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When in Berlin and wandering from Alexanderplatz to Hackescher Markt the shop window of Burg & Schild, Germany’s first shop for vintage and true denim men’s clothing says it all: “Men’s Clothing BURG & SCHILD Denim Goods” – We spoke to the shop’s owner Maria Klähn about the second most important thing that customers want to take home in the shopping bags.
Open now for a decade Burg & Schild in Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse 3 in Berlin is a legend among the men’s stores. Maria Klähn is running Burg & Schild since 2014 as its owner and before had “opened” its Online Shop. Read the interview here.
MAKERS BIBLE: Burg & Schild is a stone-throw from Alexanderplatz. How important is the central location to your success?
MARIA KLÄHN: Berlin Mitte is the perfect place for individualists in many ways. Good bars and restaurants, lots of cultural institutions and enough space to develop. An independent menswear store is a great addition.
Who buys there? What is the ratio between men and women? Regulars and tourists?
Our customers understand and respect quality and tradition and know that nothing is better than the feel of wearing a favourite pair of jeans or a leather jacket that has been broken in and worn for years. We do have a lot of regular customers that we’ve known for a very long time. They come from all over Germany, some from all over the world. There are also tourists who stumble store for the first time, but usually they became regular customers, too. As a menswear store, of course the proportion of male customers is higher, I’d say 90 to 10.
What, would you say, changed since you took over the management and responsibility at Burg & Schild?
Burg & Schild’s own style has become a strong trend. Quality and sustainability have become very important. Not just in fashion, but also in the food, living and lifestyle fields, which is reflected in the variety of places that offer hand-crafted and fairly produced products. Apart from that, I have been trying to broaden our selection, in order to attract a significantly wider customer base of man, and maybe even a few more women, too.
Quality, tradition, passion and consciousness are criteria in which you describe your customers and the brands that are on offer, alike. When you look at brands, that offer themselves to you through their sales people or owner, what are you looking for in a new brand? Where do you direct your senses first?
We have a long-standing friendship with many of our brands, since all the brands we carry have the same sense of quality, tradition and passion. Nowadays, with so much business being conducted online, I pay close attention to how brands present themselves – are many of their items on sale? That’s a deal-breaker for me, since I don’t believe in the constant cycle of discounts.
What senses are involved when you buy new products for the shop?
We try to concentrate on unique products, avoid mass production and stock clothing which is timeless and authentic. Of course when I check out new products I do not only look at them but touch them as well. The material has to look and feel good, that’s a given.
You probably agree that tactility is important when “looking” at textiles to be worn on one’s body? How does that go together with an Online shop?
We always try to display the products in as much detail as possible and maintain close contact with our online customers to ensure all their questions regarding fabric, sizing etc are answered promptly and timely. Through our online service, customers from around the world can enjoy the luxury of ordering our high-quality products from the comfort of their own home.
Photography on your site and blog looks rather unified. How much effort goes into that at Burg & Schild and why?
All our looks and product photos are shot exclusively on our premises with meticulous attention to detail, displaying Burg & Schild’s dedication to the profession. We put a lot of effort in our photos and Social Media appearance.
How important is the story-telling to your customers? The texts about brands and products on your website suggest that it is, since you are making quite an effort in telling where the brands’ are from and what their makers’ motives are? Does your staff transport that, too?
Our customers are passionate and appreciative of their clothing and like to know the story behind . As we choose our brands with a lot of attention to detail we can offer these stories and transport them to our customers.
So, customers want to leave the shop not only with a shopping bag, but equipped with a story, too?
What is your favourite piece for the weekend on the country side?
A Winter Session backpack with one of our Indigofera wool blankets.
When a man enters the shop, where do you look first?
A well-worn pair of jeans will always catch my eye. You can tell what sort of customer you’ll be dealing with by the state of their denim.
What do you enjoy most in “crafted” products?
Quality and sustainability because many of the products last for a lifetime. It feels good to know that by purchasing this product, I have helped support fair wages for manufacturers and staff.
How long do you recommend should denim pants not be washed?
I would always recommend that wearing your jeans for as long as possible without first washing them. The advantage of this is that they retain their characteristic dark blue colour and any wear and tear is much more noticeable. In this way, your jeans can better develop the “patina” or “fade” that gives each pair of jeans their unique look.
If it would not be Berlin, where else would you live?
Difficult to say as I have been living in Berlin for ages. Leipzig, I guess.
Where do you love to go when you jump out for lunch?
To be honest I never go out for lunch, but I love going out for dinner. One of my favourite places is Donath, a friend’s place with great Italian food and a relaxed atmosphere.
And after-work drinks, where to go?
I love the ‘Weinerei Forum’, they offer great wines at a decent price, which makes it affordable to a very mixed crowd.
Burg & Schild was an exceptional concept when first opened, it still is, exceptional is the attention to detail, both in store and in the Online shop and the long experience that is mirrored in their portfolio. One of their brands is Tellason; see the interview with Pete Searson in our Journal.
Photography by Jon Mortimer.