If you’re part of our community in Europe, particularly in Germany, you’ll probably be familiar with BSTN. For those of you in the UK that aren’t, now is the time to get to know.
Founded in Munich in 2013 and born from the founders love of basketball (not just love – this lot were BALLERSSS), hip-hop and sneakers, BSTN has grown to become one of the leading premium sneaker, fashion and lifestyle retailers in Europe. Founding and growing a store that stands out in a world seemingly overloaded with retailers is hard, but not as hard when it’s as authentic as BSTN is. Speaking with the founding team behind the retailer and brand, you just know this comes from the heart and with love. That heart is what has helped them stand apart and establish themselves as one of Europe’s key destinations, with two beautifully executed doors in Germany.
The success of BSTN’s operation in Germany had them asking the questions – what next, where next? The answer – head to London and set up shop. While most people that come to London to grow their business would usually head to saturated Soho or increasingly soulless Shoreditch, they opted to head somewhere else – Brixton, South London. Some may ask “why Brixton?”, but for a team so driven by authenticity and culture, it makes real sense. Brixton is such a hotbed of history and culture that has impacted not just London, but the wider UK and even reached off the shores of this little island that it feels like almost the only place they could have set up shop. Aside from the people, music, food, sounds and smells that make Brixton one of a kind, it’s link to basketball is super strong. Brixton Topcats is arguably (maybe not even arguably, just factually) the most important basketball team to come out of the UK and based just around the corner, with some of the best players to come from the UK having passed through this club.
We had a look around the store ahead of it’s launch tomorrow (Saturday 28th January if you’re tapping into this late) to see it for ourselves and were pretty blown away by what they had done – you’ll see why from the pics. We also got the chance to sit down with Aaron Sanders, their Head of UK Operations to talk all things BSTN, Brixton and what they’ve got planned to enrich the local community.
TB: Tell us a bit about BSTN from the beginning, what was the initial intention for the store?
AS: Back in 2008, we started with our own label (called BEASTIN). So, the product itself has been at the core of what we do, literally from day one. Since we could not find the perfect retail environment for our brand, we decided to create it ourselves. That’s how the BSTN store was founded (in 2013).
TB: This is your first store outside of Germany… why did London and in particular Brixton feel like the right place to open up your home from home?
AS: London has always been an inspirational city in Europe for us and has always been considered one of the epicenters in the world for creativity, music, fashion, and lifestyle. Brixton provides the pulse of the city in that respect as its undoubtedly one of the most inspiring places in London if not the UK.
TB: Did you always know you wanted the store to land in Brixton or did you find the space and catch the vibe?
AS: Brixton just seemed like a natural fit for us, to be honest. The vibe was there from the beginning, and we feel like BSTN and Brixton have multiple things in common. We’re both found at the bottom of the map but are proud to have put our name on the map (in a metaphorical sense). We’re proud of what we do and the passion we do it with. And the building put the brains of our creatives into overdrive, so it felt like the right fit for us.
TB: The first BSTN store opened in Munich back in 2013. how do you think culture, fashion and streetwear have evolved since then and why did now feel like the right time for BSTN to brand out into new territories?
AS: We started off with a big focus on footwear and are fortunate to have also built a strong online presence from the beginning so I would certainly say the digital online experiences for streetwear have evolved with most brands and retailers gearing things up to improve the customer experience. With the technological advances and social media integration, information and visuals are a lot more attainable now. The culture, whether in sports or in streetwear or anywhere else, is constantly evolving. With a store concept like the one we created for the Brixton store, we’re able to adapt to those changes and continue to tell stories and grow with the community.
TB: What would you say are some of the main differences between the German scene and the scene here in the U.K.?
AS: With English being the native language, it was a lot easier in the UK to absorb the US influence, but visuals are influential in many ways and easily adapted to any city/location. The UK has always looked to approach this world in its own way and certainly has its unique base of ethnicities and cultures that have paved the way for creative output. Germany has been influenced from across Europe and the US and has respect and love for streetwear that is not to be taken lightly either. I think the UK has naturally had the connection with the US and combined the interest with the lifestyle and UK culture whereas Germany has always had to find its own path and respectable approach. Thanks to social media, there is a lot more communication and interactions between the scenes though.
TB: Talk us through the store design – it’s an old bank, right?
AS: Yes, this was previously a bank and a pretty modern one which meant a load of smaller rooms and true office feel. Once we cleared the space and took out the drop ceiling, we opened up a very large area of the dome which sparked many ideas. This building was originally built and used as an apparel retail space, so it’s always had a lot of potential. We just added our own unique twist to it.
TB: What are some of your favourite details in the store?
AS: There’s so much effort that’s gone into the design from our team, from the giant LED screens to small details all around the store. I would say the community hub space, the script on the facade outside, the screens in the dome and of course the floor plaque at the entrance.
TB: You guys have plans for tapping into the local community in Brixton and beyond. What are some of the things you have coming up we can get excited about?
AS: One of our key features at the store is the B Hive, our very own community hub space to build with the community. We want to use this space to elevate local entities and businesses/organizations that are the pulse of Brixton and London. We are planning to hold workshops here alongside with panel discussion and screenings and already have committed to long-term agreements with local partners. We’re excited to get started shortly after the store opening.
TB: What are some of your favourite brands you’ve got in store?
AS: It’s the balance between sportswear classics and elevated styles. We’re very excited to offer our own BSTN brand along with Daily Paper, Jordan and Nike, Adidas, Mitchell & Ness, North Face, New Balance, JW Anderson, Drôle de Monsieur, Heron Preston. The list goes on.
TB: 2013 Munich, 2017 Hamburg, 2023 London Where’s next for BSTN?
AS: With Brixton just opening we have a lot of work here and certainly want to make sure we’re off to a great start in the UK for 2023. We haven’t made any new plans but in the future, we hope to open new brick and mortar locations in some of our favourite cities and continue to provide that spark along the way.
From The South, From The Heart.
Peace & Love