Menswear Style Podcast

Gustaf Secher, Founder of North-89 / Modern Functional Footwear

February 09, 2023 Menswear Style Episode 194
Gustaf Secher, Founder of North-89 / Modern Functional Footwear
Menswear Style Podcast
More Info
Menswear Style Podcast
Gustaf Secher, Founder of North-89 / Modern Functional Footwear
Feb 09, 2023 Episode 194
Menswear Style

Welcome to another exciting episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast, where we have the pleasure of interviewing Gustaf Secher, the Founder of North-89, a dynamic Stockholm-based footwear brand. Established in 2016, North-89 emerged from Gustaf's lifelong passion for sneakers, which took root during his early years. While many sneakers today prioritize aesthetics over functionality, North-89 believes that functionality should be an inherent aspect of every pair. Their mission is to infuse a functional approach into the timeless and beloved cup sole sneaker by combining innovative materials with a touch of Scandinavian design aesthetics. In Scandinavia, where the brand originates, the presence of four distinct seasons inspired North-89 to create sneakers that can be worn stylishly and functionally throughout the year.

Join us as Peter Brooker engages in an insightful conversation with Gustaf Secher, exploring the fascinating founding story behind North-89, a brand that seamlessly merges fashion and function. Discover the challenges and triumphs of building a brand while juggling a day job, and delve into the world of Instagram as a powerful platform for brand promotion. Explore the art of newsletter design, the pursuit of material innovation, the nuances of sneaker care, the importance of captivating product photography, and the potential for growth in emerging markets.

Don't miss this engaging episode, where we uncover the journey of North-89 and its commitment to blending style and functionality in the realm of modern footwear. Gain unique insights into the brand's fusion of Scandinavian design aesthetics with innovative materials, as we explore the exciting intersection of fashion, function, and footwear craftsmanship.

 

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to another exciting episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast, where we have the pleasure of interviewing Gustaf Secher, the Founder of North-89, a dynamic Stockholm-based footwear brand. Established in 2016, North-89 emerged from Gustaf's lifelong passion for sneakers, which took root during his early years. While many sneakers today prioritize aesthetics over functionality, North-89 believes that functionality should be an inherent aspect of every pair. Their mission is to infuse a functional approach into the timeless and beloved cup sole sneaker by combining innovative materials with a touch of Scandinavian design aesthetics. In Scandinavia, where the brand originates, the presence of four distinct seasons inspired North-89 to create sneakers that can be worn stylishly and functionally throughout the year.

Join us as Peter Brooker engages in an insightful conversation with Gustaf Secher, exploring the fascinating founding story behind North-89, a brand that seamlessly merges fashion and function. Discover the challenges and triumphs of building a brand while juggling a day job, and delve into the world of Instagram as a powerful platform for brand promotion. Explore the art of newsletter design, the pursuit of material innovation, the nuances of sneaker care, the importance of captivating product photography, and the potential for growth in emerging markets.

Don't miss this engaging episode, where we uncover the journey of North-89 and its commitment to blending style and functionality in the realm of modern footwear. Gain unique insights into the brand's fusion of Scandinavian design aesthetics with innovative materials, as we explore the exciting intersection of fashion, function, and footwear craftsmanship.

 

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

PB:

Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker and today on the show, we have the founder of North 89. Good stuff second on the phone, and off 89 is a Stockholm based footwear brand established in 2016. And it was grown out of a passion for sneakers that initially started at a young age. Today a lot of sneakers focus on looks and design, but less on functionality nor fade in I believe that functionality should be a given their goal is to take a functional approach on the classic and ever popular cup sole sneaker by combining innovative and classic materials with a touch of Scandinavian design aesthetics. And here to tell us more about nor pay nine is the brand's founder, Gustav second.

