South Tyrolean Michi Klemera is the founder and Managing Director of the men’s fashion label Luis Trenker. We met him at Pitti Uomo for a chat.
Feine Herr: What inspired you to name your label after Luis Trenker?
Michi Klemera: Apart from the fact that the family offered us the name, the history of our grandfathers was a theme for me. So I’m not talking about Luis Trenker in particular, but rather about our ancestors and their values, who simply lived and enjoyed a great lifestyle. Good quality clothes, good food, good drink, lots of nature, relatively stress free. Far from the big cities, they have struggled to survive in the mountains with their families and their animals, with their own pastures and forests. At the same time, they never forgot to always show a certain sense of style even in their everyday clothes. That is an expression of joie de vivre and we want to send that out. But not as a slogan, but out of conviction. I live lightly, I have joy in life and we want to radiate that.
This generation of grandfathers was still able to provide for itself to a certain extent, which corresponds to the sustainability thinking that is very much in vogue today. Is sustainability also part of your corporate philosophy?
This is not a philosophy for me, for me it is simply logical and natural. Respectful treatment of nature, the environment, animals, the product and also our customers and producers.
Until three years ago, their claim was “Alpine Lifestyle.” Why did you rename it “A part of me”?
It was time for something new. With the new claim “A part of me” we include our fans. Each part is then also part of each individual customer. Each wearer a part of the philosophy of Luis Trenker.
Luis Trenker is not known to everyone today. He was a film director, book author, …
… mountaineer, mountain guide, actor.
The theme of traditional costume fits in with this. How do you manage to translate this theme in a contemporary and modern way?
I come from a fashion background and was very rooted in traditional costume for a while. But we have never seen ourselves as a traditional costume brand. We are traditional and combine that with modernity. In our mountain world, traditional costume is always a theme in daywear. After 28 years, I am still the head of the brand and my designers and staff follow my vision and what I feel at the moment. This season we have chosen traditional from Argentina as our theme. I want to be international, not just regionally rooted. And Luis Trenker himself once flew to Buenos Aires and looked around. We are open as he was open. He made his first film in Hollywood as early as 1932. He crossed the mountains, sought the horizon, was able to hold his own in America without even speaking English.
Is he still known in the USA today?
That’s not so important, because Luis Trenker as a brand has a lot to say. Storytelling is a very laborious thing for new brands because they have to invent something. We have so much history that I could go on for days. When I’m in Aspen and someone asks what Luis Trenker is all about, they’re always fascinated by our story. Likewise in Japan or Korea.
Is a sense of style innate? In Germany, many men are insecure about fashion.
Yes, we often notice that. First of all, we want to offer optimal advice in our own stores. We have very well-trained employees there. We want everyone to feel comfortable with us. I believe that we make people happy with a style that allows them to reinvent themselves very easily every season. We always try to make the colors and materials so that you can mix them with the old pieces. Also a topic that we have not strategically identified as contributing to sustainability, that’s just logical to me. This is normal for us in the mountains, simply the attitude to life and a character trait.
You also have a few pieces that are real classics.
Yes, for example the Sandro jacket model, which we have had in the collection for 23 years.
How do you explain this long-term success?
The stand-up collar shows the Bavarian influence. But from the beginning on we have implemented this style on an Italian cut. South Tyrol is bilingual and we have always brought this into our work. We combine the Italian nonchalance, elegance, lines with the discipline and structure of German thinking. This is also reflected in our collection.
Where is your collection better understood, in Italy or in Germany?
In Germany. Germany, Austria and Switzerland are our core markets.
What are the mountains for you personally?
They are just natural for me. I live on the mountain above Bressanone. I walk out of the garden gate and am already standing in the meadow. From there, I could go on without limits. For me and probably every South Tyrolean it is a matter of course that we get on the road bike or the mountain bike, go to the mountain, skiing, hiking, mountaineering also during the week. And when I come back, I just want to dress stylishly without it looking forced. This is the symbol of my philosophy.