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Friday, Dec 3, 2010, 1:08 PM / Germany
It is quite challenging I must admit to write about something as big as Strenesse without falling into usual clichés and rounded-up slightly boring descriptions such as “timeless elegance” and “well-tailored pieces”. The longer I research the brand and its history, the more surprising facts I have discovered. In the nutshell this is a true German story based on loyalty, family-controlled and driven business and ability to never compromise in the best and worst times. Heritage is a curious subject when it comes to fashion, and that’s why the story of Strenesse is actually the story of a smart strategy transferring family values into a long-time successful brand.
Strenesse has had a humble start in the country where luxury, at the time, was considered a “sin”. Founded in 1949 as a family-owned manufacturing business to fulfil exactly the post-war niche and demand for wearable and less fancy clothes, the real Strenesse flourished in 1968 when Gerd Strehle, the son, took over the business and steadily transferred a family-run clothing company into the high-end designer brand with the help of his second wife Gabriele, a passionate designer with surprisingly moderate corporate ego and love for underestimated luxury.
“My parents started out by producing clothing” admits Gerd today “it was Gabriele who transformed it into fashion”. To an outside observer designer’s name is the key when it comes to make a fashion statement. Not for Gabriele Strehle, who, for the past 25 years consistently shaped what is called today Strenesse approach – rather a lifestyle for Strenesse customers. Balancing the world of work and world of living, a connection that seems so natural today, was still a challenge in the 1980s and 1990s – which Gabriele mastered in creating flawless pieces appealing to women and men knowing who they are – “focused, well-informed, sexy and good-humoured” according to the company’s official statement on their core audience. Well take it as you like – but who wouldn’t love to match that description?
“Our customers would never dream of confusing brand slavery with style” – Gabriele Strehle
I always have had a sneaky suspicion that indeed the wearer is far more important for Gabriele Strehle and the clothes are really intended to emphasise her woman’s aura and personality. Simplicity at its best, craftsmanship, precise cutting and above all, an intellectual approach – it turns out the clichés are indeed true. Unbelievably enough, collection items (no matter what season!) are still up to date next time around when every fashionista is searching for the next must haves in her wardrobe. LBD? No problem, always a Strenesse key-piece. Leather jacket? Check. Statement bag? Yes. And many more pieces designed for women with creative IQ who are able to put a half-way decent look without help of stylists and glam magazines.
And it is kind of reassuring to know that this woman can play different roles. In Strenesse publicity and advertising campaigns, not only have the industry’s greatest photographers Juergen Teller, Jacques Olivar and Ellen Von Unwerth come on board. The use of classic movie stars – Sophia Loren on a Vespa in Rome, Marlene Dietrich languidly smoking in a darkened railway station, or Ingrid Bergman in a beret from Arch of Triumph – suggest many different roles Strenesse woman can adopt with her versatile wardrobe.
Making logical and conscious decisions without compromising is the strength of Strenesse and the CEO Gerd Strehle in particular. While the market potentially shifts towards cheaper, low-end, unified for all one-season pieces, Strenesse is staying in the core business and establishing the youngest child of the family – Strenesse Blue, offering another version of stylish and more affordable pieces for the twenty-plus generation. While menswear remains a challenging business, Strenesse turned the challenge into a business-winning opportunity by designing the outfits for the German national football team for both the 2006 and 2010 football World Cup. We still remember those damn sexy black and gold jerseys on the cute-looking German boys. I was wondering whether there was a correlation between their performance and their sense of style, although Joachim “Jogi” Löw, the trainer, would not necessarily agree with me. Finally, Ellen von Unwerth photographed the team wearing the AW2010/11 Strenesse menswear collection playing with the theme of a thriller movie in the style of Edgar Wallace. Not only can we see the results on every Strenesse shop window this autumn, but there is a book in stores entitled Die Spieler (The Players) clearly displaying the German Eleven’s acting and modeling talents.
What is the real success secret of Strenesse? Consistency. In creating an impressive yet thoughtfully selected products portfolio, in carefully choosing their brand ambassadors top models Gisele Bündchen, Claudia Schiffer and Christy Turlington, in following the right distribution and sales strategy – both Gruppo GFT and LVMH had expressed an interest in acquiring the firm, to no success today. Gerd Strehle proclaimed sales is service and decided right from the beginning of the Strenesse expansion to anchor logistical diversity in the system of sales channels, meaning establishing first the network of premium retailing partners and building steadily shop-in-shop appearances in major retailing centres, counting 700 partnerships in 30 different countries world-wide. Today single-branded Strenesse stores operated by the Strenesse trained staff dominate the brand appearance, in combination with franchised enterprises in Bolzano, Antwerp, Almaty and Prague.
Consistently, Strenesse recently launched their online shop offering selected pieces and “online only” editions. Backstage photos and a few short video clips make the site an engaging online experience, enabling users to to explore the world of Strenesse.
This Friday we will see more Strenesse, with key looks from the SS2011 Strenesse Gabriele Strehle Collection and selected items from the Strenesse Blue Collection. It’s no accident the show is located at the Ritz, where many well known fashion houses present their collections in the environment of exclusivity. In line with other brand strategies, the presentation is a considered step in the brand’s expansion. “We decided to take part in the Paris Fashion Week because Paris is the premier centre of the international fashion world. It’s essential that international buyers and the premium French retail sector have the opportunity to visit the exhibitors,” explains Gerd Strehle, in a typically understated tone. Strehles never say aloud what will come next – let’s be reassured that both collections will maintain the brand’s excellence in design and quality.
For press enquiries please contact Brigitte.Seebacher-Wolf (at) strenesse.com, and for sales enquiries Ines.Mesin (at) strenesse.com
Natasha Binar | TribaSpace
Creation, Ready-to-Wear, Millinery
Markets: Other, Men's, Women's
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