- Vivian Hendriksz |
When it comes to transparency and sustainability in the fashion industry, German fashion brand HUND HUND is among the frontrunners leading the way for positive change. Founded online by Rohan Michael Hoole and Isabel Kücke in 2016, HUND HUND is dedicated to offering consumers stylish, timeless and durable fashion for the ultimate “minimal wardrobe."Produced locally in Europe, in an honest way for a fair price, HUND HUND offers contemporary womenswear and menswear as well as dog accessories. The ethically-driven label also follows the credo of radical price transparency, offering customers a glimpse into its supply chain by stating the cost of each garment - starting from the origin of the fabric to manufacturing costs and the margin.
Since its launch, the fledgling label has garnered loyal supporters across Europe and in order to connect with its customers, HUND HUND has opened its first pop-up store abroad in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. FashionUnited went to meet the brand's Creative Director Hoole to learn more about its stance on transparency, sustainable fashion and plans for the future.
FashionUnited: Where did the idea to make HUND HUND radically transparent in terms of costs and pricing come from?
Hoole: “People like transparency. Germans, in particular, transparency is something they are keen on. But we did not invent the radical cost transparency concept. There are other brands, like Honest By and Everlane, who do it very well. When I first read about it I was very interested in it. I think this masking of what happens when you make a piece of clothing is the reason why all these bad things happen in the fashion industry. Because good people are buying things which are tainted. The fact that we are essentially asking other people to pay the environmental and social price of our clothes, makes it logical to be transparent about it. The more of a light that we shine on how things are made, the more people question the process and the larger companies will be pressured to improve their own processes.”
“We are not an expensive brand, we are a mid-price brand because our designs are durable and made locally. I think there needs to be more affordable, sustainable designs because sustainability should not just be for the rich.”
Do you think all consumers are interested in knowing who made their clothes?
“Not every customer wants to know where the cotton used to make their t-shirt comes from. But because we are just two people, sometimes I am a bit slow going through every one of my receipts to calculate the transparency price index for each item, as it is incredibly time intensive, and I get complaints from customers! ‘This has been online for a week, there is no transparency index, I want to know how much it costs to make it!’ So our customers do really care, it’s great. A lot of time our customers will really drill at us over certain sustainability issues or animal welfare, such as mulesing in knitwear, and it makes me realise that I need to do more research. We try to be open and have conversations with our consumers.”
Why do you think more and more people are supporting upcoming, sustainable fashion brands like HUND HUND?
“All of these bad things happen in the industry because of its global scale and supply chain and I think a lot of people are choosing to support smaller labels who are working with smaller workshops because that’s something meaningful you as a consumer can do. A lot of these larger brands design really nice clothes and create a very nice shopping experience, but below the surface, there are a lot of environmental and social issues. The brands are good at concealing them, but more people are becoming aware of this so they are seeking out alternatives that align with their values.”
"We are a small, two-person company and when people get an email its an email from me for the most part. My phone number is the one on the website, if someone wants to call us and ask a question, then it’s me picking up the phone. People are super supportive and understanding as long as we do right by them and stand by our beliefs, it's just part of the appeal of the brand. But I think the biggest impact we have is changing how people think. The more people think about sustainability and the consequences of bad supply chains the more other companies have to improve their practices.”
HUND HUND is known for its durable and high-quality designs - where do you supply your fabrics from?
"We source from a few different places. We have two suppliers of deadstock fabric, who source from heritage mills in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. They are getting fabrics from the same mills as Jil Sander, or Armani or Gucci, who may order 50,000 meters of fabric and then there are 1,000 meters left over. It takes 16,000 liters of water to make one meter of jersey, so to have 1,000 meters of fabric leftover is a killer wastage of water. We strongly believe in this because it works on different levels. From a sustainability level it helps us reduce our carbon footprint and our consumption footprint. Also the fabric are really amazing. You have to hunt through thousands of fabrics to find the four or five you want, but a lot of the fabrics we find are very special."
"We also work with two bigger suppliers, one in Portugal and one in Italy, who produce their own sustainable fabrics. They have small sections of their collections which are dedicated to experimenting with Tencel or organic cotton. We think that by supporting bigger mills who offer sustainable capsule collections is very positive move for the industry. And then we also work with a few suppliers who only do sustainable fabrics."
Do you ever feel limited product or design-wise by only using sustainable, organic or deadstock materials?
"Well, first you have to make beautiful clothes that people want to wear, there is nothing else as important as that first step. We have not found sustainable solutions to everything, you have to keep searching. If we go to a fabric trade fair, it's the same as everywhere else. You are looking through thousands of fabrics to get 50. We find from season to season there are suppliers which can supply you with 5 or 7 very special fabrics that offer you with an identity for the upcoming group of products, which is key."
