The hype from across the pond about Colour Wear (CLWR), a Scandinavian street and outerwear brand, has been reverberating lately, and when we got word that Endeavor would be distributing the brand in North America we knew it was time to find out more about this Swedish company that’s taking the continent by storm.
On a recent trip to Germany and Austria retailers were backing the brand, and its sales, based on designs that speak directly to their customers and aren’t shoved down their throats by global designers telling them what’s cool. For years, U.S. brands have been the epitome of cool around the globe, but increasingly, Scandinavian styles are making waves in Europe and even here in the States, as companies like WeSC and Makia are creating their own aesthetic.
After a chance meeting with CLWR Brand Manager Neil Slinger, we caught up with him and the brand’s three founders to learn more about its aesthetic, the growing influence of endemic brands in Europe, and CLWR’s play for coming to America.
Meet the cast:
Thor Kruse, CEO and Co-Owner: Between 2005 and 2010, been a partner at Chunk Distribution AB developing the brands Oakley, Nike, Armada, and Hurley in Sweden. Thor also has a background in product development at The North Face and a large network of customer and athletes in the sports industry.
Fredrik Abrahamson, Marketing Co-Owner: Between 2005 and 2010, Abrahamson has also been a partner at Chunk Distribution AB. From 2010 to 2012 Fredrik ran the sales agency for Burton Snowboards in Sweden. Fredrik's background in snowboard and skateboard marketing and sales brings with it a large international network of contacts with both suppliers and athletes.
Johan Ullbro, Design Manager and Co-Owner: A successful freelance designer within the sports fashion industry the past seven years, Ullbro brings an extensive network of producers and suppliers as well as being at the forefront of Scandinavian design trends.
Neil Slinger, Brand Manager Europe: Slinger head buyer at leading boardsport retailer Blue Tomato and gained nine years of retail experience there. An avid snowboarder and surfer with close connections to the market. Neil is now responsible for taking care of the new centralized business in Europe including tasks in marketing, sales, strategy, et cetera.
You guys launched just a couple years ago and seem to be everywhere in Europe already. What have been some of the big milestones over the last couple years that have gotten you there?
Neil Slinger: I think the guys have done well to keep a level head in a company, which is getting heaps of attention and interest from the industry, retailers and end consumers alike.
Fredrik Abrahamson: The biggest thing for us is to see Colour Wear products in other countries than Sweden, especially to be out in the mountains or in the streets to see people wearing it.
I understand you launched CLWR as a response to the lack of gear from global brands that spoke to the Swedish market. What are the biggest mistakes that U.S. brands are making in Scandinavia and Europe as a whole and how are you capitalizing on them?
Thor Kruse: The easiest answer to this is that too many brands don't listen to their markets. Ignorance towards their sales team, retailers and the end consumer - while simply producing product, which "they" think, is cool. In these tougher times you have to provide what the market wants, and with there being so many different markets out there with big cultural differences per country in Europe, you have to be flexible and willing to adapt.
How would you describe the brand’s style and how does it differ from what riders are getting served elsewhere?
Johan Ullbro: Colour Wear has a strong Scandinavian design heritage with clean colors and details that are easy to understand and to wear. CLWR offers Swedish street fashion adapted to the mountains filled with details and smart solutions that add value without compromising on price, function or fit.
We carefully design and consider all fabrics, trims, and details making it easy to combine all styles of the collections regardless of which color you prefer on the garment. On top of this, CLWR also offers a wide streetwear range from parkas and jackets to crew necks, hoods and t-shirt, as well as chinos and shorts.
What is unique with CLWR is the complete concept. Providing Scandinavian design and fashion to a market that we love, live in, and listen to.
How many shops are you in these days?
NS: Sweden is obviously a large market for Colour Wear being the home base with a large coverage of snow and street stores. We are also now have a solid and growing presence in Austria, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Italy, Benelux, Scandinavia, UK, Spain, South Korea, Australia, Russia, New Zealand and soon to be starting in France, some Eastern European countries and of course Canada and the USA.
It’s important for us that we are in shops [that] understand and like the brand, and can sell it. We don't want overkill and are not pressuring to get into more shops than we think is healthy at the moment.
You just inked a deal with the Endeavor guys for distribution in Canada – are you planning on coming to the States as part of that deal as well?
FA: Yes, this cooperation with Endeavor will also include a start in the U.S. market. It will be exciting for us to see how the brand is accepted in the USA. I think it provides the market with something unique, but we also understand it is a large market with many brands, so we will see what happens. We have full faith in Max [Jenke] and his Endeavor crew, and stoked to have them on board.
In addition to the styles, the shops we talked to were hyped on your brand based on the price tag. Who’s your target customer?
NS: Our target customer is any rider out there who likes the style and wants to ride in cool looking product with solid function at a price which will not break the bank. No hating from our side…if you like it, go for it…we don't mind if you snowboard, skate, freeski, toboggan…or just walk… hating leads nowhere.
Five year plan in 50 words:
FA: To be a well established, recognized brand in the market place and still create Scandinavian designed streetwear and outerwear and have a great time while we doing it.