Last summer, I came across the new German sportswear label Open Era at Berlin Fashion Week. I met up with co-founder Max Frey for an interview in Hamburg.
Feine Herr: How would you describe the Open Era brand?
Max Frey: Open Era is defined by a mix of old and new. The inspiration largely stems from the tennis styles of the 60s, 70s and 80s. I am particularly inspired by the Wimbledon style from that time. Therefore, it’s sporty, but also “posh”. By combining these influences with modern elements, we create timeless designs. We don't want to follow trends. Trends always end and in my opinion that contradicts the longevity we stand for. For us, it's more about unique fabrics, high quality, and sustainability. Our customers identify with all things extraordinary, but on a subtle level. I sometimes refer to our look as “stylish extravagance”. The focus is not on exclusivity or attracting attention at any price, but rather on the customers, who see themselves and feel comfortable in these unique items of clothing.
Feine Herr: I particularly like the tennis sweater. At first glance, it’s quite classic, but when looking closer you notice the asymmetrical knitting pattern.
That's typical for us. We offer a mix of classic and progressive elements. Not just in relation to our designs. We like to be traditional in terms of quality, commitment and the “Made in Europe” standard. But we also want our production to be sustainable and ethical. We like to create breaks in style with our communication. We are not perfect, and we stand by that. Therefore, we don't represent any particular style so much as an approach to life. It's not just about winning, it's about playing fairly and with integrity. Which was the epitome of Wimbledon at that time. That's why Open Era is an antagonist of the fast fashion industry.
Feine Herr: How did you come up with the idea for the brand?
Over a glass of wine with a friend. We had the idea of bringing white tennis balls back into play. We wanted to produce these high-quality balls as regionally and sustainably as possible and sell them in authentic packaging. In order to capture the spirit of the times for brand building, we looked at photos from this time. When we saw the fashion from the 1960s to the peak of the Björn Borg and McEnroe era, we were amazed. We thought that it would be fairly straightforward to complement the balls with retro socks and polos. Which was of course a bit naïve and perhaps a bit typical for two business graduates. Since we had very high standards for our products, it took some time until our capsule collection was ready.
Feine Herr: How did you get into fashion?
Via the tennis balls. We had no prior experience in fashion. But we were very lucky. Our agent for production and procurement, who is himself a consultant in the area of sustainability, took us by the hand and introduced us to all processes step by step. A lot of people believed in us and were willing to invest. Through several lucky coincidences, we were able to gain a foothold in the Canadian market relatively quickly and, after our initial success, we decided to focus entirely on fashion.
Feine Herr: How would you describe your personal style?
I wear a lot of black and set accents with more unusual tops, often in a sporty casual style. In my own four walls I also like loungewear or streetwear. I like breaks in style. For example, I combine classic coats or jackets with sportswear, loungewear or streetwear. Once again, it’s a combination of traditional and modern elements.
Feine Herr: What are your three favourite pieces from your collection and why?
Firstly, the velvet corduroy jacket and trousers set. I like the velvety feel and the wide ribs of the material. I can combine this in many different ways. The “posh” Wimbledon idea is transported perfectly in ecru, while in black the same set has a greater overlap with streetwear styles. My second favourite item is the sweater. It represents a certain non-conformism and creativity that I can easily identify with. It radiates a certain degree of elegance. My third favourite item is the waffle piqué polo. Thanks to the honeycomb texture of the material, there is only a small amount of material on the skin, making it very comfortable to wear in summer or when exercising. The colours are inspired by tennis court floors. Whenever I wear it, it takes me back to the humble beginnings of our brand. There’s a certain amount of nostalgia coming into play.
Dear Mister Frey, thank you very much for this talk.
Original interview: https://feineherr.de/open-era-interview-mit-gruender-max-frey/