Folge 35: Richard Martin über 60 Jahre Fred Perry und wie eine Marke jung bleibt

Von December 31, 2012 , 0

Richard Martin, Global Marketing Director von Fred Perry

Liebe Leser & Hörer!

We are always the same age inside. (Gertrude Stein)

Das gefühlte Alter der Casual-Wear-Marke Fred Perry, im August 1952 vom gleichnamigen legendären britischen Tennisspieler gegründet, können nur die Kunden bestimmen. Denn: Das Herz jedes Fashionlabels schlägt am Point of Sale. Und genau dort, genauer gesagt im Keller des Münchner Stores – also backstage – traf ich Richard Martin, den Global Marketing Director von Fred Perry zum Interview.

Die Themen unseres Gespräches: Die Pläne zum 60. Jubiläum der Marke, das Geheimnis, ewig jung und relevant zu bleiben und die Chancen und Gefahren eines „Kuschelns” mit der Subkultur.

Auch zur Sprache kommt der Schock, den Fred Perry erlebte, als Neonazis seine Polos für sich entdeckten. Dazu jede Menge Nebensätze zur Pop- und Social-Media-Szene der Gegenwart. Und das mit britischem Akzent – wer könnte da widerstehen?!

Jetzt gleich hier auf dem Blog reinhören oder – unser Tipp! – ganz bequem und gratis auf iTunes abonnieren. In jedem Fall: Viel Spaß!

Shownotes zu Nahtlos! Das Lifestyle Podcast Folge 35/2012

Links zu den Themen der Show

die Website von Fred Perry

How to reach us:

E-Mail: podcast ( a t )

Lieben Dank für Ihre und eure Aufmerksamkeit. Empfehlt uns gern weiter :) Wir hören uns nächste Woche wieder!

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Und hier könnt ihr das gesamte Interview noch einmal bequem als Transkript nachlesen:

Siems Luckwaldt: 2012 of course is a special year for Fred Perry…

Richard Martin: Sixty-year anniversary. Yeah.

Exactly. Of course there have been lots of special projects, collaborations, special pieces done? But what in your mind is the achievement of 60 years of Fred Perry both for the brand itself and maybe for fashion?

And the product. Yeah. I think that’s a good question actually. I think probably the achievement of Fred Perry’s is, I guess, the transition from…if you look at the whole 60 years, the transition…If you look at the overall 60 years really starting from what is essentially a one product tennis brand to now being, I guess, one of the very few iconic urban brands or street-wear brands over that. That, itself, is a really interesting kind of journey and an achievement I think of itself. I think what a lot of Heritage brands have failed to do is to, at the same time, reference their history and their heritage, but at the same time development some contemporary relevance. Fred Perry is a contemporary fashion brand full start. Then he has a sports and a music heritage. It’s a contemporary fashion brand so we have to operate in a contemporary fashion environment, and I think find that balance between referencing history but also maintaining a contemporary credibility is very difficult actually.

Are you offended if someone calls Fred Perry the British Lacoste?

I don’t think so. I think it’s easy to sort of compartmentalize that really, I suppose. It’s about the polo shirt, really, and that’s where the brands cross.

And tennis.

Tennis and tennis history and also the polo shirt. But really whereas Laaoste was resolutely, I guess, a middle class brand for want of a better description, Fred Perry was always working class and always had that kind of subcultural references and going way back to the late 50s. The first time Fred Perry entered the fashion market was in the late 50s when it was first adopted by the UK modern movement in 1957. That was the first time it entered into that kind of world of subculture but also fashion. It was tracking back. If you look at all the other famous crossover sportswear to street-wear brands, you always think Adidas and Nike sort of 60s, 70s, 80s, but Fred was doing that in the late 50s. So you could argue it was the first crossover sportswear to street-wear brand.

He was no designer…

No. Not at all.

Trained designer. He’s self-taught or…

Pretty much so. He wasn’t a designer, but he came from working class roots. His dad worked in a factory in the north of England.

Textile factory? Or…

No. No just _____ (3:35) probably textile, I’m not quite sure. That’s a good question, I’m not quite sure. He was spinner in a factory, in a yarn factory actually.

That’s close enough.

Yeah. He knew enough. If you consider the time, the beginning of the 20th century, the 1900s, that for him to come from that background and then to become world tennis champion and then to go on to America to Hollywood and then become this kind of global kind of playboy was an incredible achievement actually. But Fred Perry came from a working class background. The first kind of fashion tribes, the mods in the _____ (4:13) came from a working class background. As a result of that, it’s always had that edge, that attitude element to it, which I think is very important to the brand. That’s really what defines it from the class. That moment it went into counter-culture and subculture, and that’s when it developed that very sharp attitude or kind of edge to the brand.

Now you mentioned the mods and later on there were other subversive elements throughout the society that kind of chose…

Adopted it, yeah.

