denis martens
& wim gorissen

martens confectie v.o.f.
November 2011
Isrid van Geuns - Recruitment - Specializing in fashion and luxury
interview by Isrid

'I find this a challenging sector filled with crazy times'

Denis: “I studied economics and when I graduated, I wanted to go to the United States. Before I could leave, my dad had a heart attack. He wanted to know if I had any plans for the future and if I had any interest in the family business. I had never really given working in fashion any thought but I quickly learned there was decent money to be made. Since I hadn’t completed all the necessary paperwork to leave for the States, I decided I may as well join the company by doing some administrative work. Slowly it peeked my interest and I found my place naturally. I am not your typical fashion kind of guy, but I have come to known this branch as pretty challenging. There is never a dull moment.” Wim: “At Martens Confection I am responsible for all sales operations. Back when I was working in the Beethovenstraat, I met Desirée van Soest, Denis’s wife, who was also working there at the time. Later on we met again as we both worked in sales for designer Ernie van Reijmersdal. As our time there came to a close she urged me to talk to Denis since he was in need of some rejuvenation within his company. That was back in 2007. I started working with the new brand Not Your Daughters Jeans (NYDJ) and we successfully introduced that to all of Europe. This success lead us to add more American brands to our portfolio and our company grew from five agents to forty. I think we are the only company here in the WFC who serves the entire European market. Most of our brands get this kind of exposure. We developed a model in which we can heighten exposure to new brands and make them grow.”

'Yes, I will treat you to a story with a touch of royalty.'

From Herengracht to Confection Centre
Denis: “In 1960, my dad and his companion, started importing German brands to Holland. Their first office was located at the Heerengracht 6 and 8. They split up in 1966 and my father continued working with some of the brands. At this time the Confection Centre, later known as the WFC, had opened its doors but apart from Dutch manufacturers, no agents or importers were allowed. Agents had to start their own building, the IMC, built next to the WFC and my father took his entry in 1970. We moved to the WFC in 1973 when the Confection centre finally allowed agents to take up space inside the building. It was packed around here, across the street we had the Berghaus building and Retail combination Holland. Among other labels, my father carried the brand Basler and it really flourished. Things only got better throughout the seventies as ‘coordinate collections’ came into fashion. Previous to that, design was about creating separate items but now people were more interested in sets. Basler brand was the first who came out with woven collections, truly innovating. Business was booming, we were drowning in orders.” Wim: “The old times like Denis describes, has come and gone. People are no longer lining up to buy and I was never part of such a time. Denis was able to look ahead to see a changing market. The rise of online exposure, created a jump in demand of newer, more specialised articles by consumers. You need to take part in that. We needed to broaden the playing field and through our ups and downs, I think we came out ahead.

Staying put
Denis: “ Our company started out in the first tower on the ninth floor. We admit looking at other options out side of the WFC when the need came for a different type of showroom and space. However, we couldn’t find a suitable place. Our clients preferred our WFC location for its easy access and great parking facilities. It was the WFC who came up with the idea to fulfill our wishes by renovating the top floor of the Fashion Garden. This way we could continue our business from our old showroom until renovations were completed. We enjoyed this road to completion as being a pleasant and professional experience.”
Crazy and fun times
Denis: “I find this a challenging sector filled with crazy and fun times. We currently have a staff of forty people and we permanently busy ourselves adjusting our product assortment. Our business model has totally changed. We grew from Benelux to Europe and we added an entire web department. We work with bloggers and vloggers. I myself do not take centre stage, I want to offer a chance to a whole new generation and so Wim is featured in the picture and not me.”
Wim: “We are always adjusting and developing our portfolio, looking for new brands and ways to collaborate. We keep a close eye on what’s happening in the States at their major department stores. A successful brand gets more floor space within the store and those are the ones with a strong collection. We seek contact with those labels, offering them a possible market share in Europe.

Denis, in closing, would you have a memorable anecdote?
“Yes, I will treat you to a story with a touch of royalty. Twice a year, we had our blow out sale and Princes Margriet, who wore our brand Basler would come down to shop, doing so for the past 20 years. Imagine the flurry of excitement as the whole floor was secured and security men watched all the entries and exits. Downstairs she kept her car running just in case there was an emergency or threat so she could make a quick getaway. Princes Margriet would arrive around 2 pm and wouldn’t leave until 8pm, leaving security to work overtime. Usually a special outfit was selected to wear to Queens day. The bill was always sent to Palace Het Loo. Without fail we always received it back, requesting to adjust the cost since the Royals never have to pay value added tax. We are full of stories like that!”


Published in the WFC 50 year anniversary book
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