkovic make what you could describe as “stylish gaming merchandise” which is sold in an exclusive retail partnership with German mega electronic goods retailer Media Markt. “We’re entering a completely new market here which has an unbelievable culture and money machine behind it. And there are currently very little cool or innovative alternatives to a super bold Call of Duty tee here,” explains Cvetkovic.
But the two creative Munich natives also lend their hands to external projects. In case of the TurnUp brand, they deliver fast-forward graphics, often spoof logos or claims (“SupAlace,” “Hollyweed,” “Anti Anti Anti Cap”) as a license to large-scale German manufacturer/retailer TB International/Urban Classics.
They also co-create Bayern München player David Alaba’s caps and accessories line DA27 and in 2015 the two teamed up with German gangster rapper Haftbefehl and his management for the creation of his own clothing label Chabos which made waves for its infamous Brudiletten. Based on this cooperation, Warner Music later approached Boszczyk and Cvetkovic for a new project: J1mo71, the clothing line of Warner protégés Lisa & Lena, the 15-year old German twins breaking the Internet with their Musical.ly videos and almost 12 million Instagram followers. Their second co-created collection is currently in the making.
Don’t they ever consider themselves too good for anything? “The thing is that we always stand for a certain quality–no matter if it’s Mediamarkt or something else,” says Cvetkovic. “If you think back to our origins, we started Beastin with no cash and then received multiple offers by big retailers–like, we could have delivered to all doors in Europe at Urban Outfitters! But we always said no, because we didn’t want to exploit the core brand that everything came from. And therefore I believe we do have the lifelong authenticity to make other parts of our business as mainstream as we want,” adds Boszczyk.
[...] we started Beastin with no cash and then received multiple offers by big retailers–like, we could have delivered to all doors in Europe at Urban Outfitters! But we always said no, because we didn’t want to exploit the core brand that everything came from.
Today, the duo still sees Beastin as their “creative playground.” The brand itself has been sleeping for the past one and a half years, but will be back with a new collection (“we just completely did what we fancied”) in December, which will solely be available through their own BSTN Store. The retail store, which opened its doors in Munich’s Maxvorstadt in the fall of 2013, has grown into a notable online player in the international upper street and sneakers market, stocking hyped brands from Pigalle to Norse Projects. And it will receive another sibling: The second BSTN Store has opened its doors the heart of Hamburg’s Schanzenviertel a few weeks ago–and a further door expansion “is definitely on our radar” says Boszczyk.
How do they cope with all this workload? “We are the greatest hustlers in the game, for sure,” says Boszczyk, laughing. With the latest Whatsapp messages between them being exchanged after midnight and the first ones starting at 7:30 in the morning, it’s hard to say how much working time there actually is, he says. “But in the end, we really enjoy what we do. It’s sort of a positive stress,” says Cvetkovic. And it has gotten better over time. Being in the office on weekends has become the exception and with a network of 20 staff members in their Munich office, the two of them have learned to shift responsibilities. Also, last year marked a big step for them as they hired an external CEO for the Cayler & Sons business for the first time. Being an old acquaintance and “80% on our coolness level plus another 20% Excel,” he is just the right match to exonerate the two.
And also personal penchants have changed. Although networking is still an important part of their business, the Beastin boys have become quieter. After being excessively involved in the (Munich) nightlife with their own events agency over years, these days the two of rather enjoy getting up early on a Sunday morning to go for a coffee (Cvetkovic) or play golf (Boszczyk). “We are truly brothers from another mother, yet we have drifted apart a bit–but in a good way! After doing EVERTHING together in the first years of our business, we now each have our own thing and circle of friends and cultural environment. And I think that’s very important,” says Boszczyk.
At some point we will outgrow the culture which we are moving and working in right now. Therefore the middle- to long-time plan is to find a construct where we can sort of just sit on top as the founding uncles.
Cayler & Sons is currently sold via 3,000 doors in about 30 countries with a turnover in the (lower) eight-digit field. After a relatively difficult 2016 (mainly due to the dollar rate and severe production difficulties), the current year is all about finding old strength (which apparently works pretty well), while 2018 shall once again be in the sign of growth. Where do they finally want this to go?
“I don’t think we want to work until we’re 65. We are now stepping on the gas so much that we hopefully make up leeway from behind,” says Cvetkovic . “At some point we will outgrow the culture which we are moving and working in right now. Therefore the middle- to long-time plan is to find a construct where we can sort of just sit on top as the founding uncles,” adds Boszczyk.
But until that one day, there’s lots in the pipeline. Next to the Hamburg store, the boys already have their hands on the next big celebrity clothing line. They would also love to enter the catering business one day and are very interested in all sorts of cross-industry collaboration. In the end, hustlers never sleep, do they?
This feature appeared in our GERMAN ISSUE. Find out more about its stars and shapers in the print magazine or check the digital magazine here.