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Exclusive interview: Ralph Weber of Gerry Weber


German fashion label Gerry Weber has been a leader in its field for decades. Sally McIlhone finds out about its plans for the future

Sally McIlhone,

In four decades, Gerry Weber has launched five diverse womenswear brands and opened 850 stores; it is so successful that the brand is now stocked in over 60 countries worldwide. And that’s just the German label’s fashion arm. Now an accomplished lifestyle company, Gerry Weber also owns and operates a 13,000-seat stadium, a golf course, events and a conference centre; the company even welcomes an elite clientele at its Sportpark hotel in Düsseldorf. This exceptionally wide-reaching 21st-century retail empire is a far cry from Gerry Weber’s roots, as a humble manufacturer of women’s trousers.

International appeal
Yet, rather than rest on its laurels, for spring/summer 2014 Gerry Weber is poised to embark on further expansion – with such a rapid upward trajectory, it is becoming the German brand to watch. Ralph Weber, general manager of Gerry Weber’s retail division and a descendant of the founder, took time out of his hectic schedule to discuss the label’s success.

Founding father
Founded in 1973 by Udo Hardieck and the brand’s namesake, Gerhard Weber, the label sought to fuse fashion and lifestyle from the outset. Firmly positioned in the mid-priced womenswear market for the last 40 years, Gerry Weber offers covetable garments at more affordable prices than designer collections, but with an elevated level of quality than that found in most high street stores.

‘All Gerry Weber brands are positioned as bridges to the premium segment and offer a high-quality standard and an excellent fit. But each of the brand families is targeted at a clearly defined target group,’ says Ralph Weber. It’s this tailored approach that has led the brand to building five successful labels to please a wide range of modern women – Gerry Weber mainline, casualwear label Gerry Weber Edition, Samoon by Gerry Weber for fuller figured ladies, and the GW and Taifun lines which cater to a younger, more trend-conscious audience.

High-fashion HQ
Unlike most globally successful German brands, Gerry Weber established its headquarters not in the buzzing metropolis of Berlin but in Halle (Westfalen), two hours from Düsseldorf and Cologne. All of the brand’s key departments are contained within one central location, improving creative efficiency. ‘The sales, retail, pattern, design and production departments are now located under one roof,’ Ralph Weber explains. ‘We have built a modern complex for employees which optimises co-operation and creates synergies within an open and creative atmosphere.’

Sporting chance
Gerry Weber World can also be found in Halle (Westfalen), home of the Gerry Weber Stadium, the Sportpark hotel and a 27-hole golf course. According to the company, this is ‘a complete universe around the fashion brands’. In addition, since 1993 Gerry Weber has been running the Gerry Weber Open tennis event, which was conceived and managed by Ralph Weber. ‘This is the only German ATP lawn-tennis tournament featuring stars from sport and entertainment. The media coverage reaches 120 countries,’ Ralph says. ‘The tournament not only increases recognition of the Gerry Weber group, but also associates a cosmopolitan image with the brand.’

Another factor that has improved the cosmopolitan view of Gerry Weber is the opening of the Halle 29 and Halle 30 showrooms on the outskirts of Düsseldorf. These two vast spaces entice international buyers to peruse Gerry Weber’s full collections each season. ‘By investing in these showroom complexes, we are signalling that Düsseldorf is a fashion centre. Every year, more and more overseas customers attend events and order from us. We have customers from Russia, the Middle East, the Far East, Canada and from Europe.’

Grand plans
Responsible for ‘internationalising’ the brand, Ralph Weber’s innovative ideas have helped raise Gerry Weber’s profile to such an extent that it is now launching in several new territories across the globe. ‘After having successfully doubled the number of our stores, especially in Germany and Austria, we are now focusing on expanding our retail activities in other European countries,’ he explains. The expansion will include the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Sweden; stores will open in Prague and Stockholm, among other locations.

‘We increasingly see ourselves as a global player and will expand our international activities significantly,’ he concludes.

From Toronto to Tallinn, the Gerry Weber vision of style is making itself felt across the world.

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