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Highsnobiety Q&A May, 4 2011

Talking Retail With… Hunting and Collecting

In this edition of “Talking __ With …” we chat retail with Aude Gribomont and Niels Radtke of Hunting and Collecting, Brussels (storeguide). The store opened its doors not too long ago and since then has amassed an impressive list of brands, not only for Brussels, but rather on a global scale. Get inspired and get some tips from Aude and Niels.

What prompted you to open a retail store?

We never had the intention to open a retail store only, but to start a productive platform for contemporary fashion and culture. We have different backgrounds, Aude comes out of fashion press, she used to be chief fashion editor for Elle magazine in Belgium and Niels, has a background in visual arts, stage directing and event production. We both wanted to open a space that would combine our passions from the last few years and we had a lot of brands we love and wear in common, and used to search these for hours on the web. This resulted in Hunting and Collecting, a space where you always can find something desirable with various pricepoints: from Topshop to Topman to Carven to Phillip Lim and White Mountaineering. Also it was clear that we had to serve both men and women, as there is so much happening right now for everyone. It was also clear that we wanted to be an ambassador for the brands and artists we work with, to help them share their vision, as many overseas brands do not have press agents in Europe.

Read our full conversation after the jump.

How involved are you in the day-to-day operations of the shop?

We do/did everything ourselves: We renovated the space, designed the interior, change interior every season, we do the buying, the graphic design, we style our seasonal lookbooks with guest photographers, we manage the online store: shoot and describe every piece, we curate exhibitions and organize two events/month at the store, we pack the boxes for shipping for our online clients, we handle press (with help of a press agent) and we are there everyday in store selling to our customers.

This season, our top sellers are…

Carven, Partik Ervell, Topshop, Assembly NY, Stine Goya, Dana Lee

Next season, we are looking forward to selling…

Marni for Men!!

Words of advice for anyone getting involved in the industry?

Have a clear and dynamic vision of what you want and stick to it. Take chances and risks.

Talk about local vs. online sales.

This is very complex, there are are many reasons why people buy online: the product might no longer/or not available close to home, someone saw something on a travel and decides later to buy. It is totally complementary. We sell a lot to Asia and the US, not at all inside Belgium, as people come to the store. Many hip people from small or remote towns buy items they saw on cool blogs…

How does the Internet affect what you do?

A lot, the internet, if you use it well, it can get you pretty much out there, you are no longer bound to the street your door is in, you have a worldwide audience – read well audience.
We use facebook a lot to keep our customers up to date of product releases and event announcement. This for free and this amazing! But you have to have a good visual identity and selection, something people are more aware of today. They look for something special. With the internet you can do a lot yourself.

How has the retail environment changed over the past few years?

Stores have become much more aware of their image, the brands they carry and how this is perceived.
Good store owners see themselves more as curators, as actors in a community than retailers, bad shops still think as retailers. This also changed the way people buy, more buyers buy small and select, at least we do.

How do collaborative projects and store exclusive factor into your business?

“Show me your friends and I know who you are” is a saying that applies pretty well here. It is about association and networking peoples universes. Cultural boundaries have totally dropped and all kinds of creative thinkers can work together on various media: the product is a vehicle of this joint venture. This is very important also for us. We do like to organize events with brands and products and we are starting to work on collabs and special corners: we will start a corner with french website dejeunesgensmodernes (www.dejeunesgensmodernes.com) next fall. They have excellent taste and vision and we want to dedicate a corner for them in store with selection of products they choose: from gourmet food, to books, bike pedals, fishing rods, clothes….We do work together with party organizers High Needs Low, a three-monthly party where we do installations.
We also work together with annual events in the city like Art Brussels (the art fair), Modo Brussels ( a fashion parcours for emerging Brussels deigners), Design September,…
It is also important to have brands exclusive for your store, you build something together and shapes each others identity.

What has been your biggest achievement thus far?

To open and stay open

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