ANDREY KRAVTSOV
ABOUT NEW STORES

Photo: SHU
Interview: Maxi Shilov

TELL ME HOW EVERYTHING
IS GOING IN SHU?

Everything is pretty good. Just recently we’ve opened our flagship store in St. Petersburg. Our Moscow team, foreign distributors, friends, partners arrived at the opening party. It was unforgettable. I still have a lot of warm memories about that day, despite all the difficulties we faced with. We even had to postpone the party for an hour in order to get everything done. Honestly, it seemed that everything was hanging by a single thread, but we managed to deal with all the obstacles. The thing is that the interior of the store seems very minimalistic, and therefore simple. But as a matter of fact, this is a hard and time-consuming process, the deadline depended on such a huge number of people, industries, factories. Now we are putting the finishing touches, but very soon the interior of the store will look like we wanted.

HOW DOES THIS STORE STAND OUT FROM ALL THE OTHERS?

This is a huge project that we had worked on for almost a year and put a lot of effort in. We wanted to make not just a flagship store, but also a studio where the St. Petersburg team will work. By the way, we already have two SHU offices: in Moscow and Guangzhou. For a long time we were looking for the place that matches the format, location and atmosphere. After we had found it, we faced with all the difficulties that are typical for the old housing stock: restoring walls, strengthening window openings, tough neighbors and daily surprises. Opening dates were constantly put off. The store in St. Petersburg will become a place of power for SHU brand, where you can feel how it all started, who we are and for whom we make our clothes for. We took the design of the store seriously, using unusual materials and solutions in the interior.

OPENING OF THE SHU FLAGSHIP STORE IN ST. PETERSBURG

Almost a year has passed since our last interview. What else has changed since then?

This year was difficult, but very interesting. We entered the international market – signed contracts with distributors from Scandinavia, Italy, Germany, Japan and Korea. Now the new winter collection is sold in more than 100 multi-brand stores. We’ve also renovated the interior of our Moscow flagship store at the Hlebozavod creative space and opened in the Aviapark shopping mall. In late September, our first pop-up stores appeared in Milan and Berlin. We are finishing this year with complete understanding and feeling that SHU is in great demand not only in native Russia.

TELL US ABOUT THE STORES IN MILAN AND BERLIN, HOW WAS THE OPENING GOING?

We already knew that the pop-up stores were about to be opened in January. It all started with meeting our distributors at European exhibitions, where we were taking part. We did not expect that we would immediately be offered such opportunities, but having seen the locations of future stores with our own eyes, we agreed at once. Over the months of teamwork, we realized how complicated it was to communicate with foreign partners. Each one has its own mentality, decision-making process and its own way of doing things. We are used to taking only a couple of days to go from a concept to its implementation, but in Italy everything is done differently. For example, the whole country goes on public vacation in August and no one works for a month. We were not ready for this turn. Our first pop-up opened in Milan. Emotionally it was a very hard journey, I even got a temperature the day before official opening. The next morning I saw an Italian man with a SHU plastic bag in his hands and I felt really relieved. Another opening and the marathon in Berlin, I had been preparing for since the summer, were coming. It gave a thrill. As a result, there was a completely different atmosphere in Berlin: easy-going and friendly. It was clear that this city was closer to us mentally, there were a lot of familiar people, including the promoters of the SEEK exhibition.

In general, the Germans' approach to organizing the opening of the store was much stronger. I got the feeling that SHU and Berlin are a great mix.

OPENING THE FIRST COMPANY STORE IN EUROPE. MILAN, SEPTEMBER 26

WHERE IS SUCH AN INTEREST IN THE RUSSIAN BRAND COMING FROM?

I think the interest can be easily explained by the fact that in general there are not many jacket brands in the international market, especially in the segment of companies making clothes from membranes with a minimalistic design. Many people have pointed out that our design is very “clean”, it is greatly appreciated in Europe, as well as manufacturability which means, the use of membrane fabric, eco-friendly insulation and attention to detail.

Distributors and buyers always pay attention to something new and extraordinary. Moreover, in Europe it is difficult to find a quality down jacket cheaper than 500 euros. And of course, everyone likes that we are from St. Petersburg, they love this city very much.

