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Fashion |INTERVIEW

Les Deux founder on the past, present and future of his Danish menswear brand

By Huw Hughes

10 May 2019

Copenhagen-based menswear brand Les Deux was founded in 2009 by two friends; one a political refugee from the Congo and the other a Scandinavian self-confessed prep boy from the suburbs. As the name may suggest (Les Deux meaning “the two” in French) the brand has a dualistic approach to both its design and brand mentality - a clash of styles that embraces the contrasting worlds of its founders by mixing Ivy League prep boy with unpretentious street style. The two began by making simple designs: white t-shirts with military patches sewn onto them. The designs proved a hit with their friends and so they began to branch out into different items of clothing.

Fast forward to 2019 and Les Deux is now sold in over 500 retailers worldwide, and last year made its way into the UK market, launching a pop-up at a Harvey Nichols to showcase its SS18 collection. Les Deux is a mid-range brand, offering jackets on its website for between 109 and 295 euros, shirts for between 79.95 and 119 euros, t-shirts for between 39 and 69 euros, and blazers for 215 euros.

So what’s next for the fast-growing menswear brand? This summer Les Deux will be opening its first brand store with a flagship which, quite fittingly, will be in the heart of Copenhagen, and the brand will also be presenting from Spring 2020 in at least three Bijenkorf stores (a high-end department store chain in the Netherlands).

FashionUnited spoke to founder Andreas von der Heide about the birth of his brand, the meaning of Danish design, and the company’s future expansion plans.

Andreas von der Heide, Les Deux founder

How was your brand born and how did you land on the name ‘Les Deux’?

The brand came around back in 2009. In the beginning it wasn’t even our intention to really start up a brand. We started off just by getting white t-shirts and sewing onto them military patches that we found in London while we were there. We realised our friends really liked them and they encouraged us to make more so we decided to do our first production and bought 500 white t-shirts like this. From there it just took off and we started producing more and expanding into other items of clothing.

As far as the name goes, Les Deux is French. My then-partner, Virgil Mwepele, was a political refugee from the Congo. We wanted a way of showing two sides to our brand’s story, so we decided to take the international name from the beginning. Since then we’ve always tried to keep that dual mentality, which you can see in our designs. So we always have our classic core base, but then we like to mix it up and experiment with sportswear or streetwear or casualwear.

How does your Danish heritage translate into your designs in general?

A lot of our styles are very Nordic: simple and tonal. We like our brand to be clean and classic at its core but to always offer a twist, which often comes from international interpretations. We’re not looking to go out and do crazy ‘all-over’ prints, but we like to have fun with the designs. For example in our SS19 collection we’ve played with some psychedelic and floral prints that are proving really popular. It’s about finding that balance.

Who is the typical Les Deux shopper?

While I always want the brand to be accessible to all, if we’re just looking at the figures, our typical shopper is between 25 and 35 and he’s probably interested in sports. He’s also most likely situated in the capitals across Europe.

Which markets are you currently doing best in?

We’re doing best at the moment in Scandinavia, perhaps unsurprisingly. After that, UK is really strong. We did a pop-up store in Harvey Nichols last year and it went really well. I think people there like the brand because it’s simple, it’s easy to understand and it’s ready to wear. Whether you’re going to something informal or you’re looking for something a little more fancy, it's got you covered. It’s not high fashion but you still look slick when you wear it.

I hear you’re opening pop-ups in the Netherlands' Bijenkorf [a high-end department store chain]. Is the Netherlands also a market you’re focusing on?

Yes. The funny thing is that a lot of Scandinavian brands have an easy way to get into the Dutch market. But for us it’s been a little more tricky - it’s taken a bit of time and it hasn’t been easy. After starting our base in Scandinavia we found a partner in the Netherlands but it just wasn’t a good fit so we didn’t focus on it. The new team we have now though is doing really well. Instead of trying to sell our brand anywhere and everywhere, we’re focusing on places that reflect the brand’s quality. That’s why we’ve been focusing on the Bijenkorf and other key retailers. The Benelux region for us now is really our key focus.

Looking forward, are you thinking of expanding into other countries?

Of course we want to take Les Deux worldwide but right now the Benelux is really the key. After that, we will start to look at France, but for now we want to maintain our strategy of building a strong core in each country before moving on to the next. We’re so busy at the moment in Germany and in the Scandinavian markets in particular - those markets grew 71 percent in this quarter compared to the first quarter last year, so being a small company with only 28 people working for us, we have to keep our focus. So right now we’ll focus on the markets we have. We're also planning to open 35 shop-in-shops in Q2 across Scandinavia.

And you’re planning on opening a flagship store in Copenhagen?

Yes, we’ll be opening a Copenhagen flagship in the heart of the city. We have no exact dates set up at the moment, but if all goes to plan we hope it will open during Copenhagen Fashion Week.

Could you tell us a bit about the charitable work that Les Deux is also working on?

Since we launched the brand we’ve been trying to help a range of organisations. We always try to support two charities each year - one in Scandinavia, then another international case. For example we’ve worked to build a school in Zambia and we’re also helping more local charities with children back home in Denmark.

Editors note: This article was amended after publication. Correction: Les Deux is planning to open 35 shop-in-shops in Scandinavia in Q2.

Photos courtesy of the brand’s SS19 campaign