"As a young brand, you have to stand by your quality. We had to recall one our most popular pants last year for example because the quality of the material was not up to our standards in the end. The fabric was overdyed and became so brittle it ripped. So we had to contact our customers, recall them and issue refunds. But these are the things you live and learn from."
HUND HUND opened its first pop-up store abroad this week. Why did you decide to open a pop-up shop in Amsterdam?
"We want to introduce HUND HUND to our customers and say Hi in person. Amsterdam is our second best city after Berlin. We have more visitors and sales stemming from Amsterdam than we do from Hamburg or Cologne. It was a total surprise to us. We launched the brand two years ago in Germany and things started going quite good. At the time I didn't even think to do any marketing or anything like that, but suddenly Amsterdam started taking off. Now we are shipping to Amsterdam on a daily basis which is crazy. It's really nice. When Michelle (one of HUND HUND's first employees) suggested the space it felt like it was serendipty and we were totally up for it."
"I really like it here, the store space has a really good feel to it. Dutch people have been coming in and they really show an interest and understanding in what we do. They have been very positive about the label and I can totally imagine opening up a permanent store here."
It would make sense, as you are opening a store in Berlin later this month - can you tell us a little bit more about it?
"The store in Berlin will be a little bit different. Transparency is at the core of what we do. We wanted to take our price transparency one step further, so the space in Berlin will be our studio, showroom, and store in one. It is in this really amazing sustainable building which houses 20 creative companies that all have sustainable values. It's not in the shopping district, it's in Wedding, an upcoming creative hub. We want to invite our customers into our studio and show them the brand - there are no walls in the space, so it really is totally transparent. The racks are on one wall and Isabel has her cutting table 10 meters away. Anyone who walks in can see exactly what we do."
"The space wouldn't follow regular store hours, we will probably have open days 2 to 3 days a week. We aim to open two weekday afternoons a week and then half a day on a Saturday to give customers an access point to build a physical relationship with the clothes. We want our customers to see and touch our designs because in many ways this has been one of our biggest challenges selling clothes online - our customers cannot see or feel the fabric, or know how the item may fit. We also want to host talks, showcase other interesting sustainable brands one day a week - the more threads of cooperation that spread, the better."
We also heard you plan to open more pop-up stores throughout the year, it this true?
“Yes, we are coming back to Amsterdam at the end of August for two days at the Hoxton Hotel. We are planning to do as many pop-ups as we can during the second half of the year. We are planning to open pop-ups in Hamburg, Malmo, and Zurich. That is the first test, if it works out well in these markets then we plan to do a longer pop-up for 2 or 3 months and see how it goes.”
“When I first launched the business I had an idea we could be an online-only business, but it is very clear to me that the brand works especially well in the real world. When people touch the fabrics and try on the garments - because we are not the most conventional with our cut as well - its much easier to try something new, especially when you can see it and feel it. If the pop-ups are a success, then I am sure we will also have a physical retail business as well as online. Once you know a brand it is also easier to buy online. But I think online and physical retail suit each other well, as stores offer consumers a way to really see and understand a brand’s aesthetic.”
Can you tell us a bit more about your other plans for the future?
“As we hopefully grow and get more resources we want to put our money where our mouths are and do more, like care labels and recycling. I want to find a way to facilitate garment recycling at HUND HUND. There is a lot more storytelling that we would like to do as well. We’d like to share more information on where the fabrics we use come from and all the processes involved in making our clothes. We’d love to tell more stories about the factories we are working with, as we think all of this is important. We would like to make more items each as well season and see the collection renewing itself on a monthly basis.”
“We are also trying to talk to brands who are also working on these issues and finding ways to work together. The more that we are able to work together to solve these issues, the better chances we have at finding solutions to them. For example, I was in Peru a few weeks ago and read about this label who is working with prison inmates, which I think is really cool, and we are chatting now. Of course, there is no guarantee we will work together, there is a lot to take in terms of logistics, distance, and sustainability, but we should all be willing to work together.”
Where do you see HUND HUND 5 years from now?
“Well, five years is a really long time. In two years time, I would like us to have 5 or 6 stores across 5 European cities we like and have an affinity towards. At that point, the business will be off the ‘baby-life support’ and we will hopefully have a more solid foundation to expand the collections. We do not necessarily have any ambition to turn HUND HUND into some multinational retailer, but I can see us becoming a lifestyle brand. We like to make things. I am trying to convince Isabella that one of our projects for the second half of the year should be to make beehives which fit on balconies because its sustainable, bees are dying, it helps maintain your natural flora & fauna and we are both beekeepers on the side. I can imagine us doing some weird stuff but overall, we’d like it to stay personal and be us.”
HUND HUND’s pop-up in Amsterdam is located at De Merkenwinkel, Huidenstraat, 13-H Amsterdam and open until Sunday, June 17.
Photos: HUND HUND SS18