Unknown:

So it kind of came about during university. I, I've always had an interest for for, for both for fashion and business. I, I took art in high school, I couldn't my drawing is not my specialty. But so when I went to university, I decided you know, I maybe I can approach this from a business perspective instead. So I studied, I studied marketing, I studied strategy and branding. And then during the time I was also I'm very interested in shoes. So I kind of decided that I'm going to get a couple of years experience in the fashion industry. And then during that period, I also started north at nine. And the idea kind of is to combine or bridge fashion and function to combine that. And I want our shoes then that we started with now to be both stylish, clean that you can wear them to the office but also functional I want them to have. I want them to be able to breathe properly in the warmer months. And I want them to have a technical focus with water resistant materials for autumn winter.

PB:

Okay, good. Yeah. Now, well, I am interested in the design element. But I'm curious, before we hit on that you've said you had some experience in the fashion industry before taking this on. So what were you doing before you got into north at nine.

Unknown:

I was I started at J Lindbergh actually a Swedish fashion house. And I was I worked in the marketing department at first. And then I moved over to e commerce. And I was there for a while. And then I went on to peak performance, a very popular skateboard brand. And after that was kind of when I started north at nine, so I had that to two and a half years of experience roughly in the in the fashion industry, clothing industry, at brands that, that, that that are you know, they're very technical, but also very functional, and stylish. And, and, and so that helped me gain a lot of experience for especially in the Econ or E commerce segment where I'm currently operating with, with North 89.

PB:

Yeah, I bet that was a bit that was really handy coming into coming into the brand. I imagined that North 89 was just festering in your mind somewhere over a couple of years whilst you are working elsewhere. So did you have like a juggling act? Were you working during the day and then sketching out sneakers in the evening?

Unknown:

Yes, yeah, for sure. I mean, it's always you're always thinking of ideas. And sometimes you're you're, you're just itching to start working on it. But no, I still have two hours left. My day job. Which, which of course you know, I learned so much from from from from the companies and the people around me and I had great people and and mentors and, and stuff. But with this itch of doing something for myself and having a creative outlet was was always there. I always I always I liked the business part. I liked the design part. And for me, this is a fantastic way to combine both. But yeah,

PB:

so you had the idea. Now, what year are we talking here when you get it off the ground? And how are you raising the capital to do that?

Unknown:

We launched in September 2016. So we've been around for for a while now. And we happen kind of quickly. I mean, we found I found a agent in Portugal who and through him found a factory and then everything kind of started within four to six months really when we really started working on and until we launched until we launched our first collection. And me we it was a really small collection at first it was one style, three different colour ers. You know, we really kept it simple. But which was great in one way, because it was it was better, more a little bit more cost efficient than having four different styles or something like that. I mean, right designs. And so we didn't require a lot of capital to start with. I mean, we started with with roughly 20,000 euros. Okay, sorry. Yeah, but where

PB:

are you? Where are you getting that from you? Are you just dipping?

Unknown:

Yeah, no, no, they want money. And then I had a little bit support from my parents, obviously. I mean, I was, this is, this is how many years ago? Is it now? It's really seven years ago. years ago. Yeah. So I mean, I had just started my, my normal career. So I didn't have that much saved up. But no, my parents were very helpful with that. But, but, um, the, but yeah, just to make, like, clear now this is the sole owner of the company and, and all the money to my parents is paid back now. So yeah,

PB:

nice. Nice. Yeah. You've you've already sorted out the angel investors. Now. It's all under your roof, which is good. So, so perhaps, from the next step, then you have like, you have that small collection? How are you? Soft marketing this? Or how are you releasing it? What what goes through the next step, once you have the product in your hand?

Unknown:

It was it was not gonna lie, like it was it was, it was a slow start. It was a slow start. I mean, obviously, the first couple of orders were friends and family. We used Instagram a lot. I mean, because since we, since we have a product that in my opinion, you know, the, in my view needs to be displayed an image or through video, it's to show that the shoes are actually water resistant. Exactly. So to be able to show that is we Instagram was a great platform for us. We had we great we gained a good following and quite early. And then we had and then after a couple like one or two weeks, we had orders started trickling in from from, from customers around the world. And Instagram was also on the up and up then right. So that was a great platform for us to use. We didn't have a big ad spend budget. And then we worked a lot on newsletters, newsletters has, and still is today one of our big marketing channels. That's interesting.

