My Work: Mathias Berg

Portrait of Mathias Berg of Berg&Berg

Interview: Haris Stavridis // Portrait: Courtesy of Mathias Berg

Could you please tell us about your background and how you started Berg&Berg?

I have a business degree and worked in corporate PR. I really wanted to make something real, not just memos and power point presentations. In addition, I had a great interest in clothing and style, and doing something in that direction seemed liked the right thing to do. My wife Karin and I did some research, travelled to Italy, found some manufacturers and got started.

You collaborate with a variety of Italian suppliers. What kind of challenges did you face in the beginning and how did you overcome them?

When we started out, we worked with very small quantities, so we had some issues with being prioritised in their production pipeline. We had to spend a lot of time making sure we would actually get our products. Delivery is always an issue, it still is, but now we are a more important client to most of our manufacturers. They know we pay our bills and, most importantly, we have built personal relationships with all of them.

Could you please describe the manufacturing process?

A part of the idea behind Berg&Berg is to work with manufacturers that are truly product specialists. That means that we use all their expertise and experience in making great products - and the product development process is a close collaboration. For instance, with our Scottish knitwear, we present our design ideas and then discuss which yarns to use, which weight is ideal for the design, the details of the fit, which knitting machines to employ, shoulder treatment, all the details. Then they make a sample and we take it from there.

What is your typical day at the office like?

I generally start the day be answering a few e-mails and then some messaging on Slack with other team members. The rest of the day varies greatly from month to month. I am still involved in almost all aspects of the business, so before the launch of a collection I spend 18 hours a day shooting, editing and preparing products in the web shop admin system. In different periods, my days can be spent designing and developing new items, working with marketing and PR or dealing with our partners. Social media is something that is just a part of the daily flow.

Which are your three biggest headaches at work right now?

Making sure Spring deliveries will arrive on time. Financial liquidity (for all fashion businesses, I guess). Direction (what should we do next, how to grow further).

What kind of tools, applications, or services make your everyday business life easier?

We are based in both Stockholm and Oslo, so we use Slack and Dropbox to collaborate. Adobe Creative suit for creative work.

Is there a service or an app that you wish existed?

Something that could speed up production lead time. Today, if a product sells out, making new ones takes around two months. It would be great to have some kind of an instant product machine! (Am I talking about 3D printing now? [laughs])

When it comes to fashion and business news, what's on your daily reading list? Any great business books you'd like to recommend?

Bloomberg, New York Times, Financial Times and Business of Fashion for the business side of things. For inspiration the list is endless, but Instagram is definitely the most important social media tool for us. Not primarily a business writer, perhaps, but I think Malcolm Gladwell´s books are quite good for new perspectives.

How has menswear evolved since you started your online store and what are the biggest business trends that you see in regards to that?

The selection of classic menswear online is so much bigger now than when we started. In the beginning we felt special for offering knitted ties! The knowledge about craftsmanship and quality has also risen dramatically. The followers of quality clothing, shoes and style have become a quite large subculture now.

Are there any new retail concepts that have caught your attention recently?

Every time I see a new Acne Studio opening, I'm amazed by their vision, architectural taste and willingness to do something new.

Which are the most important markets for you at the moment? Why?

Scandinavia, and Sweden in particular, is our home market. In addition, large markets like the US, UK, France and Germany are important to us. We have also seen a lot of business coming from Hong Kong lately.

Would you consider opening a physical Berg&Berg store at some point in the future?

It would be nice as a sort of a link to our online world, a mix between a meeting point, showroom, store and marketing tool. I think a pop up store would be a good first move so that we test the waters.

Could you tell us about the biggest setback you have faced in your career? How did you respond to it?

With Berg&Berg there has not been one big setback, but rather a constant impatience; we want to reach more people, to widen the collection and, of course, sell more. Not just to earn more, but to be able to do all the things we want to do. We are growing constantly, around 60-70% per year the last two seasons, but we have no outside investors, so there is a limit in how much marketing activities we can afford.

Which are your three business priorities in the next six months?

We have recently moved to a new and larger office and warehouse in Stockholm, where we will also have a new photo studio. A priority is to have most of the daily running of the business handled there. Shipping and customer service is already there, but the goal is to also do the photo shoots there as well as the rest of the daily operation. I would like to spend most of my time on product development and the overall strategic side of things.

Looking back, is there anything that you would do differently when it comes to running Berg & Berg?

It took us a few seasons before we saw the real potential and made the move from part-time project to a real business. Also, I would have not spent any time thinking about selling wholesale.

What is the most solid, specific piece of advice you have for anyone wishing to start a fashion brand?

Combine patience and impatience. Always do whatever you can to get ahead, work more, do more, but be patient when waiting for the results. There will always be so many reasons to give up.

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