the men’s fashion brand Ampère relies on creativity
A knitted polo shirt with a jacquard pattern from Amsterdam’s canal district or a jacket embroidered with a William Morris pattern: anyone who finds menswear monotonous obviously hasn’t heard of Ampère yet. The young menswear label from Amsterdam creates premium street style clothing with luxurious materials, rich fabric treatments and a touch of romance. A refreshing counterpoint to the minimalism that has now reigned supreme for many seasons.
Ampère sounds French because of the accent on the ‘e’. An excellent name for a brand with international ambitions. But the company is run by three Dutch fashion entrepreneurs: Randy Hoogeweegen, Koen van Meersbergen and Aleks Kuijpers (see box). It is certainly no coincidence that the name of the brand has the same initial letters as Amsterdam, the city that has always been an important source of inspiration for them. “All three of us are ‘Brabant imports’, drawn to the energy Amsterdam exudes,” Hoogeweegen and Kuijpers explain in a video call with FashionUnited. “Its creative vibe makes it a great city to live and work in and Amsterdam is very well placed from an international perspective.”
Authentic is probably the best word to describe Ampere. While the latest trends in menswear have been mostly pared down in recent years, with a color palette dominated by dark blue, black and gray, Ampère is the counterpoint to this minimalism. Each collection features detailed designs, with a strong emphasis on premium fabrics, embroidery and jacquard techniques, all developed in-house. Creativity and experimentation are the very foundation of the brand. “Using sophisticated techniques like embroidery and edging is very common in women’s fashion, but much less so in the men’s fashion segment,” says Kuijpers. “This is how the idea was born to create a high-end men’s brand with a luxurious and romantic look, which always remains “street” thanks to the wide and boxy cut of the clothes, in addition we often play with the length.”
An innovative idea that proved to be in high demand: “Our products are popular in our base in Amsterdam, but we also have an international focus because we operate in a niche market,” says Hoogeweegen. “We serve a specific group of customers, who are spread all over the world. That is why we are looking for the right agents per country for our wholesale business. Ampère had a stand at the Revolver fashion show in Copenhagen earlier this month. “A beautifully designed and luxurious show, where we were able to show what we have to offer and what we stand for,” adds Kuijpers. “We spoke to many interested retailers and also managed to attract a number of new Dutch customers on the spot.” Ampère definitely stood out among the exhibitors from a creative point of view. Nice confirmation for the three entrepreneurs that they are going in the right direction.
Long live creative freedom
The three entrepreneurs have acquired a decade of experience in the fashion industry and each have their own area of expertise, so they managed to distribute the tasks well within the company. This division of roles actually happened very naturally, says Hoogeweegen: “Koen is in charge of purchasing and is responsible for the buying process of the collection, Aleks is the product specialist and I am responsible for marketing and sales. . We all have our specific know-how and therefore we cannot control each other either, which works very well by the way. A great distribution formula. The fact that all three also run successful businesses and therefore aren’t dependent on Ampere’s success certainly benefits their creative freedom as well. “We launched the brand in 2020 when our stores were forced to close. We thought: instead of slamming the brakes, we’re going to go full throttle to create something that wasn’t available on the market yet.
The collection includes pants, oversized hoodies, t-shirts, overshirts, jackets and accessories such as caps, masks, tote bags and socks. “We work with product themes within the collection which can consist of embroidery and jacquards,” explains Kuijpers. “For example, a short-sleeved overshirt, bucket hat, shorts and bag all feature 3D embroidery. We think a lot in terms of looks and sets. It also opens up a lot of possibilities from a stylistic point of view, as it effectively connects the elements. Each collection is developed around a general theme. The Fall-Winter 2022 collection is about escaping reality and escaping to paradise. Textile designer and poet William Morris (1834-1896) was one of the most important figures in the British arts and crafts movement and one of our sources of inspiration. Parts of his poem ‘Earthly Paradise’ are evident in the collection, along with elements of Morris’ famous textile designs.
Tribute to Amsterdam
The campaign videos accompanying the collection created a dialogue with the consumer. “We are looking for ambassadors for each collection, to whom, in this case, we would ask questions like: what does “paradise” mean to you? For some it’s painting, for others it’s breakdancing,” says Hoogeweegen. “We see innovative marketing as the ultimate way to communicate with our audience. We can deliver our brand message even stronger by seeking collaborations with artists or other brands. Our connection with Amsterdam therefore continues to be a recurring factor. We launched the brand here, we really love this city and the brand can be seen as a real “tribute to the city” in a way.
What kind of retailers is Ampère aimed at? Hoogeweegen: “Store concepts that share our passion for beautiful products. It’s good if they have a good mix of brands, but we don’t focus on that. It is more important to us that our future visions are effectively aligned. That the entrepreneur grows in a direction that we recognize in ourselves. We are focusing on fifteen retailers in the Netherlands and Belgium for the autumn-winter 2022 season, including Calico Jack, Van Dijk, Rewind and About – lifestyle for men. The Ampère collection has a price range from 85 euros for a t-shirt with an embroidered logo on the chest to 700 euros for a reversible wool coat. All jerseys and sweatshirts are made from GOTS certified organic cotton and production takes place mainly in Europe. “We keep our facility as close to home as possible, which is not only sustainable, but certainly also attractive from an economic point of view. Sample delivery times are therefore shorter. We really focus on quality, creativity and material development. We are now working on a beautiful hemp background and dyed without harmful chemicals.
Ampère has also recently engaged an agent in France, to hopefully begin to thrive in the French market as well. Discussions are also underway with agents in other countries, such as Scandinavia and the UK. “Our goal for the next year and a half is to enjoy smart growth, without saturating a market. The product is not designed for that,” says Hoogeweegen. “We are currently in a growth phase in the Benelux and wish to expand to around forty stores in Europe. We need strong retailers to grow our e-commerce and our online community. Working with agents in different countries is the ideal strategy for this.
Ampère opened its first pop-up store on Elandsgracht in Amsterdam late last year. This has proven to be an effective way to get in direct contact with the end consumer and see how people react to the product. They then decide to organize a second pop-up from March 7 to 13, this time rue Gerard Doustraat. “Setting up in a cool place every once in a while for a week will allow consumers, but also journalists and influencers, to familiarize themselves with the collection. See how much love has gone into each product. And for us, it’s a good way to get feedback. Experimentation continues to be very important to us,” concludes Kuijpers. “We want to continuously develop and improve our products.”
Ampère was created in 2020 following a void in the market. Randy Hoogeweegen and Koen van Meersbergen have been running two clothing stores in Amsterdam, About – lifestyle for men, since 2015. The range is a mix of streetwear and menswear in the luxury segment, with brands like Filippa K, Filling Pieces , Isabel Marant, New Balance and Won Hundred. They identified a space in the range for a masculine brand with a richly detailed fabric image. Hoogeweegen: “I know Aleks from the TMO course. We both went our own way after the course: I chose retail, he founded his own design and production company, Workingmenblues, with which he gained a lot of experience in developing fabrics for luxury and embroidery techniques. We have always stayed in touch and somewhere in the back of our minds we have always toyed with the idea of combining our knowledge and expertise. After all, is it cool to start something where you can really influence the end product from A to Z? The result is Ampere.