Marc Cain’s heart and spirit come from the ambition and drive of its founder and chairman of the board, Helmut Schlotterer. While other German labels announced losses—including his father’s own knitting company—Schlotterer built an impressive fashion empire from scratch, focusing on premium quality, innovative practices, and high design. Here, the German fashion entrepreneur talks the importance of investing in new technology, keeping his team motivated, and what led him to start Marc Cain.
“My father had a small knitting company, but it was obvious to me that I never wanted to join this business. I went to university to study architecture, but the pressure of the program became too hard to deal with. I finally found myself at a technical university studying engineering and actually found it quite innovative. After my father’s company went bankrupt, I returned home to save his employees and machinery. In Germany, there was no basis for a business idea like Marc Cain; it had to start in Italy. I was a one-man company, and during that time, we only dealt with knitwear. The few years that followed were hard. However, we eventually transitioned to wovens in the ’80s, and that’s when I opened my first showroom, in Dusseldorf. In 1986 I opened my first store—a boutique was the big dream in those years.”
“Our advantage in technology comes with taking risks—the latest coup was our 3D-knitting technology. I invest a lot of time in technology so as not to disappoint the consumer—you can wash a Marc Cain t-shirt a hundred times and it’s still the same. What we are doing is premium, not luxury. In Germany, there is no true luxury brand, because this isn’t our mentality. We are good at the luxury car business, but in fashion we are at premium level. Good IT is in production and making a statement, not merely a code to get the sign and glamour of a fashion catwalk. It’s nice on the outside, but inside, we are a very strict company. We have to improve every day.”
“In Eastern Europe, more than a thousand people work in production for Marc Cain, cutting and sewing. We invest money and we need the right people. You don’t stop until it’s the right family. You must like the company you work for, the spirit, how they handle the people, the market, and the consumer.”
“Stagnation means regression: we are constantly investing in research and development to guarantee innovative, state-of-the-art products. We always endeavour to be one step ahead of our competitors. We are never satisfied; we are always working on the next step. Whether the battlefield is marketing or production, we have to be better than our competitors. This passion for innovation is one of our strongest factors for success. Therefore, we are looking forward to new challenges in the future.”