The idea first struck Christian Vornehm while he was cycling. The graphic designer loves pedaling to visit his clients. To make sure that he never got soaked through by the rain or chilled by the wind, he always protected himself with a practical outdoor coat.
The trouble was, he found that the coat wasn’t very stylish, and didn’t visually fit the bill for a designer. It was the same for his work colleague, Hassan Mülhaupt. Together, they looked for a jacket that would be functional as well as fashionable. When the couldn’t find one, they came to a conclusion: “We’ll just have to make one ourselves.”
The O1O6 startup has been operational since February 2014. The small Munich-based fashion label woos with the slogan “intelligent urban clothing.” Their innovation: all the advantages of a practical outdoor jacket, combined with the fashionable aspects of a winter coat. The first collection, made up of three different designs, is water and windproof.
The "intelligence" is hidden in the details – a breast pocket for smartphones, a connected loop for headphones, and material that is both breathable and stretchy, allowing room to move. One further feature is a leather fastener band, which makes it possible to wear the coat open while cycling without it blowing out behind the cyclist.
At IPSO BRANDNEW they were named as the 2015 “Overall Winner” for startups in the sport industry. They were only competing in order to hear from a top-class jury whether they were heading down the right path. According to the designers, winning the prize wasn’t something that they had expected.
After this achievement, they initially attempted to raise sufficient capital via crowdfunding – without success. They eventually decided to wait for enough pre-orders, until they were no longer making a loss. The startup is now dispatching its fashion line to the USA and Japan, among others. And all of this despite the fact that O1O6 considers itself above all to be a local brand.
We can see that very clearly demonstrated through their names. The designs are called Lehel, Westend and Sendling – all Munich neighborhoods. According to the designer’s concept, each style is adapted to each neighborhood, how it interacts, what it stands for. For Vornehm, Lehel stands for “the metropolitan middle-class with a confident elegance.”
For that reason, this coat is the classic choice in the collection. Sendling is also intended to reflect the neighborhood’s traditional nature, “for the urban guy with a sense of elegance.” As the newest of the neighborhoods, Westend stands for “loose structure and a diverse population”. This is brought to life by the sportiest of the three designs.
It is thanks to their contacts established through ISPO that they are now dispatching worldwide – without using their own marketing. Many of their initial orders were attributable to contacts they had made at the trade fair.
They spent three whole days non-stop chatting and networking. Curiosity and interest for the product were enormous. According to Vornehm, ISPO was “a great start, and a good nudge in the right direction” for O1O6. What’s more, they can now call on their new media contacts for help with their marketing.
When they first started out, they had no idea that their idea would be so well received. For the two graphic designers, entrepreneurship in fashion was a completely new concept, so they looked for a fashion designer who would be able to bring their ideas to life, and found him in Charles Cox.
They deliver their products without the help of larger distributors; each order is personally sent in the post. Having said this, everyone at O1O6 does have another string to their bow – in case they don’t muster up enough support for their premium coat.
They are very proud of the material used in their collection. The loden fabric comes from a 120-year-old factory in Austria, the pieces being produced in Italy. “We want to consciously stay away from the mass market,” says Vornehm. But that comes at a price. Each of the three coats costs between EUR 449 and EUR 649.
And the makers are well aware that this appeals to only one particular – that is, especially well-off – target group. They see themselves as a part of the Slow Fashion Movement, a concept of fashion culture which stands above all for sustainability. The label is predominantly focused towards an urban market, easily noticeable through bearded models, hipsters smiling nonchalantly from advertising posters.
There are only small changes planned for the coming year. Most details, such as the leather band, will stay the same for each design as part of the brand identity, explains designer Cox. In the long term, the range is to be expanded.
It’s not yet clear whether there will be a collection for women or children – anything is possible. “Everybody needs to look good,” says Vornehm. Even when cycling through the rain.