Fred Perry as their outfit. But today it seems there are a thousand different movements like niche groupings going on at the same time, of course increased by social media and things like that.

I’m pleased you said that actually because of all the people always ask me, “Oh where have all the tribes gone?” I said, “Actually there have never been more tribes.” It’s just the fact that there may be clusters of 10 or 15 people into certain things that they’ve all accrued and pulled together via the wear.

My question, I think, the first part would be, do you know which group is nearest to the Fred Perry brand at the moment or as been for the last couple of years?

You’ve got a very good question. I guess probably you align yourself with more kind of guitar-based Indie music, I guess, naturally. So I think off the back of Brit Pop in the early to mid-90s, certainly within the UK and also within the US, with bands like the Strokes in the late-90s there was a huge trend towards kind of guitar-based independent music. That now trend-wise has probably sort of dipped away a little bit. It’s still important, but now it’s only going to crossover with sort of dance and electro and Indie. Then, of course, you’ve got your kind of House Indie-Electro, House-Electro kind of tribe. It seems to be coming back up again, obviously massive in Germany always but certainly within the UK and most of your dance music seems to be sort of coming forward again. We’ve kind of been adopted by that as well. It’s always interesting, if you look at, I guess, probably the most subversive recent subcultural genre was Grind music ______ (6:49-6:51) Grind music which was resolutely British. Because it was resolutely British, they wanted to create a British everything. So they were looking to the US for _____ (7:02) Hip Hop and Rap and music in looking at American brands for such a long time and Grind was really off the back of ______ (7:09). Grind was really the first British owned sort of dance subculture and they wanted to make it British. Then some people at Dizzee Rascal, for instance, started wearing Fred Perry because they wanted to buy into Britishness and British brands.

And it’s still made in Britain like 100 percent or close to….?

Yes and no, no, no. Not all of it, no.

It depends on the category?

That would be impossible unfortunately, but certainly a lot of our classic pique polo shirts with the tipping, etcetera, are made in England.

They have the label inside. I saw that upstairs.

The Harrington style jacket, very important. Some of the knit wear is made in Scotland, so not everything by any stretch of the imagination because that would be impossible. But certainly we’re committed to have a percentage of the _____ (7:55).

Is that a stretch? I mean, image-wise, if you have ranges that are strictly British and made in Britain and even honoring the likes of Amy Winehouse and artists that are very based in Britain. Then of course, having to succumb to the market forces that kind of like have you ordering accessories probably I would guess from China.

We would love to make everything in the UK, but there simply isn’t the manufacturing network there to do it. At the moment there’s a lot of British providence, but the moments going back to that more kind of artisan thing…

But that’s not the price point, right? Because they’re moderately priced.

Then you’re into sort of, you know, luxury, and we’re not a luxury brand. We’re a premium brand but we’re not luxury brand. Then you look at other European countries like Portugal and Spain and China now because China now was always perceived as being the kind of poor relation really of the European manufacturers. Now their technology is just amazing, through the roof and better than, in many cases, than Europe. So it depends on the product group that depends really where we source it. We try to hit a certain price point. We try and be democratic. As a result of that, we will never go into that kind of luxury territory without collaborations with Comme des Garcon and Raf Simons. Certain pieces in there will go towards fairly high price point, but still the excess prime _____ (9:35) is still 85-90 Euros.

Will the Raf Simons collaboration go on?

It is. It’s back again for Spring ’13.

Because it’s strange now working with a couture designer?


Since he’s gone to… moved on to Dior?

Yeah. He’s always been amazing, very interesting working with him and his team in Amsberg because obviously doing his own line then he started doing Jil Sanders and then doing Raf by Raf then doing Raf Fred Perry and then doing Rafi’s Pack and other collaborations. He was wearing a lot of hats. It always amazed me about how he could just kind of shift into Jil Sander mode and then shift into Raf mode and then shift…

Maybe he would’ve…he would get bored.

Incredible how he get himself into that position of high extreme levels of creativity and conceptualization which is stunning.

Or maybe he would be bored otherwise.

I think so. He’s definitely that type of person. I think then _____ (10:37) Dior gig. It’s the biggest gig, isn’t it? It’s the Big Two or the Big Three like Chanel, Dior, and Yves St. Laurent and he’s got one. It was a great first show. People were worried that he may be too minimal, but I think he just got that amazing balance. Again, that balance between history, heritage, and that understanding and that respect for where that brand has come from, but at the same time doing something completely modern.

Are there stores in China already?

Yes. We have five stores in Hong Kong, and then we’re opening another three stores this year, and then I think another five next year as well.

And that’s on mainland China.

That’s on mainland, China. Yeah.

Any idea how the Chinese consumer conceives your brand? Because it’s a very, at it’s core, a very European if not…I mean, it’s compatible to the United States of course because the United States are, at the core, European. How does that translate? This grittiness, this rock and roll culture to a very controlled society?

