For me the best part of being a menswear blogger is getting opportunities to meet the people behind the brands and stores and getting together with other style enthusiasts, who make this style community the interesting and diverse place that it is. This time I visited Niklas, Joel and Stefano at Anderssén & Kurki.
Anderssén & Kurki is a quality shoe store located in Vaasa at the western coast of Finland. While I was doing the interview I also had an opportunity to try on several of their shoes (like those Loake Kemptons I reviewed earlier) and found their selection rather impressive. Therefore I wish to share with you some interesting things about the store it self and especially about the people behind it.
Anderssén & Kurki was founded by three young guys, Niklas, Joel and Stefano, who were all students at the time, and had a passion for quality shoes. Combined with their affinity for entrepreneurship this passion led to an idea of starting their own shoe store in their home town. As we all spend a large part of the day wearing shoes, quality footwear is a rather sensible investment.
I had prepared some questions about their philosophy regarding business and shoes.
1. When talking about shoes, should you make compromises?
Shoes are something that should not be compromised on. They are the main component to any outfit. Subsequently, with an ounce of search and effort there are always good shoes for a great price with a sturdy last and quality leather, and we aim to offer these alternatives. If we speak purely about technical qualities, a good shoe should have a stiff leather upper that wont crack but will age beautifully. The upper should be integrated to a sole that responds to the wearer’s needs and the surrounding environment. And this feature links to perhaps the most important feature of a classic quality shoe, the Goodyear construction, which means that the upper and the sole are stitched together into an integrated whole.
2. How do you build your selection? Are brands important? How about quality?
We put together our favourite brands that were price worthy and had already emerging brand awareness in Finland. The most important factor in choosing brands was that their main business should be shoe manufacturing; not an extension of a clothing brand. It was also important to have shoes for every occasion also for those who couldn’t immediately afford a pair of Loake or Red Wings.
We think it is hard to separate the brand from the quality, since they are both part of the whole product experience. When we built our brand repertoire we thought of both aspects. However, as the quality shoe market is only just emerging in Finland, emphasizing the technical quality of the shoes is more important than the brand. When our customers have experienced the shoes by them selves the brand starts to become relevant.
3. Who are your customers? Students, business people or revered gentlemen?
Our customer base is very wide containing all kinds of personalities with different backgrounds, ages and life stories. It is thus impossible to describe this group of people according to their age or income. But we like to think that what unites us is, more or less, the passion for beauty and functionality that doesn’t mean status driven bragging, but a silent trust in what we love. And this doesn’t only concern shoes but is way of viewing everything around us.
4. Do you have big plans for the future? Where you want to be in the next two years?
We are investing in our online shop, which will be of greater importance in the future. Our goal is to eventually attract customers from around Europe.
5. Are you thinking of adding any clothing to your selection?
We are at the moment satisfied with our selection. Obviously it needs to grow with time and this will happen eventually when the e-commerce grows. You could say that we are a slow train that is picking up speed with every mile.
I wanted to have a bit more personal approach to Anderssén & Kurki so I asked a few more personal questions, too.
Niklas describes himself as a self-appointed Renaissance man, an everyday philosopher, a student and a shoe lover, wile Joel says he is a Jack of all trades, a sports enthusiast, a student and a shoe lover.
How would you describe yourself as a dresser. Do you always try to find best quality/price rate, or do you make compromises (if youdo, where) or do you strive for perfection?
All: Work-wear combined in a Japanese and English manner. But above all there should be an element of surprise to any outfit. Life is just a big compromise and so is consumption. It is hence up to us to consume in the most sustainable and smart manner as possible, especially with a student’s budget. When it comes to our clothing consumption we try to invest in quality that will last and remain relevant for a long time. However, bargains are always welcome and H&M and Uniqlo shopping is more than familiar. Especially Uniqlo stocks good quality stuff that lasts.
What are your favourite brands in shoes, outerwear and sweaters. Why?
All: The best shoes are subsequently hand made in the USA and England. Red Wing and Loake are brands that have a deep history and fantastic quality/price ratio, which is why we stock them. When it comes to sneakers New Balance is my utmost favorite. If we where to choose a few clothing brands that we enjoy they would be Nigel Cabourn, Engineered Garments, Orslow, Post Overalls and Barbour. Even though the price can be hard for a student, we like the Japanese and English ruthless attention to quality and the originality in the garments integrated to an interesting brand story.
When was your interest in clothing awaken?
Niklas: When I was very little I started to collect Adidas sneakers due to their aesthetics and sporty feel. Many times I took advantage of my supposedly growing feet in order to lure my parents to buy me a new pair. I was forced to this since they couldn’t understand that collecting sneakers was a serious occupation
If you could choose any watch in the world, what would it be?
Niklas: One could argue that I have no real knowledge about watches and this is also near the truth. Partly, this might have to do with the fact that I have not found “THE” watch or a brand that I can really relate to. I miss a watch brand that is something else than a classic status symbol. But if we speak purely of aesthetics, I like the design of Uniform Wares watches.
Do you have any style icons?
All: When we comprehend the expression style icon we immediately start to think of personalities that inspire us with their endowers, perhaps not their clothing style. But we don’t mind that intellectuals like Jörn Donner, Olof Palme, and Ingmar Bergman dress sharply with a playful mind-set. If we speak of style icons in its widely understood meaning, there are some great dressers out there. Motion pictures and series like The Godfather and Mad Men, and their characters have inspired our formal clothing wardrobe. We also gather inspiration for our “work-wear with a twist” style from all the Japanese and South-Korean dressers found on the internet.
Check out their online store at: http://anderssenkurki.fi/