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Thursday, 31 December 2015

GarconJon meets Mats Klingberg: Trunk Clothiers, Chiltern Street, London

Some people defy expectations and Mats Klingberg is one of those men. As the founder of Trunk Clothiers, the sophisticated menswear boutique in Marylebone, Mats should have a huge ego and no time but his easy approach to life and effervescent charm meant shooting with him was a dream. He's also a man who knows his own mind. When I asked for 5 words to describe himself it took him milliseconds to reel off the list and having spent the day together, I agreed with each word he gave.

Six years ago Mr Klingberg entered the retailing world on Chiltern Street and has played a huge part in turning the street into a hot spot in London. This was exemplified perfectly to me in two forms: firstly, Mats was greeted warmly by a dozen people up and down Chiltern street as we were shooting and secondly Carrie Fisher perused the store window with great interest on the day of the Star Wars premier. Neighbourhood vibes and celebrity mashed together. Despite the slew of celebs that are regulars at Trunk, the store has a down-to-earth appeal and it's all down to the man behind the brand.

See the full interview below and more information at TrunkClothiers.com.

Mats Klingberg, Founder of Trunk Clothiers and Trunk Labs

What did you want to be when you were a wee boy? I’ve always loved travelling. I come from a very small town outside Stockholm with a population of 8000. I moved to San Paolo in Brazil which was a town of 8 million people. That really opened my eyes to new experiences, people and even food. I’m really passionate about food and when I lived in Sweden I served as a chef in the marines during national service. At that time I thought I’d end up in the hotel industry and when I was 16 I started working as a waiter in the local town. That really gave me a sense of international living as I met so many incredible people from around the world.

How did you move into fashion? I ended up going to business school and then studied French in Paris. Many of my friends went to FIT in New York and as I had a flavour for fashion I moved there to study also. When I returned to Sweden I worked for a new fashion companies including Armani but for some reason felt my business degree was not being put to good use. I felt I needed to do something more “serious” so started working for an online stock broker during the dot-com boom. After the bubble burst I moved to London to work on the luxury collaboration team at Amex. This gave me the step I needed towards opening my own store.

How did you decide on Chiltern Street? I didn’t have a huge amount of hands-on retail experience which actually was a benefit as I was looking from a customers perspective. At that time in London I found there wasn’t a space that wasn’t intimidating, that was warm and welcoming and also somewhere which was a little out of the way with not too much going on. I was living in Marylebone at that point so looked all around this area for inspiration. In 2009 I met the man who’d just acquired the Chiltern Street Firehouse and as I’d already looked at the street I thought that would make an interesting change to the street. That’s when I decided to do it here.

How do you go about buying for a store with no actual premises yet? It was an exciting time but I was also nervous. In 2010 I began heading to trade shows like Pitti and visiting showrooms across Europe which gave me a flavour for how the store would shape up. I began by just thinking if I liked these things then others will so put in orders for a range of simple but well formed goods. By February I had the order confirmations and it was quite scary as I didn’t even have the shop signed-off yet. I just thought I have to go for it as if I wait around for all the pieces to fall into place it may never happen. I signed the contract on this store in June, builders when in in July and by August we had a store! I didn’t tell anyone, not even my friends, as I wanted a true community response at first.

How did you decide on the brand mix? It was truly just items that I had in my wardrobe already from my many trips to italy over the years.. None of the items were available in London which was important for me. I’m not coming from a traditional fashion background and I think in this city you’re either in the Saville Row territory or the “street” vibe that Shoreditch brings. I’m sitting somewhere between the two as it’s not too sartorial and not too street.

It was interesting sitting out the front of the store as you were changing as I noticed what variety of customers come into store. There were older gentlemen with impeccable styling, girlfriends buying Christmas gifts for their partners and Japanese tourists in high-tech outerwear - such a broad mixture. Who is the Labs customer? We have amazing people from all over the world come to this area so there’s always an interesting character in store from one day to the next. Many of our customers working in the art and fashion world as they like toned down, understated style. I feel our customers aren’t arrogant and really appreciate good value. Of course they have money but quality is key. Lots of retails people from around the world shop here when they’re in London so it must provide something unique.