It would get packaged in a slightly different way. The thing about China is obviously then the two things that when you look at different kind of countries dictate how you market the brand to a certain extent. One is price point. So another new emerging market, say Brazil. The taxation on imports going into the country is so huge that automatically a polo shirt which would normally cost you say 70 pounds will cost you 120 pounds. So you have to look at that in a slightly different way. Of course you reference their history, their heritage, the musical part of that. But you may then start looking more at Fred Perry, himself, as a sartorialist.

Oh wow.______ (12:41) more luxury.

Yeah. Music is very important. That’s still a very important part of it. But it may not have a resonance for that level of market, that level of consumer that we’re looking at. We’re very lucky as a brand that we’ve got lots of things that we can pull from with credibility historically over the past 60 years. In the US, for instance, we focused on amplifying Fred Perry the man, because Fred Perry lived in the US for a number of years, became a US citizen actually towards the end of his life. So, we focused on his kind of playboy Hollywood connections and amplified that because it had currency within that territory. So, yes, it just really depends on how you’re positioning yourself in the market, which is dictated by price points and then you market then accordingly.

Last question. I’ve been through the list of collaborations that the brand of Fred Perry has done over the years. If you, especially as a marketing professional, could choose for like in one or two years, which designer to collaborate with or with which artist, what would be your….

______ (14:01) because we’ve been very lucky in the fact that we’ve worked with Commes des Garcon. We’ve worked with Junya Watanabe before Commes actually. We’ve worked with Raf Simons who’s probably, I personally think, perhaps the best menswear designer in the world at the moment, and certainly probably most the consistent one over there. So from a kind of fashion perspective, I think we’ve kind of already been there really on that. I think we’d probably like to do a really amazing collaboration with perhaps a women’s wear designer or artist. I mean, Amy was perfect and that was a great thrill to work with her until her unfortunate death. That was, again, perfect really for the brand. Perfect, you know, you couldn’t think for anything better. I’m trying to think who that person could be for women’s wear. I don’t know. I really think that we’ve kind of nailed it as far as the collaborators are concerned because who else would you go to work with rather that Raf Simons?

And to be sports again? Is that something that you’re not really enforcing right now, right? The sports heritage of…

Yeah. I mean, we kind of reference it but it’s become, I guess, in the modern market less important and really that’s where music then sort of comes through and is very, very important. Certainly I think if you’re looking at music artists and collaborations we’ve had a lot of success with, Amy, Paul Weller, Terry Hall that did the specials. So I think somebody who’s been a long-term fan of the brand say, Damon Albarn, I think that would be a really perfect collaboration between kind of brand and artist.

No Justin Bieber.

Not Justin Bieber. Bless him.

That would elevate the brand.

He’s a lovely lad.

…into the stratosphere.

Elevate it and it’ll just go right down very quickly and collapse. I love Justin. We all love Justin. But I think once you’ve worked with Amy and Raf and Commes, you’re a fashion fan and you know the fashion world inside out. Where else do you go from there? It’s very difficult to think of anybody that’s…again think about the brand, think about the brand DNA, think about what’s correct for the brand. The reason why I approached Raf is because _____ (16:33) family’s work and I knew how close he was, and how much he referenced British created culture whether it be to Saville, whether it was a ______ (16:42), or whether it was Joy Division. So he understood how Fred Perry was woven or part of that counter-culture uniform that he’s been referencing for years and years and years and years and years. So that made sense. I think when you’re looking at a market that is full of collaborations, some of them are really good, some of it terrible and don’t make any sense, as long as you can justify the reason why you’re working with someone.

So less is more even with collaborations.

Yeah. But it has to make sense for the brand for both parties actually. We won’t be Stussy and people _____ (17:20-17:21). Why would want a Stussy? I said, “We’re the first British street-wear brand. Stussy was in the late 70s but arguably the first kind of US skate brand. Also, Shawn Stussy used to wear Fred Perry because he came out of that West Coast surf and ska punk thing, which is a massive kind of Perry focus. When you look at one of our Ecom sales, from, the amount of sales that come from the West Coast. from LA and San Francisco, is unbelievable because it has this sort of Britishness, this ska mock thing. It’s a little enclave in the US. So he came out of all of that and he was a Fred Perry fan.

That made it a perfect fit.

So that’s why and that’s why it worked. That was probably one of our most successful collaborations was Stussy and Fred. It invited a new customer in from the Stussy side of things because Stussy guy had a massive respect for Fred Perry and that Fred Perry had a massive respect for Stussy.

So it’s like they say in the hood, “It’s all about respect.”

Absolutely. All about respect. Absolutely. Yes, indeed.

Thank you so much.

Good. You’re welcome. Thank you.

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