PB:

So sorry to interrupt newsletters, I find they're just everywhere. They're your big twist now. So how do you make your newsletter interesting and different, and especially as it's coming from a brand point of view, right? So I mean, I get emails and updates from everything that you subscribe to. But I also get a little bit overwhelmed with some brands that just want to kind of pump out new releases every day emails, and even though I love the brand, I find myself unsubscribing from these newsletters, all these updates, because it just where you get overloaded, right? Yeah, well, I mean, like everything, I mean, everything looks like a commercial opportunity. So Valentine's Day. I mean, we're two weeks away, but I'm, I'm getting hammered right now. So how do you I'm just curious to know from a newsletter point of view, you say this was something that you were embraced early on? How do you approach that?

Unknown:

I've always found that there needs to be a balance between selling a product, a sales pitch, and also you have to balance it with brand and story building. Why Why should somebody buy our shoes is obviously very important to highlight. But also, I think you can also show why you exist, because there's so many brands out there. So what makes us different from from our competitors, and Sweden has, has some has a lot of great sneaker brands. I mean, they have a lot of great competitors in the market. But I found a balance between storytelling, branding, and sales. It has really worked for us. I mean, our shoes are handmade in Portugal. Everything is sourced from Europe, nothing comes from Asia. I mean, it's high quality products. And I lifted and I also really tried to show what problem are we solving as a brand? Why do we differentiate from from other other sneaker brands and, and at the time, we were one of the very few one of the only brands sneaker brands that were really working with materials depending on seasons, apart from clothing brands that had been previously. So that really worked for us when it comes to the newsletters and we could also you can also really work with your customer or you know, build up a trust with them over the through the newsletters and also and also kind of nurture them in a way that you can't. If you don't if you can't communicate with him directly what you're doing through the newsletter.

PB:

Yeah, if you're not engaged, so talk to me about the problems that you are solving and the ones that you are I'm mentioning that designs, I suppose it all comes down to the different designs that you have for different seasons. Yeah, I drill down on that for a minute. Yeah,

Unknown:

I mean, the designs we mean, I'm from Sweden, we like it fairly, you know, minimalistic, simple, I think Scandinavian brands we all have, you can always tell if the brand where the brand is coming from. And I think I mean, each country, I mean, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, we all have, we all have different aesthetics or specialities. But I wanted to keep the shoes simple. And how can we keep them simple, with a function that you can still wear to the office, you can wear to dinner, but you can also wear it out, you know, if you're just going out with the boys for a weekend, or I want them to be able to take you from from A to Z, and you don't really have to change us, if you're going to if you're in the office during the day, and then you're going to dinner at night, you should just be able to go directly, at least with the footwear that you're wearing. So I've tried to keep it really simple with the designs, but then we also but then we focus on the materials. And the problem that we're solving is in my opinion, is that when you're walking from home to the office, it's September and it's raining. You don't want to wear boots, you don't want to wear wellies, for example, you don't want to wear chelsea boots, you want to wear a nice pair of clean, crisp sneakers. But if it's if it's just a you know, a normal leather sneaker, your feet are gonna get wet, right. But if you if you have if you have materials that are that are treated with with water resistant materials, or then you can still wear those sneakers when you walk into work. But your feet will still be drying, you can still wear them in the office. So I like to wear sneakers all the time. That's my go to, always has been and, and I want to wear them in any kind of weather, warm, wet or cold. So this is kind of the problem that I feel that we're solving. And when it comes to the breathable materials. In the summers, I have more I have more feet. I like it, you know the goal that I have with the breathable sneakers, that is that we you know, we use the cotton match materials, then we also use the perforated leathers that don't have a lining on the inside. So the whole goes straight through to your foot. I really want to achieve the feeling that you get from summer from running shoes in the summer you can feel the air really come through. And it's so and with these you can really feel the air come through and and and it's been really successful products. I mean, we have so many we have 1000s of customers that love that really come to us specifically for the functionality of our sneakers. Yeah,

PB:

essentially, I mean good stuff. We were just bringing up some photos there to the stream and anyone on the YouTube can have a look and also on the website, of course. And we'll leave links over in the show notes. But a lot of the trainers I know is have like a white midsole. Do you have any tips for keeping white mid soles clean? Because I always so okay, just dial it back and say I think what, what men don't know, in general is how much women pay attention to what men wear on their feet. I mean, it's like and how clean they keep their footwear. So for example, if you've got a nice pair of new trainers, especially with a white mid so it's just generally a lot harder to keep cleaner for a longer period of time. So do you have any tips on how to keep these keep these fresh?

