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Herbert Hofmann

The creative director of hip Berlin store Voo says it takes a whole lot of love to create a successful lifestyle retailer.

Tell us about Voo and the concept behind it.

Voo opened its doors almost three years ago in the space of a former locksmith. The space is huge and we kept it very industrial. It’s in a backyard of Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, far away from the city’s usual shopping destinations, which makes it exciting. We basically show and sell everything we love. It’s about awareness and passion for clothes, products and projects.

What does your role consist of?

It’s a lot about finding new labels and meeting people who do interesting and extraordinary projects and products. We also host many events at Voo so there’s a lot of organisation and planning needed. Social media, store design and communication come as daily tasks.

Last year Voo won Farfetch’s Superstore award for best independent store in the world. How did that feel?

It was one of the most exciting days since Voo opened. We didn’t expect it at all because some of the other nominees were stores we have admired for a very long time. We still feel very honoured.

Why do you think Voo won?

I think the word spread that Voo is not only about consumption. We want to show books, food, fragrances, jewellery, interior, bikes and whatever we think people should be aware of. We are huge coffee lovers for example, so we invited two friendly baristas to run their cafe in Voo. When you enter the store you get the feeling you can just hang out or drink a coffee, read magazines or browse. The raw, very industrial but still warm atmosphere doesn’t give you the feeling you’re in a shiny white high-end boutique where you’re not allowed to touch anything - it’s great design we show and offer but it still has to be fun.

How do you select brands for the store?

The selection works very intuitively. Sometimes I just see an interesting piece worn by a friend or in a magazine and then I research the story of the brand. It’s very important to me to meet the designer in case we order the collection.

With those meetings you get the vibe of the brand and see if you have the same vision.

What emerging brands are you keeping an eye on?

We love Filles à Papa from Belgium and MSGM from Italy. It’s very refreshing to see brands being independent from fashion trends, which normally every label in a certain range of taste tries to follow. MSGM is one of these labels, by being very colourful and a bit kitsch - in the best and classy sense.

You travel a lot with your job. Where are your favourite places to visit?

For me Scandinavia is a very inspiring destination. The big difference lies in the everyday understated fashion and style of Scandinavian people. It’s not about fashion in a way of following seasonal trends or hype, it’s about integrating beautiful designs into your everyday life. I love the style of Copenhagen’s people and they look even better when they all ride bikes.

What city has the best retail offer?

Shopping in New York or London is amazing. You get the feeling you can find each and every brand in those cities because everybody wants to sell there and show face.

You originally studied geography, so how did you end up here?

After my studies in Austria and Sweden I thought it was time for a break and moved to Berlin, where I wanted to try something completely different. Fashion and beautiful products were always my passion, so I tried PR. Agency V gave me a chance and kept me until I moved on as a buyer.

What’s the best thing about being a buyer?

The great people you meet, the fantastic designs you see and amazing surprises you experience when putting a selected piece into the shop. You always think about whether people will like it as much as you do yourself and if this happens it’s the best feeling, not only because it means I’m not ruining the whole business.

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