Clemens & August has an original way of doing business — the Munich-based label only sells its clothes for limited runs at art galleries.
The brands’ dresses, coats and separates, as well as its men’s collection, are currently up for grabs at the Goethe-Institut’s Fifth Avenue manse through Tuesday. The company caters to in-the-know shoppers who keep track of its intercontinental stops and share its appreciation for art.
Lily Cole, Sienna Miller, Claudia Schiffer, Eva Birthistle and Sam Taylor Wood are said to be fans of the women’s styles, and James McEvoy, who turned up at the Oscars in Clemens & August, is a stalwart supporter.
This month alone Clemens & August will be shown in galleries in 10 cities, including Hauser & Wirth Zurich, the Hausderkunst in Munich and the MAK in Vienna. Only those who make the effort to actually see the collection will be given a personal code to enter the online shop. Once they punch in their size, shoppers will see which items are still available from that season.
The company’s owner, Alexander Brenninkmeijer, said, “We have a new type of exclusivity. If you inform yourself and read the right newspapers or Web sites, you will know about it. People are more than happy to wait. We only offer the merchandise on a certain date and certain location.”
Clemens & August makes a point to sell the collection shortly before the clothes will be worn. The Goethe-Institut, for example, is showcasing spring. Repeat shoppers also understand there is no time to ponder. If they don’t buy what they see when they see it, they will miss the chance.
Coats retail for $420 to $995, dresses sell for $230 to $627 and men’s suits run between $694 and $824. The label generates about $1 million in sales per season.
Having worked with Kostas Murkudis and for Renzo Rosso in the late Nineties, Brenninkmeijer understands the fashion scene. He also is a fifth-generation member of the family that founded C&A, the European-based retail chain with 1,000 outposts. Interestingly, the brand’s name references Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer, the brothers who started the business in 1841 by traveling on foot to sell high-quality fabrics to wealthy farmers who had the money but not the time to go into the town to the shop. While driving a truck with Clemens & August designs to Vienna not too long ago, Brenninkmeijer thought of his ancestors. “I realized I was doing exactly the same thing Clemens & August had done 150 years ago. I think the name is a nice homage to them.”