Unknown:

Yeah, I mean, I see I see sneakers as I mean I'm a car enthusiast as well and I mean you can have the nicest car but if the rims aren't nice then it kind of ruins the whole Yeah. This this is kind of the same concept that I see for sneakers and especially they should be clean right so I mean I usually for the for the midsole I usually I mean a soft toothbrush and warm and some soap like natural neutral soap and lukewarm water it usually works I mean that's that's some of the things that I that I that I do that I used and I also have the luxury to you know get a fresh pair quite easily the stock is not so far but otherwise I mean you can also be good cleaning product from from various sneaker cleaning brands I mean Jason mark or crap are also you know, not you know, I'm not getting this is not a sponsored mentioned, but, but those are also great, great products, I mean, and then also just maybe not use them every day, rotate your sneakers, try to rotate a little bit and if you see a scuff mark just kind of like this, just clean them immediately. And not only don't get more I mean,

PB:

yeah, don't don't let it let it build up after a month and go right now it's the time to clean it. It's

Unknown:

late. It's a bit late. Yeah.

PB:

I mean, so, I mean, so this would be like, for example, a problem that I'd want you to solve if I had trainers and bought white crap trainers. Are there any other problems that people are coming to you with? I mean, so you have an engaged audience, what are your consumers and your customers telling you about your trainers?

Unknown:

They sell out too quickly. Yeah. I mean, it's a little bit about it's a good problem to have, obviously, but, but we try to, we order an amount that we that we feel comfortable with. Usually we we don't Overstock, right. We don't want to have too many in stock, first of all, because because we don't want to be left or left with a bunch of stock at the end of the season. We don't have to want to be constantly on sale. And, and also a little bit of a sustainability perspective. I don't think it's right. That's a whole separate discussion, I think about what the fashion industry but but

PB:

so where is the stock? Is it in? Is it in Portugal, where they're made? Or do you kind of have oh, it's in a warehouse in

Unknown:

Sweden, we have we have a three with three PL warehouse in Sweden that delivers worldwide. So we did have them in Portugal for a while. But lately, with with the growth and we've had too late we've had to transition to to a new warehouse, which is great. And keeping your Sweden is one of our biggest markets. UK is the biggest actually. And then that Sweden not close behind. So so it's a good point for us to ship to ship from here. In Sweden. Yeah.

PB:

And do you have like bricks and mortar concessions? Do you look to do pop ups,

Unknown:

we did a couple of pop ups in the beginning, we did to in 2017, that went really well. And then we've also, we've been in store in Monaco, for a while in there in the Murano store. And we're also in the store in Zurich. But we try we really want to be direct to consumer brand. And I see us doing pop ups in the future. But But working directly only through our online store gives us direct contact to our customers. There's no filters. And for your for a band like us. not young anymore. But But I think but but still very agile, it's important for us to have that direct contact to, to our customers, I would love to work with with certain stores in the future, I think out of out of our branding perspective, it would be really cool to work with certain stores around the world. But we'll still see that our online store is going to be our main focus of sales.

PB:

And so how big is the company now? Good stuff. How many people are employees? Yeah.

Unknown:

It's, I mean, it's just me so.

PB:

So full time gig for you that I imagine full time

Unknown:

gig for me. Yeah, yeah. But it for me, it's so rewarding. And it's, I mean, obviously, you have good days and bad days. But, but I like to be in control or at least have oversight of everything. But But I mean, we have consultants that help us out during various times of the year. But full time it's only me. Yeah.

PB:

Are you also handling all the social channels? So if people message you on Instagram, it's going to be you behind?

Unknown:

Yes,

PB:

I do. Yeah. There you go. So we can drop a note to good stuff. Yeah.

