Helene - Liebeskind Berlin, f/w 2012-13
Helene - Liebeskind Berlin, f/w 2012-13
Starting off mainly as a bag designing company in 2003, Liebeskind (German for ‘love child’) Berlin has grown into a unique-style creator of accessories such as small leather goods, scarves and, most recently, shoes, too. Johannes Rellecke is one of the three founders of the German label and talked with Sportswear International about the brand’s retail strategy in the light of its recent store openings in Paris’ hip St Germaine district and in Salzburg’s Linzergasse. Interview by Mona Schmadl

Liebeskind Berlin is now in its tenth year. You are stable in and renowned for your design with a good recall value – are you now planning to roll-out an entire chain of own stores and conquer retail?
First, we are not planning on a store opening offensive. I see a potential of maybe five to six more stores, however, we do not operate them ourselves but via franchisees. We are too much of a design company, so our openings, such as Paris recently, and the two Austrian openings just recently in Salzburg and Graz coming up in September are not part of a major expansion plan. However, it’s not a secret that we also flirt with locations in Amsterdam and Copenhagen but there is nothing definite yet. 

How do you communicate your store plans with the wholesalers who might feel cannibalized?
It is our intention to help our retailing partners to spread the word of our brand. For example, in Graz we closely discussed the opening of the new 40 sqm store with our local retail partner. Without his approval, we would not settle there. In this way, our stores serve as satellites and benefit our partners as they help to make Liebeskind Berlin more present, let it come alive abroad. Our core business is still not the widening of our store network but the design and creation of our bags, belts, scarves and shoes, you name it and, as important, the collaboration with the trading partners. 

What are your key criteria for choosing a new location?
We do these shops in order to bring Berlin spirit to edgy corners of amazing cities. The entire package has to meet our demands. Our brand should be reflected in the surrounded area, which means a vibrant, individualistic and cool atmosphere. We are not looking for best-in-class sites in proximity to luxury brands. We want to be just off of small boutiques with their own character since this is what we do, too: bring our Berlin heritage abroad. We might make an exception from our franchise-only strategy later this year since we are currently finalizing negotiations regarding a store in New York City that has the potential to be operated by ourselves: In Soho, we will see a 90 sqm Liebeskind Berlin store by September. In this way, we might get to know the way the American market works. But wherever we go: We strongly rely on our great network of partners and would not do business without them. 

You also run an online-store. What’s your partner’s attitude towards the e-commerce they are competing with?
The majority of our stationary retail partners see the benefits of our online shop. By offering a web sales floor, we can keep the quality and the presence of our brand high online. In addition, we don’t run sales or product specials on the web - this is an exclusive tool for our physical POS. We operate our e-commerce without using the sledgehammer. That is why the online business is not a competition for our partners.