A Tem-Plate for fashion

Text: Cláudia Pinto
Photos: Tomás Monteiro

Every project has a story. So… to start I just want to understand why was this project born?

Robbie: (laughs) Everybody always ask the same questions. Ron and I, we met each other at a business conference in London about four years ago…

Ron: Three and a half…

Robbie: It was in a Farfetch conference. We were both invited there as fashion directors and we didn’t know each other. So, I was working for my previous company in Belgium and Ron for his previous company in Denmark-Copenhagen. At the final cocktail party we were introduced to each other and we started talking and exchanging ideas about how we see retail and the future of retail and apparently we had some ideas in common and we were on the same page, so we just said for a joke: “yeah, why don’t we open our own shop?”. Literally two weeks later, Ron visited me in Belgium and we started working on the first draft of the business plan. The ideas and the DNA of how our shop would look, execute and a brand portfolio. That was the first step. After a year we developed what we were working on and then we started travelling to East China to find investment for it. We found an angel investor for this project and I think we took another six months before we started…

Ron: And then all was very quick from there. We knew the architects we wanted to work with, we had the idea of the ambience and feel. So we had a quick meeting with the… we wrote to them and one week after we had the first meeting about going through ideas and going through like of course all the DNA of TEM-PLATE how we saw TEMPLATE, because at that time there was nothing physical, just words. So it all started from there. Of course the space is important, we love the location here because we really believe that this area is the up and coming part of Lisbon. All the old factories, you have to feel the creativity of the galleries around here, from all the communication. It’s a good environment for creative people…

And Portugal was the first option when you started thinking about this project?

Robbie: No. We first visited a couple of cities in the research period and Lisbon was the last on our list, but we felt that regarding to what we wanted to do it was the best option: distribution wise, execution wise. We also understood very quickly that Portugal is growing and Lisbon is certainly growing with all the incoming investment from abroad. The golden visa programme, Google is coming here, all the artists are coming here to start companies, so we really think tourism is growing, Asian tourism is growing as well. So for us all those elements together made us to decide to go for Lisbon.

This concept is really different in the city, I think. It’s something really new…

Robbie: Yes, yes! Also compared to other cities. Most multi-brands we know today are boutiques. What we try to do is create a gallery atmosphere… we are trying to showcase the risky pieces, so we are not only showing white T-shirts, goodies and sneakers, like most of the shops in Europe. We also try to bring pieces from the catwalk or more difficult pieces. We are in an online platform, so you can buy and see a full selection of our collection, because we don’t show everything in the store. The exceptional pieces…

Ron: We rotate all the collections once a month, once every second month. We have a… house and here we showcase the collection that goes in different directions. And according to the direction we want to expose then we select what brands we have in the shop for this period. But online you can find the full selection of all brands.

So you analyse the consumers’ choices to determine what you will exhibit here? How do you choose what to put in the store?

Robbie: I think our general strategy is really to buy things you won’t see in all the other shops because we are an online store. It doesn’t make sense also to buy a goodie from Off White that all the other shops in Europe retail. Because the world is very big and not everybody has the same taste and we believe there are people who have a different kind of wardrobe from most other people. So I think that’s the strategy: dare to buy risky and a bit different.

Ron: But it is also very important to us that the people who come to the physical space can understand the direction and the meaning of the different collections.

And have some experience, right?

Robbie: Yes, yes!

Ron: Also yes. Each season we will have pop up exhibitions with selected brands that we work with.

How are the customers reacting to this? You have tourists, locals…

Robbie: I would say it’s very mixed right now. For example, the Portuguese customer is very happy with certain brands we brought to Portugal, to Lisbon, that have never been on the market here, like Thom Browne, Maison Margiela, Loewe. There is a Loewe store in Lisbon, but it only has bags and small leather goods, so this is the first time that the ready to wear range is here physically. They are really reacting very well to that because it wasn’t established here like Coach, Saint Laurent, Prada, Stella McCartney and Tom Ford. So we are really bringing something different… And then you have Asian tourism and we see that they really go for specific products.

Ron: We have a number of Japanese and Chinese streetwear brands, like Ready Made and Mastermind, that are only available in 10-15 selected shops worldwide. So it’s really like a special product. It’s the idea that the people come here and see things that they really don’t expect to see and can’t find anywhere else.

C: This is new type of luxury. Do you agree?

Robbie: Yes, it is!

I have a major question that is about retail: we are suffering a lot of changes in retail. Do you feel that and why is this happening?

Robbie: Well I think you always have to drive an existing store to a fresh new concept and of course, as I said, we didn’t want to be something you have already. We didn’t want to be a copy from a store in Italy or in Spain or whatever. We wanted to do something different, to bring about this change. And I think if you are an existing store and it’s also our task existing couple of years of trying to reinvent our DNA while trying to stay fresh and meet the needs of the market with your DNA. You don’t have to lose yourself. A very good example we have here in the store is a brand that comes from France, Maison… it’s a leather goods brand that opened its doors at the same time as Louis Vuitton and Goyard. Everybody knows them, but Maison… not really, because they were discovered just fifteen years ago in an old castle in France, and we see we are selling them to people that don’t want to have the Vuitton or the Hérmes or the Goyard, and it’s mostly the Asians.

But they want to have something with a lot of quality?

Robbie: Yeah! Quality… you don’t want to carry something that everybody is carrying. So I think you really have to listen to that and reinvent yourself. So yes, there’s a lot of change, but we still believe there’s people who want to buy luxury, but a different luxury you know? So…

Ron: So, it’s really important to stand out and to have your own, specific and unique DNA. Customers nowadays can find everything online. They travel a lot, they are very wise and very educated about what is happening in the world and if you cannot respond to that as a shop, the customers will always go to other spaces. It’s about knowing your customer, knowing the market and really reacting to market changes as well.

Do you have any plans to grow in the future or is it a secret?

Robbie: Of course we have. Yes, yes, we are working on several things that are close to something really new that we are going to launch, but for now we prefer to stay quiet.

Ron: And the change is going to be about the shop here and organising even more events and doing more collaborations with brands and to host a bit more. Now it’s like ready to wear and fashion, but there’s a lot of businesses around you…

And you think you really have a connection with art? It’s not only about fashion but also about art…

Robbie: It is already. You see a lot of brands are working with artists.

Ron: The brands we have… of course Comme des garçons they are working together. Quite a few of the brands that we have are already working in collaborations with artists. They are limited, so there aren’t all the shops that can buy, but we’ve been very lucky that they have selected us as one of the shops they want to use to sell their collections. And there will be a lot more coming very soon.

Why the name TEM-PLATE?

Ron: It’s really from the definition of “template“. This is one model that what we have here. This is going to be the mother of the TEM-PLATE universe.

Robbie: And literally started from blank sheets of paper when Ron visited me two weeks after our meeting in London. We started with a blank sheet of paper and began working and making drafts and frames… a template. Very easy…

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