15 years ago, the Dutch garment entrepreneur Christian von Daniels took over shirting label van Laack and set out to transform it from a traditional shirting manufacture to a modern 21st century company focused on enhancing its brand image, diversifying its portfolio and expanding its clientele to a younger audience. Today, van Laack is the largest maker of made-to-measure shirts in the world and has grown its product range to include nearly everything a man needs in his wardrobe. We spoke with von Daniels to find out what makes van Laack’s made-to-measure service so appealing.
Mr Von Daniels, you’ve spent the last dozen years or so expanding product portfolio and and developing material technology in the brand. What’s the reason for these specific focuses?
Honestly, we have done much more than that. If you ask for priorities, my answer is: the focus is clearly on our core competence – the shirt – where we have indeed made some really spectacular progress when it comes to innovative product development like our new “Perfect Look” quality.
Now that you’ve completed van Laack’s product range to pretty much include everything, how do you intend to continue to grow the brand?
The future of van Laack will be driven by customisation. Today we are the largest manufacturer of made-to-measure shirts on a worldwide basis. We have gained an enormous competence in the area of single-item production within the past 100 years. This will be the driving force for the brand growth in the future.
Shirting and suiting focused labels such as the Jermyn Street brands have been losing ground on retail. How do you intend to prevent and combat this at van Laack?
For me the key to future success in retail is simply an “emotional shopping experience”. We are just about to launch “La Cottoneria – Food en Vogue”. This will be an exciting merge between food and fashion and we already had overwhelming response on our recent launch presentation of “La Cottoneria”.
As a shirting brand, was it challenging to enter the suiting market, where there are a large number of existing players?
It was never our objective to broadly enter the suiting market. For us, the suit has a supporting role and will only be offered, where it is seriously requested by consumers. This will be a case-by-case decision.
What’s the focus on the Australian market driven by?
The Australian market has clear preferences for modern business looks as well as for traditional Brit-style. It’s a very opposed situation that allows for a lot of creativity.
Shirting companies are popping up online quickly. How are you innovating in online retail?
We have grown the online business seriously within the past 8 years. As we are constantly relaunching our online platform, we ensure that our online business serves current requirements.
Companies such as Suitsupply are competing with standard menswear labels on pricing by producing in less developed countries while using materials from Biella. What’s your reaction and how do you intend to maintain or grow market share in such a time?
Suitsupply is no direct competition to van Laack. There is a clear separation between mid-price and luxury. Our customer is willing to pay a reasonable higher price for a premium product, which delivers on wearing comfort and highest product quality.
The Meisterwerk collection features a slim-fit cut and and traditional handcrafted details such as a rounded sleeve, hand-guided felled seams and keyhole buttonholes, plus hand-sewn gussets using 120 two-ply yarns from Switzerland and North Italian weavers
Tell us more about the Meisterwerk program and what prompted it.
The Meisterwerk is the result of our 135 years of experience in making first class shirts. We put the best things of our shirts together: finest and exclusive materials, a lot of handcrafting and excellent fittings.
As a younger generation of shoppers are looking for quality, transparency and aesthetics, how do you intend to win them over?
The good news is: we have got them already as the age-level of our consumers has become significantly younger within the past ten years. The average age of our customers is 35 years.
What do you think is van Laack’s greatest strength compared with its competitors?
To be a first-mover when it comes to product innovtion.
We’re seeing a steady move towards athleisure and more casual workwear appearances. Do you intent to embrace the same with more relaxed fabrics such as jersey and knits?
Our new collection combines the classic shirt elements and reinterprets them in a modern manner. This shows especially when it comes to the materials, where jersey fabrics play a big role. We also combined classic stripes with modern elements, such as contrasted stitching or floral prints. We’ve also changed a lot of our shirts features, such as leisure collars and cuffs, to also address preppy styles.
You’ve introduced Air Cotton and Natural Easy Care fabrics as well as Perfect Look in the last five years. What other fabric innovations can we expect to see in the near future from van Laack?
We are currently working on two really exciting innovations on the shirt sector, which will be presented in upcoming January. Stay curious!