PARIS — MCM has taken a major step in its quest to become a billion-dollar brand with the appointment of Dirk Schönberger as its first global creative officer, effective immediately, WWD has learned.
The designer joins the German brand from Adidas, where he was creative director since 2010, bringing on board high-profile creative collaborators such as Rick Owens, Raf Simons and Kanye West, and reviving vintage classics such as the Stan Smith sneaker.
Schönberger is to “serve as the key catalyst behind product design and brand experience, leading and implementing global creative strategies to ensure an integrated vision across all expansions,” the brand said in a statement.
South Korea’s Sungjoo Group, the owner of MCM, has charged him with building a design studio in Berlin to complement its creative centers in Seoul and Milan, as it seeks to court Millennial and Gen-Z customers with revamped accessories and an expanded offering of apparel and shoes.
Schönberger plans to hire up to 25 people for the team, which will be in charge of product design as well as areas such as global marketing and art direction.
“It will be a very focused, clear message every season. It will be a very cohesive message as well across everything consumer-facing, not only products, but also retail, e-commerce and all of the campaigns, social media, etc. It will help to focus and speak as one language,” he said in an exclusive interview with WWD.
The designer noted it was a homecoming of sorts for the luxury lifestyle goods and accessories brand, founded in Munich in 1976.
“Berlin is today very much what the spirit of the brand is about: really disruptive, looking at new technology and innovation, and definitely also targeting a consumer that is very much younger than it probably was when MCM was founded,” he said. “Having this luxury brand with a creative leadership in Berlin, I think, is a strong statement, and I think it’s also a great statement for the city.”
Schönberger plans to drop a teaser capsule outlining his vision for the brand in the spring, with his first full collection to follow in spring 2020. Though he indicated that some areas of the brand need a refreshment, he does not foresee a radical overhaul. “Definitely you will see the difference, but I’m not a bulldozer guy,” he said. “You will definitely feel a shift for the brand, but I am pretty psyched about the heritage of this brand as well, and how to play with this heritage, so it’s interesting. And the more I see, the more excited I am to play with this.”
MCM’s signature Visetos monogram will keep an important role. “It’s a little bit like the Trefoil from Adidas: I grew up with it,” he noted. “For me, it’s always been there in a way, so I’m not going to change the logo for the sake of changing it or saying, ‘I need to show that I’m there now.’ I will play around with it, but you won’t all of a sudden see a robotic-looking MCM logo. I think that this would not be the right thing to do.”
Sung-Joo Kim, chairwoman of MCM Holdings, said she counted on Schönberger to bring innovation and inspiration to the brand.
“As a fiercely imaginative German designer, he is the perfect person to present new takes on our heritage with elements of the modern cultural melting pot that is Berlin, fusing it all with the hyper-modern elements of our brand to be the leader in new school luxury,” she said in a statement.
According to industry sources, the label grossed about $700 million in sales in 2016, the most recent year for which figures are available, and is expected to reach $1 billion by 2020. Distributed in around 500 stores in 40 countries, MCM recently partnered with Nordstrom on pop-up shops to house an exclusive capsule collection.
Accessories account for 80 percent of revenues at the brand, with shoes and apparel making up the remaining 20 percent, Schönberger said. “The potential is so much bigger,” he predicted. “It will probably never be a 50-50 split, but in the coming years, you will definitely see a big shift happening.”
To that end, he plans to adopt some characteristics of the sportswear model, including more frequent drops. “Every brand needs a constant refreshment, and I think that at Adidas, I definitely learned how to deal with such a quick drop cycle. I think it’s great for a brand like MCM to open to that idea as well,” he said.
In recent years, MCM has collaborated with brands including Christopher Raeburn and Puma, while the Nordstrom pop-ups feature hats by New Era, Everlast boxing gloves, Wilson basketballs and Champion sweaters. Schönberger said collaborations would remain part of the model, as long as the result is cohesive.
“I think it’s very important that there is one lead that keeps it all together, because you can also really get lost. You can make a lot of products that have different stories and the brand looks a bit fuzzy,” he said, emphasizing that this does not mean outsiders can’t challenge the codes of the brand.
“I think that is something that’s interesting about a collaboration: it’s not only collaboration for a commercial sale, but it’s also the positive disruption, the challenge and the creative energy when those two worlds come together,” Schönberger noted.
The designer, who was born in Cologne, Germany, attended the ESMOD fashion school in Munich. He worked for three years as an assistant at Dirk Bikkembergs in Antwerp, Belgium. Known for his eye for details and tailoring skills, he launched his own men’s wear collection in 1996 and followed in 2002 with a women’s wear line.
In 2007, he was named creative director of German brand Joop. His LinkedIn profile indicated he shuttered his eponymous line in 2009. Reflecting his lifelong passion for music, Schönberger designed clothes for Mick Jagger and Keith Richard for the Rolling Stones’ “40 Licks” world tour, and for Bono on U2’s “Elevation” tour.
Schönberger said he looked forward to bringing his recent experience at Adidas to his new position at MCM, even though the two companies operate in different price brackets.
“In the end, the spirit is very similar, so I think what I’m definitely bringing as well to the brand is my learnings about footwear and shoes, and to create also within a brand that has a history and heritage, but also a brand that wants to create on that heritage and create something very new and modern for the consumer,” he said.
“Of course, it is a very strong accessories-driven business and I’m very respectful of that, but on the other hand, there’s a lot to grow in ready-to-wear and the shoe business, to really create a total look for MCM as a brand, that’s going to be a very interesting challenge ahead,” he concluded.