There was a certain moment a decade ago, before Instagram was in our lives the way it is now, when menswear influences from Europe, America and Japan started to converge in way that interesting and new. It was a cool time when great speciality stores in NYC, London, Paris and L.A. started to emerge with an evolved mix of menswear which had previously only seemed to exist in Japan. It felt relevant to the moment without chasing the trends that tend to drive the fashion world. Trunk was, to me, one of the best shops to come out of that time.
Trunk, which now has two shops, one in London and one in Zurich, is comprised of an interesting selection of well-made things from all over the world. Trunk feels like the closet of your most stylish and well-traveled friend. The funny thing is, that perfectly describes Trunk’s founder Mats Klingberg.
There are a lot incredible stores that I love to just visit but rarely buy anything. Trunk is the complete opposite. It’s a shop that you always want to visit and where you always bring things home. Trunk has a great selection of brands, good basics and excellent service. It always feels practical and stylish without trying too hard. There’s also always a discovery of a little unknown company that makes something highly specific and nice.
Trunk is the first place I think of for the better basics that I always seem to be on the hunt for. That could be the perfect pea coat, a solid Shetland sweater or a simple insulated vest — you can find it all there. There’s also some of my favorite brands — Barena, Incotex, Crockett & Jones, Salvatore Piccolo, Begg & Co and so many more. That’s why I said it’s my desert island shop. If I could only have one, this would be it for me.
I wanted to talk to Klingberg about what the past decade has been like for Trunk, where he sees things going and what inspires him today. Our conversation is below. Hope you like it.
ACL: I love the emphasis on craft and classic style. What’s your philosophy behind the brands and product at Trunk Clothiers?
Mats Klingberg: Provenance, quality, timelessness and discovery has always been at the core of our buying philosophy. We tend to steer away from the latest trends and focus on things that will last, not just for one season, but for several and in some cases even more than a lifetime. Things that have been well made will often also look better with time and also be more sustainable.
How things have been made, where, by whom, with what materials and techniques, etc matter a lot to us and over the years we're gotten to know so many interesting people that are passionate and proud about what they do, so it's with great pride we can connect these people and their products with our customers around the world.
It’s rare to find such a good mix of European, American, British and Japanese brands like one finds at Trunk. Was that merchandising mix intentional or a happy accident? What’s your inspiration for the brand mix?
It was and still is very intentional and the inspiration primarily comes from travels around the world as well as seeing what our friends and customers are wearing. I'm from Sweden, but grew up partly in Brazil and then went on to live in Spain, France, Switzerland and the US and the years before starting Trunk, while living in London, I spent a lot of time in Japan and Italy, so all these experiences combined somehow came together in a nice mix when Trunk was launched back in 2010 and has then continued to evolve since then.
Last year was the company’s tenth anniversary, what have you learned in a decade of Trunk?
It's been a very eventful decade indeed and I've learnt a lot and continue to learn new things basically every day. Connecting with people on a human level is super important and while it doesn't sound like rocket science I think it's what many people and businesses forget in the rush to digitalise everything as quickly and as much as possible. Digitalisation is of course very important, so the challenge is really about finding the right balance when interacting with customers, suppliers, colleagues and other stakeholders.
Another learning is to always stay curious, resilient and be agile and to accept that change will be constant and that you have to keep tweaking here and there as you go along. The day you think you've gotten it all figured you'll very soon be up for an unpleasant surprise.
What is your point of view on the current state of menswear?
I know so many great people in menswear that keep doing so many great things and the last year has really shown how much resilience and innovation there's within all of us. As well as camaraderie between us. Tailoring has suffered in the last year, but with people now starting to work from the office, travel for business and going out to restaurants again we've already seen an uptick in demand, so I believe this will continue while the more casual continues to be strong.
Are there any brands out there that you are particularly excited about?
There are lots of brands that consistently keep making lovely things like Batoner, Barena, Camoshita, Lardini, De Bonne Facture, Valstar, Fedeli, Merz b. Schwanen, Heimat, Resolute, Alden, etc, but the brand that excites me the most at the moment is actually our own. When we started out eleven years ago we were a pure multi-brand retailer, but out of necessity when we kept running out of products mid season and weren't able to reorder we started making our own and this now represents around 30% of our business. We work with makers primarily in Scotland, Italy and Portugal to make beautiful knitwear, shirts, trousers, tailoring, t-shirts, shorts, etc, etc. Some of them are available in the B. Shop at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, which I'm very excited about.
Is there any potential for a Trunk shop in New York or LA?
With the US being our second biggest online market after the UK, and New York and LA being the biggest markets within the US, there's definitely potential for shops in New York and LA at some point in the future. If and when a suitable space comes available at a decent rent.
What’s the future like for speciality stores?
If done well and with passion for great products and great customer care in a great space I think there's definitely good opportunities for specialty stores in the future. It’s easy for customers to get lost in all the things available online, so to have a shop to go to that shares your values and aesthetics will bring joy to lots of people for sure.