Article written by Natasja Admiraal, fashionunited.com
A knitted polo with a jacquard pattern from Amsterdam’s canal area, or a jacket embroidered with a William Morris motif: anyone who considers men's fashion to be monotonous clearly hasn’t heard of Ampère yet. The young Amsterdam men's fashion label creates top quality 'street style' garments with luxurious materials, rich fabric treatments and a touch of romance. A refreshing counterpoint to the minimalism which has now reigned supreme for many seasons.
Ampère sounds French because of the accent on the ‘e’. An excellent name for a brand with international ambitions. But the company is run by three Dutch fashion entrepreneurs: Randy Hoogeweegen, Koen van Meersbergen and Aleks Kuijpers (see box). It’s certainly no coincidence that the brand name has the same initial letters as Amsterdam, the city which has always served as an important source of inspiration for them. “All three of us are 'imports from Brabant', attracted by the energy Amsterdam radiates,” Hoogeweegen and Kuijpers explain in a video call with FashionUnited. “Its creative vibe makes this a great city to live and work and Amsterdam is very prominently positioned from an international perspective.”
EXCLUSIVE, INNOVATIVE, YET 'STREET' TOO
Authentic is quite possibly the best word to describe Ampère. While the latest fashion trends for men have been predominantly clean in recent years, with a colour palette dominated by dark blue, black and grey, Ampère is the counterpoint to that minimalism. Each collection features detailed designs, with a strong focus on top quality fabrics, embroidery and jacquard techniques, all developed in-house. Creativity and experimentation are at the very foundation of the brand. “Using sophisticated techniques like embroidery and trims is very common in women's fashion, but much less so in the men's fashion segment,” says Kuijpers. “That's how the idea came about to create a high-end men's label with a luxurious, romantic look, which still remains 'street' due to the garments’ wide, boxy cut, plus we also often play with the length.”
An innovative idea that has proven to be in high demand: “Our products are popular in our home base in Amsterdam, but we also have an international focus as we’re operating in a niche market,” says Hoogeweegen. “We serve a specific group of customers, who are spread all over the world. That’s why we look for the right agents per country for our wholesale activities.” Ampère had a stand at the Revolver fashion trade fair in Copenhagen at the beginning of this month. “A beautifully designed, luxurious fair, where we were able to show what we have to offer and what we stand for”, adds Kuijpers. “We spoke to many interested retailers and also managed to entice a number of new Dutch customers right then and there.” Ampère definitely stood out among the exhibitors from a creative perspective. Nice confirmation for the three entrepreneurs that they’re heading in the right direction.
LONG LIVE CREATIVE FREEDOM
All three of the entrepreneurs have acquired around ten years of experience in the fashion industry and each boasts their own field of expertise, so they have managed to effectively divide up the tasks within the company. This division of roles actually came about very naturally, says Hoogeweegen: “Koen does the buying and is responsible for the collection’s purchasing process, Aleks is the product specialist and I am responsible for marketing and sales. We all have our own specific area of know-how and we, therefore, can’t check up on each other either, which actually works very well. A nice distribution formula.” The fact that all three of them also run successful businesses and are therefore not dependent on Ampère’s success certainly also benefits their creative freedom. “We started the brand in 2020 when our stores were forced to close. We thought: instead of slamming on the brakes, we’ll go full throttle to create something that wasn’t yet available in the market.”
The collection includes trousers, oversized hoodies, T-shirts, overshirts, jackets and accessories like caps, face masks, tote bags and socks. “We work with product themes within the collection which can consist of embroidery and jacquards,” says Kuijpers. “For example, a short-sleeved overshirt, a bucket hat, shorts and a bag all feature some 3D embroidery. We very much think in terms of looks and sets. This also opens up many possibilities from a styling point of view, as it effectively connects the items.” Each collection is developed from an overarching theme. The 2022 autumn-winter collection is about escaping reality and fleeing to paradise. Textile designer and poet William Morris (1834-1896) was one of the most important figures of the British arts and crafts movement and served as one of our sources of inspiration. Parts of his 'The earthly paradise' poem are evident in the collection, as well as elements from Morris' famous textile designs.
HOMAGE TO AMSTERDAM
Campaign videos accompanying the collection have created a dialogue with the consumer. “We look for ambassadors for each collection, who, in this case, would be asked questions likes: what does 'paradise' mean to you? For some it's painting, for others it's breakdance”, states Hoogeweegen. “We see innovative marketing as the ultimate way of communicating with our audience. We can convey our brand message even more strongly by seeking collaborations with artists or other brands. Our bond with Amsterdam thereby continues to be a recurring factor. We started the brand here, we truly love this city and the brand can sort of be seen as a real 'homage to the city'.
What kind of retailers is Ampère targeting? Hoogeweegen: “Shop concepts which share our passion for beautiful products. It's nice if they feature a nice mixture of brands, but we don't focus on that. It’s more important to us that our future visions are effectively aligned. That the entrepreneur is growing in a direction we recognise in ourselves. We’re focused on fifteen retailers in the Netherlands and Belgium for the 2022 autumn-winter season, including Calico Jack, Van Dijk, Rewind and About - lifestyle for men.” The Ampère collection has a price range from 85 euros for a T-shirt with an embroidered logo on the chest to 700 euros for a reversible wool coat. All jerseys and sweats are made from organic, GOTS-certified cotton and production mainly takes place in Europe. “We keep our set-up as close to home as possible, which isn't just sustainable, but certainly also interesting from an economic perspective. The lead times for samples are therefore shorter. Our focus is really on quality, creativity and material development. We’re now working on a beautiful bottom made of hemp and dyed without harmful chemicals.
Ampère has recently also taken on an agent in France, to hopefully start flourishing in the French market too. Discussions are also underway with agents in other countries, like Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. “Our goal for the next year and a half is to enjoy smart growth, without saturating a market. The product isn’t designed for that,” says Hoogeweegen. “We currently find ourselves in a growth phase in the Benelux and want to expand to about forty stores in Europe. We need strong retailers to grow our e-commerce and online community. Working with agents in different countries is the ideal strategy for this.”
Ampère opened its first pop-up store on the Elandsgracht in Amsterdam at the end of last year. That proved to be an effective way to get in direct contact with the end consumer and see how people react to the product. They then decided to organise a second pop-up from 7th to 13th March, this time on Gerard Doustraat. “Setting ourselves up at a cool location for a week every now and then will ensure consumers, but journalists and influencers too, can get acquainted with the collection. See how much love has gone into each product. And for us, it's a good way to get feedback. Experimenting continues to be very important to us”, concludes Kuijpers. “We want to continuously develop and improve our products.”
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Ampère was created in 2020 as a result of a gap in the market. Randy Hoogeweegen and Koen van Meersbergen have run two clothing stores in Amsterdam, About - lifestyle for men, since 2015. The range is a mixture of streetwear and menswear in the luxury segment, with brands like Filippa K, Filling Pieces, Isabel Marant, New Balance and Won Hundred. They identified space in the range for a men's label with a richly detailed fabric image. Hoogeweegen: “I know Aleks from the TMO course. We both went our own way after the course: I chose retail, he founded his own design and production company, Workingmenblues, with which he acquired a great deal of experience in developing luxury fabrics and embroidery techniques. We have always kept in touch and somewhere in the back of our minds always toyed with the idea of combining our knowledge and expertise. After all, how cool is it to start something where you can truly influence the end product from A to Z? The result is Ampère.”