Unknown:

Yeah, I mean, it's, it's, it's both good and bad. I mean, sometimes it's hard to shut off. Like, I'm not gonna lie. It's a bit hard to, to shut off. But, but I think it's important when people find out that it's me that they're talking to it's, it's quite enjoy it. They didn't think it was going to be me so

PB:

well, there's an I like the honest through line of the brand, you kind of what you see is what you get, you get you get some really good imagery, I gotta say. So I mean, you got the website, then it's got all the shoes that's just clearly showing, I mean, I guess you had to do a did you have to do your own photography? Was it kind of like a 1811? We do.

Unknown:

We do everything in house. Everything is done in house. I feel like it's important to do it in house. Because we're I understand that I have a certain vision for the brand and in my opinion, it's it's channelled best through through through me doing it or less doing it in house. Obviously we love to work with with influencers or micro influencers. I think it's also great for other people to interpret their way or how they see the brands in their environment. And we'd love to use those kinds of images and stuff as well. But, but all the campaigns that you see are all shot in house.

PB:

Yeah. And when you say in house is that you? That's me. Hey, mate, you've done really well. I'm really, really

Unknown:

chuffed. Then my, my, my wife helps out with some of the images as well. So

PB:

check it out, head over to Instagram now down tools people it's North 89 official is the Instagram and North hyphen 80 nine.com. The place to go where you can pick up a pair of these and that you work with influences a tour in the UK as you got a big UK market.

Unknown:

Yeah, we have. We have been in the we have done in the past looking to work with some Morial for for the upcoming spring summer season. For sure, ya know, it's been a it's it's a it's a great markets, great customers. And it's, we'd love to also see more of Asia coming along. But But the US is also one of our biggest growth targets this year, the last couple of weeks, it's gone quite a bit. So that's, that's really fun to see, to see as well. So it's worldwide, which is great.

PB:

Now, does it cost extra? Okay, stupid question. But as a brand and a company, you're shipping out of the warehouse in Sweden, does it cost extra to get it over to America than it would say just to the UK. And then that affects bottom line everything.

Unknown:

Of course, the shipping, I mean, the shipping is cheapest within Sweden, for sure. But we we charge a little bit more for shipping internationally. We also we also bake some of it into the sales price. But we have a great we have a great warehouse that has that has good shipping rates. So it doesn't affect us too much on the bottom line. And in the end. We also want it to be a fair price for for the customer. I mean, I think we're able to deliver a quality product at a fair price. We're not here to we're not charging 800 pounds for a pair of sneakers. But But I think it's it's a we want to keep the prices fair. Yeah,

PB:

yeah. Hey, good stuff. I think I've asked this question before on the podcast, but I forget to who? Who would you like to see a Swedish National? Who would you like to see as a brand ambassador?

Unknown:

Tough question.

PB:

So I pitched it to Geico. I can't remember who but I said the most famous Swede has got to be dove London. Rocket.

Unknown:

I met him last week. No, you crossed paths. Yeah. Your kid and I had to look twice I was like, oh, yeah, cool. Okay, well, just walking out of the street. Yeah. to the grocery store or something and he was out for a stroll. But

PB:

But Well look, you can't you can't miss the guy. I mean, he's. He's bill.

Unknown:

So should we say no?

PB:

Well, I tell you what you got to do now. Good stuff. Those you can always carry a pair of extra pair of sneakers around with you in case you haven't been to him again. Yeah, and just go dove these a few baby. Take them broken. Don't expect anything but all the best.

Unknown:

Yeah, all the best. Let me know. Yeah. Yeah.

PB:

Well, listen, I don't think we're gonna get any better than Dolph and that story because

Unknown:

he's a cool guy. He's a good stuff.

PB:

Really great talking to you. And best of luck with the brand again, the website North hyphen 80 nine.com. And we'll leave all the links in the show notes. Until next time you've been listening to the menswear style podcast be sure to head over to menswear style.co.uk For more menswear content and email info at menswear store.co.uk If you'd like to be a future guest on the show. Finally, please help support the show by leaving a review on iTunes or wherever you're listening to this podcast. Until next time,

Podcasts we love