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”For now, we’ll be taking a step back — we need to find new ways to create purposeful design”

First on scandinavianman.com: International Woolmark Prize Europe winner L’HOMME ROUGE pausing their seasonal collections but remains as a side project for collaborations they find interesting. — AW19 will be the last full collection to go online and in stores this fall, says Co-Founder John-Ruben Holtback.

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For L’HOMME ROUGE, the higher purpose has always been to challenge the current norms of what menswear can be.

— This has constantly been the essence of our work, to continually twist and turn and thus progress menswear, says Co-Founder John-Ruben Holtback. Through our work, we’ve been able to showcase more fragile and ambiguous characteristics of what young men can be today. Something that we are proud to see have built worldwide recognition for the brand.

In terms of design, he says, their kind of understated products stands out through its thoughtful detailing referring to the brand ethos or specific narratives of each collection.

— I must say there’s no more fulfilling feeling than when visitors in the store want to discuss old pieces and stories from previous collections. I think the imaginative and playful L’HOMME ROUGE worlds are what gives the depth and unique characteristic that makes L’HOMME ROUGE.

How have these years been?

— They’ve gone by fast. We’ve always been progressing our work and going into new territory, which has been a lot of fun. We started out in Lund, then Gothenburg and now Stockholm. The shape of the brand has always been changing. We decided early on that L’HOMME ROUGE always should be in a transitional phase, this way it would never restrain any of our creative work. Looking back on everything during these years, we’re all very proud of what we have achieved with the brand.

How come that you now take a break from doing seasonal collections?

— Throughout the brand’s history we’ve been true to our direction, this path has taken us far in terms of building a loyal fan base, winning renowned prizes, and much more. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been bearing the fruit to enable us to continue making beautiful collections the way we hoped for. Developing the business model has obviously been on the table for some time but the transformation is hard once you are depending on significant incomes from a rigid retail sector. We’ve had growing sales, but not at a pace or level to financially support the ambition of a designer brand like L’HOMME ROUGE.

With the market being disrupted, what is it like to run an up and coming brand today?

— If your aim is to become a designer brand, the possibilities are enormous in the digital age. However, this also comes with substantial competition. You need to push yourself through that loophole, something that obviously requires a combination of strong design, smart marketing and a little bit of luck. The market is huge so taking just a little nibble will keep you pretty much afloat. I would therefore never complain over a transitional market. So what? It’s changing. It’s simply a matter of adaptation, and adaptation will offer new opportunities.

Will it be easier or more challenging in the future?

— Many established brands will have some serious challenges ahead. Consumer patterns are changing quickly due to discounted sales, e-commerce and obvious environmental factors. You better take the lead. Consumers will be able to tell if you are a leader or a follower.

What are you up to now?

— For now, we’ll be taking a step back. We need to find new ways to create purposeful design. AW19 will be the last full collection to go online and in stores this fall. Apart from this, we’ll also present a small genderless capsule collaboration with the online retail giant SSENSE to be released in November. For now, there are oceans of time to contemplate about life and the future that lies ahead. From 2020 L’HOMME ROUGE will only act as a side project for collaborations we find interesting, says Holtback.

The store and studio space at Södermalm in central Stockholm will be open for three more weeks. After that, says Holtback, it’s a little bit uncertain what they’ll do with it.