Open for a year, 14oz sets the standard by which other jeans retailers should measure themselves. It’s worth a visit just to see what’s possible.
Karl-Heinz Müller is a man with a plan, or several to be exact. As the face behind streetwear trade show Bread & Butter, he has a strong pedigree when it comes to spotting a gap in the market and capitalising on it. And in Berlin’s Neue Schönhauser Strasse, you can see further evidence of his abilities.
For those who know anything about denim, 14oz means only one thing – the standard weight by which all denims are judged. This is the starting point for all great denim brands and is usually the base product from which jeans are made. However, in Berlin it’s also the name of a store in which, for those in the know, the name over the door provides a good indication of what lies within.
Just over a year old, 14oz is a three-floor temple to the blue stuff in which brands you know and love hobnob it with lesser-known labels. And this is housed within an environment that is about as far away from the normal rough-and-ready jean shop environment as it is possible to get.
The other point about this store is it has met the competition head on. Together, Neue Schönhauser Strasse and its continuation, Alte Schönhauser Strasse, have stores from just about every denim brand you might care to mention. Mavi, the Turkish brand, has a shop that’s just across the road from the unpromisingly named Levi’s Buttenheim, which boasts every vintage style from the über purveyor of five-pocket western jeans. And there’s Replay, Miss Sixty and on and on and on – all angling for a slice of the Berlin denim action.
Faced with this, you might wonder why Müller decided this part of Berlin was the optimum place to set up shop. But given that the two streets are a real denim destination, he may have a point. Certainly, if results are anything to go by, he has the competition scared. All of them seemed unstinting in their admiration and praise for 14oz.
Prior to opening in Berlin, Müller had a 14oz shop in Cologne, but this closed when the store in the German capital welcomed its first shoppers.
Key looks and merchandise mix
As you’d expect, this shop is principally about denim. Stand outside and there’s a denim “brand menu” listing all the current labels on offer.
And the range is enormous. The lead-in price is provided by Levi’s Red Tab, which sells at about the ¤80 (£71.50) mark. But this is very much bargain basement by the standards of 14oz.
The great bulk of offer, including brands such as Nudie Jeans, Denham the
Jeanmaker, Lynn Vintage and Daniel, hover somewhere between the ¤300 to ¤400 (£268 to £357) level – expensive by any standards.
And if money really is no object, then there’s Anachronorm. There are only five or six pairs of these Japanese jeans in the store and this is hardly surprising: they retail at ¤850 (£760) a pair.
Although the store is primarily about denim, there is also a broad range of outdoor, heavy-duty check shirts, coats and footwear from the likes of Red Wing Shoes, Converse and Dayton Boots.
Broadly, the store is divided one third female to two thirds male as far as the collections are concerned, with womenswear at the back of the shop. In spite of this, a member of staff said sales split reasonably evenly between the sexes – a result, he claimed, of women wearing men’s jeans “boyfriend style”.
The basement is devoted to vintage styles that have been revived and in total there are 56 individual brands on sale in the shop.
The thing about denim, in particular, is that if it isn’t displayed well it becomes commodity – at which point, selling at anything other than base prices becomes tricky.
In 14oz, almost every visual merchandising trick in the book has been deployed, whether it’s the cast-iron tables stacked on top of each other to provide display platforms, or the vintage packing trunks, upended and left open to offer a frame for the merchandise.
Dark-stained, open-fronted wooden wardrobes are used along the length of the ground floor perimeter as display vehicles, and also as platforms for cream-coloured bikes positioned on top of them. These are about looking good and mood setting, rather than serving any particular function.
Again, if you’re sufficiently well-heeled to be a 14oz private shopper, upstairs the first floor has a series of themed rooms.
On the ground floor, which is the main level, 14oz is a long, narrow shop, with a series of vaults overhead, creating the impression of a series of rooms, even though it is largely a contiguous whole. The dark-tiled floor and cream walls take the eye straight to the back of the shop, where a pair of wooden French windows offer access to the decking platform that forms most of the garden.
Back inside and there is one feature that is unique to this store. There are plenty of shops that boast an aquarium of some form or another, usually filled with brightly coloured tropical fish. Here, the large aquarium, located directly behind the cash and wrap counter, is standard stuff except that there are no fish in it. Instead, the blue water is filled with jellyfish, creating an extraordinary panorama.
The vintage area in the basement is self-consciously functional, with grey tiles on the walls, metal shelving along the perimeter and reclaimed oak planks on the floor. On the first floor it is the vintage furniture that captures the eye.
Selling at this level is about persuasion and this is only possible if a very high degree of staff knowledge is evident. Staff here clearly know their stuff, and are able to talk about the rivets used on a pair of jeans, the washing and processing that it has received and the fabric that has been selected. What is equally obvious is that they enjoy doing so.
Would I buy?
14oz is not about impulse purchasing. At these price levels, it is entirely likely that several visits will be made before the wallet is finally taken out. The sheer width of offer means there may not be something for everybody, but there is probably a lot for most people.
A jeans specialist where devotees can go to be spoilt. Product width and a beautiful store interior make this one of the most compelling offers of its kind anywhere at the moment.
Address 13 Neue Schönhauser Strasse, Berlin
Owner and managing director Karl-Heinz Müller
Ground floor Main collection
Basement Vintage offer
First floor Personal shopping
Major wow factors Product width, a jellyfish aquarium, a secluded garden and a personal shopping floor to die for