When I asked Christiaan Klein Pauw at Pauw Amsterdam to possible have a chat with Madeleine Pauw he very kindly smiled and politely said that Mrs Pauw is not usually available for this kind of interviews.
The story of Pauw and what Madeleine has made is fascinating and goes back to 1949 when Madeleine’s parents opened their first store in Amsterdam. For over 20 years they were selling different kinds of “confection” and relatively accessible brands.
In the late 70’s Ms Pauw started in her parents company and began to introduce international designers and brands during her trip to Milan and Paris fashion weeks where she has gained a unique reputation in the industry by working on exclusive collaborations with Comme des Garçons, Dries Van Noten, Kenzo, just to name a few.
During the 80’s Mrs Pauw was known to be an avant-garde retailer and her stores were often visited by fashion students that were only walking in just to get inspiration; but as Christiaan said during the conversation “my Mum is first of all an entrepreneur” so in 1986 she decided to convert her Comme des Garçons store on Van Baerlestraat 88-90 into their first men’s dedicated store.
Few years later they started to go into what Daniel Meul calls the Italian way, selecting the best that the Italians could offer, mainly in tailoring. In 2013 Pauw has opened a new store called “Pauw Luxury Denim” dedicated to premium casualwear and lifestyle brands just one block away from Pauw Mannen as well as a second tailoring store a bit further south.
Christiaan has started the conversation by mentioning that Pauw’s foremost fascination is to search for new and interesting brands to introduce in their market; he brings the example of the shoes they currently carry (Bontoni and Saint Crispin’s) “At the beginning it was tough, where most of the Dutch still enjoy pointed shoes we were offering English and Italian models, knowing that to get their interest would mean to wait a bit”.
Quality and exclusivity remain core values to Pauw and their staff, and that translates into service to their clients as well as an impeccable visual display. We met one early morning in October, the day after their annual inventory check and there was no sign of that whatsoever.
So what is Pauw going to be in three years? No major changes, but keep on working on the research of new brands/manufacturers to satisfy their valuable clients; and that bearing in mind that they might go more extreme and unique when it goes to eclusivity. “There are never prices in our window” says Daniel. Our clients are just happy to walk in, try on beautiful stuff and finally buy what they want!”.
Their clients are 99,9% locals (living or visiting Amsterdam very often, mainly for business reasons), and the core is between 35-50, which is pretty young.
Social media has no major influence of their business, although they do make a use of Instagram to promote their products or in-store events.
E-commerce is for them still small, although growing steadily (they make a wonderful offering at pauw.com bearing in mind that they do not buy products or brands with the aim to be successful online but with the end consumer in mind. They select product for the stores and then show them online, mainly like a catalogue.
Very good to hear that the communication they have with their suppliers is very good, actually got even better lately thanks to an overall improved informatics system on their side. Many of the brands that Pauw Mannen carries today have been there almost from the very beginning, which is for them a good point of pride, understandably.
“what is the last brand that you would kick out of Pauw?”… Daniel answers “Caruso!”; Christiaan adds: “Cesare Attolini!” – they both stressed on the fact that they start only with brands they love, like for instance The Gigi, although very often it is very had to sell them!
“Which brand would you like to have in store but you don’t currently have?”, Christiaan is unable to answer, whereas Daniel with no doubt answers “Berluti (accessories) always amazing!”
When we get to the competition questions, they explain very serenely that they are sure there’s no other store in the Netherlands offering the same values (and products) as Pauw. The success of a business comes when you have a strong passion behind it, and that has been forever the greatest teaching of Mrs Pauw.
Quite unexpected, although easy to understand, to hear Daniel mention someone not to be considered as a competitor but someone to fully respect, Sergio Donati owner of the store Donati in Perugia.
“What’s the biggest mistake that Pauw has made lately?” To have sometimes been too slow, especially at the time when Christiaan was not yet in the company and Madeleine very busy.
And the biggest pride? “oh yes, that we’ve always done things our way, without looking too much at which direction other stores may have taken or what market dictates” answers Daniel. Christiaan adds “the Dutch are not very quick to compliment, but it is great to talk to them outside of the store and hear them walk in complimenting our team and service. In the end we are only there to provide a service and make the clients happy…. oh yes and well dressed!
“What does shopping experience mean to you guys?” – giving strong advice to our clients, make them feel happy and confident with what they buy with us.
During the last minutes of the conversation, Daniel mentioned an episode that happened few weeks before during his workout at the gym (moments that he’s usually happy to share through his personal instagram stories J). A guy he knows from the gym asked him for advice where he could shop good products and with a nice look, knowing he could not so well afford to shop at Pauw. Daniel gave him advice on other stores in Amsterdam, but purposely left out Pauw Mannen to avoid any obligations. The guy ended up showing up at Pauw nonetheless and finally went on to shop there as well. Most often it is not about the “sell”, but about the opportunity to be of service that brings them their success.
article by Alessandro Agazzi
photography by http://jamiesnoeck.com @jamiesnoeckphotography