herbert blom & jolanda de groot
interview by Isrid
'Every season you start from scratch'
Herbert: “My parents owned various fashion stores in the north of Holland. I too, had a keen interest in fashion so I attended the Textile College in Enschede. In college I met my wife Michelle and together we set off for Indonesia where I had an internship at Zantman Fashion group. It was there I gained experience in production. Once back in Holland we both graduated and together we were hired at Wehkamp in 1992. I started out being an assistant buyer and moved on to different positions within the company. My main responsibility was to set up new collections and concepts and eventually I was in charge of the entire women’s fashion department.”
Jolanda: “I had a very versatile career within the wholesale division of Mexx. My starting position was that of area manager of the northern district and I moved on to being sales manager. My final years at Mexx I was working as Country Manager Benelux.”
'Fashion and clothing will always remain'
Herbert: “Gerry Weber Nederland B.V. was set up by Bauke Gast. He laid all the groundwork for me so I was able to continue to build. It has been an honour to take over his agency.”
Where did you notice opportunities?
“I have a lot of experience in building collections so I know I have a great sense of fashion and commerce. As I took on Gerry Weber, we only had a wholesale division and no actual brandname stores. My wife had a few brandname stores herself and so by example I understood the opportunity to create brand awareness and to highten Gerry Weber’s market share. Aside from doing wholesale I wanted to create my own chain of stores.”
So now you two are working together?
Jolanda: “Shortly after leaving Mexx, I bumped into Herbert again whom I already knew through his wife, because she owned a Mexx store in Groningen. We had visited the idea in the past to work together, but this time it was for real. Three years ago I was hired to run the entire wholesale division. To all the retailers, I am the face behind all the brands. Herbert takes care of the Gerry Weber stores and retail.” Herbert: “At the start it was all about building, plugging away and creating sales. Now It’s about innovation, fine tuning and to continue to build this organisation together.”
Herbert: “I started out with several lines of the Gerry Weber collections. I added the brands Taifun and Samsoon in 2008, which I took over from Kees Booijink. We also acquired Hallhuber and Hallhuber Benelux into the Gerry Weber Internation AG portfolio. Meanwhile we have close to fifty stores of our own. Aside from that we have franchisers, shop-in-shops and we work with a concession model.”
Work and talent
Herbert: “What I love about this branch in fashion, is that every time there is a brand new beginning. Every season you start from scratch, it’s a great boost. It is variable and dynamic. Diversity and complexity appeals to me.” Jolanda: “Herbert is a perfectionist. He’s got an eye for detail, keeps everybody sharp and that is a unique gift. As for me, I just love to work. I don’t feel like I am working. I know I am commercialy aware, but the most important thing to me is the interaction with all kinds of people and I like to manage good relations.”
The future of fashion
Jolanda: “Virtual reality has made its entrance. We have developed and put into place a kind of intranetsystem. Customers can place their orders through this system. In reality we find the market not quite ready to use this system.” Herbert: “Technology will dominate the entire branch, speeding up the process. You will find different types of stores, cooperations and agreements. Note that due to these changes we all seem so busy and lacking time. That’s a shame. The way we used to buy is no longer sustainable. On a more positive note: fashion and clothing will always remain.