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO OPEN NEW STORES ABROAD, IF EVERYTHING CAN BE ORDERED ONLINE?

First and foremost, it’s impossible to share the brand’s vibe via the Internet. And secondly, physical presence makes communication with a customer stronger and more natural. Europeans are used to the fact that good quality items cost a fortune, so it’s important for us to personally introduce our product to customers, to give an opportunity to look into the fabrics, seams and appearance of clothes. For the first month, the store in Milan sold many winter jackets, despite the fact that in October the temperature was not lower than +20 degrees.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE POP-UP STORE FORMAT?

This format is very popular in Europe — each brand tries to represent itself in an unusual and simplified way to get to know its customers better. Our stores are just set up in a seasonal format, when the brand is temporarily represented in the market. This will let us understand fully the market and our own potential. In the future, we’re planning to open our own flagship stores abroad.

DO YOU HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING OF HOW THE BRAND SHOULD LOOK FOR THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET?

Over the past eight months, I have realized that it makes no sense to separate the brand into SHU Russia and SHU Europe. In the future, when our flagship stores appear in Asia, perhaps we will reconsider this position, because the Asian mentality is very different from the European one. I have been to Japan many times, I fly to China once a month, and these are completely different worlds. But now we have started to translate all texts on social networks into English so that foreign buyers can also follow news about us.

ARE SHU COLLECTIONS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT FOR EUROPE AND RUSSIA?

In the future we will create various collections, we will be making something only for Russia, something customized for Europeans. But today we are launching a single line for all countries.

IN EUROPE IT’S TALKED A LOT ABOUT ETHICAL PRODUCTION. IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN THE CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING SHU CLOTHING IN EUROPE AND RUSSIA?

Quality matters everywhere, but they are more aware of different materials in Europe. One of the first guests of our store in Milan just at once appreciated the fact that all the clothes were made of environmentally friendly DuPont Sorona material. Many people know about this material and greatly appreciate it when outerwear is basically made of it. It speaks of us as a brand that cares about the quality and ethics of our product.

Speaking of ethics and environmental friendliness, I would like to touch upon the UPDATE campaign. As far as I understand, its idea is that you can bring an old SHU thing and exchange it for a new one at a discounted price. How important is this and are you planning similar campaigns in future?

This is a very important promotional campaign for us, which has been run for many years. There are people who are wearing our jackets that they bought three, or even seven years ago, and are still true to some specific classic model. In gratitude for that loyalty, we give a discount on the same model, and save all the jackets handed back to us in the SHU archive collection. Many jackets have some memorable messages and even pictures made for us. Someday we will hold an exhibition of units from the archive collection that will show not only the brand’s journey of development, but also tell the stories of our customers.

If we talk about the environmentally friendly side of this campaign, then we want to reach the level of loop production, the essence of which is to collect and recycle the old things produced by us in the future. But at the moment, we have not found a single enterprise in Russia that could process textiles. In Russia, it all comes down to getting a piece of paper for government authorities, but in fact the things that are given for recycling litter the disposal sites. But nevertheless, we keep on searching for material processing plants.

OPENING OF THE SHU FLAGSHIP STORE IN ST. PETERSBURG

SHU used to be associated with raincoats. With the release of the latest collections, where we can find jeans, t-shirts, caps and even hats, it seems to be more like a brand creating a total look. Tell me, are you going to make the clothing line even wider?

Even though we started as a brand of waterproof jackets, I have always been in love with denim. This year we have already released a line of jeans, next year we will keep on developing in this direction. We are working on new models of not only jeans, but also jeans jackets. The same holds for accessories — in the new season there will be new models as part of the rainproof concept. In the future, we are thinking of making our streamlined shoes, which are to be comfortable and dry.

SHU TEAM, AT THE OPENING OF THE FLAGSHIP STORE IN ST. PETERSBURG

What does the next year hold for SHU? What is coming at the beginning of 2020?

Next year, SHU will start with PITTI UOMO, from the January 7th we are going to introduce our new collection autumn-winter 2020 at international exhibitions, so our team will be in Europe till the end of January. February is the month of getting ready for a new spring collection. We are starting the next year with so many things to do, there is a lot of work and tons of plans ahead. And of course, we will tell you about this a bit later.