Coat navy wool by Massimo Piombo
Sweater roll neck navy merino wool by Trunk Clothiers
Jeans 'ED80' by Edwin
Sneakers grey by Victory

Jacket navy wool 'K Jacket' by Boglioli
Shirt chambray made to measure by MCR
Sweater grey cable knit crew neck geelong by Trunk Clothiers
Trousers grey flannel by Incotex
Shoes black leather 'Catalpa' by Heschung


Suit navy flannel made to measure by Boglioli
Shirt white cotton poplin made to measure by MCR
Tie navy and grey stripe wool by Bigi
Shoes black leather 'Catalpa' by Heschung

How has Chiltern Street changed since you moved in? It’s changed so much in only a few years which is exciting to see. It’s now a real destination for shopping. We were the first mens store of this generation to move in but the street has an incredible history. If you go back 30 years you’ll find a lot of excellent menswear stores and even further back, the Queen mother used to buy her hats on this street. It has a long time reputation for style.

When did your own-brand line launch? Our first venture is shirting which launched in October. We’ve always been a multi brand shop but once you’ve been in the business for quite a while you start to think, I can do this myself. In retail it’s all about doing something no one else can do, so you’re not competing on a level which involved discounting and sales. If you’re a small operator this kind of activity can kill your business as this is money that goes on staff and rent. The unfortunate thing is, when every store is involved in heavy reductions just to get customers through the door they start to expect it. Bringing in our own product gives us control over production, quality and branding.

Do you have any plans for extending the line? Most of our customers don’t care which seasonal “trends” are, so we can develop a product that has a timeless quality. We’re going to start doing made-to-measure suits in spring and also swimwear.

What’s your own wardrobe like? Considering I own a shop, my wardrobe is actually very small. I own a couple of navy jackets, chinos in different colours and shirts. I like to have easy combinations to avoid running around with a lot of stuff. I’m quite low key when it comes to style. When it comes to travelling, I can usually survive on one small suitcase for two weeks as long as the hotel has a good laundry service.

What’s the favourite look from our shoot? Boglioli is my favourite suit and is a brand I’ve sold from the beginning. It’s one of the few I actually didn’t own before I opened the store and it’s got that perfect balance between being smart but still not super tailored. It’s very Italian so is unconstructed which also makes it really easy to travel with. I can just roll it up and pop it in my case, walking around with suit carriers has never been my thing. The suit also gets me lots of compliments which is always nice.

Do you stock any British brands that manufacture in the UK? We stock Drake’s Tie who I think you’ve shot for before. We do well with Mackintosh classic coats and we work with Begg & Co from Scotland with scarves. We also have an exclusive on the Barbour jackets designed for the Japanese market, all manufactured in the UK. Next Spring we’ll also be taking on shirts from Triple Stitch which are made in North London.

How would you describe yourself in 5 words? I’m a nice guy, well organised, hard worker, take risks and explorer.

What’s your star sign? I think those 5 words describe a classic Sagittarius. I have lots of them around me and we’re all similar. I came up with the name Trunk because the idea of people filling their trucks with all their prized possessions and travelling around the world. Many of the brands in the store I’ve discovered on my travels rather than trade fairs or business environments. I always try to focus on the positive which is a Sagittarius trait.

Why is London the perfect city for Trunk? The whole world is in London. It’s a very international city and it’s super connected. Obviously it’s very expensive to live here and that is unfortunate. I was in Berlin last weekend and when you see what you could get for your money in other cities it’s very frustrating. But there are so many positives that make London worthwhile, the food, the people, the creativity. These aspects make London unique. The world looks to London to lead the way in so many areas.

Leave us with some words of wisdom. Simply: go for it. People can’t sit around waiting for good things to happen to them, it all comes down to you. As soon as you take the step to make your dreams reality you’d be surprised at how helpful the world can be to make it happen for you. I’ve actually started volunteering for the Princes Trust mentoring program and I’m glad I’m in a position to give back a little.


Jacket green Loro Piana cashmere by Caruso for Trunk Clothiers
Shirt white cotton poplin made to measure by MCR
Sweater light grey v neck 30% cashmere 70% wool by Trunk Clothiers
Chinos beige cotton by Incotex
Dessert boot brown suede 'Chiltern' by Crocket & Jones