BRAND PORTRAIT: INTERVIEW WITH MARC O’POLO’S CEO and CPO, Maximilian and Susanne
Interview by Bart Grein
Pitti Uomo is back for their 102nd edition and the vibes were unmatched. From the 14th till the 17th of June, the bi-annual menswear fashion week held in Florence finally returned after two years of lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Pitti Uomo is a menswear show born in 1972 where some of the biggest brands in the world come together to unveil their new selections to buyers, national and international retailers, stylists, writers, and lovers of menswear from all around the world. Also known for the street style of the “Pitti Peacocks” where fashion photographers travel from around the globe in search of shots of the best dressed.
For Pitti Uomo 102 almost 700 collections were presented at Fortezza da Basso with the usual mix of established names and up-and-coming designers like Guilio Sapio, SIStyle, Mworks, Nanamica, Margn, Soulland, Moshions and much more.
Highlight to Marc O’Polo which certainly made an impact with their new collection in this edition for the second time in a row.
Marc O’Polo is a premium contemporary brand founded in 1967 in Stockholm with a passion for natural materials and the vision to design timeless fashion with natural and durable quality. A leading modern casual and sustainable lifestyle brand delivering high quality and innovative products combining authentic modernity with Scandinavian simplicity.
The “Garden of Sweden” collection captivated with an impressive color palette, natural tones paired with some pop of color like yellow lavender, and bright green, the perfect balance. Key themes of the collection are The Cleanest Jeans Project Denim, Artisanal Yarns and the continuation of the cooperation with Manteco® and Native Union. The installation, by design studio Mary Lennox, reflects the “Garden of Sweden” collection inspiration and the brand’s sustainability claim, followed by the Drinks & Tunes Party in the outdoor lounge in front of the stand.
Numéro spoke with Maximilian Böck and Susanne Schwenger, CEO and CPO of Marc O’Polo, about the brand aesthetic, company goals, and future direction:
A personal question: How did you find the transition from Chief Retailer Officer to CEO?
Maximilian Böck: I have been with the company for many years, so l was already very familiar with It. I had previously spent a year on the board as Chief Retail Officer and Co-CEO prior to my tenure as CEO, so I was well prepared for the new role.
As Marc 0’Polo changes and adapts to a new era, what would you say are the most remarkable transformations the brand has undergone since you stepped into your position?
Maximilian Böck: The brand is now more modern and international than ever. This is reflected in our collections, in our campaigns, in our appearance. Everywhere, in fact. It’s particularly encouraging that this is already evident in our results. We are growing very successfully and just recently received the German Brand Award for our new image.
In terms of design, how would you describe Marc ‘Polo’s aesthetic?
Susanne Schwenger: Marc, O’Polo remains true to its Scandinavian roots and shows the value of nature through the Marc ‘Polo DNA and an inspiring embodiment of Scandinavian simplicity – reduced design, timeless styles and naturally used materials. The focus is on sustainability, and our key themes for Fall/Winter 2022 are the Low Impact Project and our collaboration with Manteco. The Low Impact Project consists of outerwear and accessories made with recycled PET, dyed using an innovative and resource-saving method. Manteco pioneers sustainable products and presents the next generation of recycled wool.
Marc ‘Polo is moving its style in a more fashionable and on-trend direction, what was your inspiration behind this change?
Susanne Schwenger: Our Scandinavian style unites all lines and divisions under one roof, shaped by the corporate identity and our new modernity, which is reflected in the collections and store designs, our co-operations and partnerships, and all other details. Both our campaign and brand voice speak from the centre of sustainability, as shown by our claim,”IT’S ON US”, and the fact that almost every product is sustainable. The inspiration and intention is to provide the consumer with the Marc O’Polo experience – the same values look and feel – while also rejuvenating the brand. A large part of the inspiration also comes from the heart and our archives: from heritage to future, Connected to our past, yet driven by our vision. Meanwhile, The Land of Marc O’Polo, the Inspiration behind the Fall/Winter 2022 season, is contemporary, innovative, and sustainable. Overall, Marc O’Polo focuses on modernity, internationality, and sustainability.
When it comes to the value of sustainability, the brand is heading in a new direction – what else can you tell us about the company’s goals in this area?
Maximilian Böck: Sustainability has always been a pillar of our identity. The first claims were “only nature’s materials” or “there is no future nature”. We aspire to be the leading sustainable casual lifestyle brand in the global premium segment. Our sustainability goals are clear: to offer entirely sustainable products as soon as possible and to be climate neutral by 2025.
Is there anything you are doing, in particular, to be more environmentally sustainable and responsible?
Maximilian Böck: Oh quite a lot. Aside from the sustainable materials certifications we apply, other recent examples include our partnership with Retraced, which creates more transparency in the supply chain. We are also now a “Friend of ZDHC”. The ZDHC’s ‘Roadmap to Zero Program’ lays out a clear path towards reducing our environmental impact and ensuring that the chemicals used in the production of MARC O’POLO products are safe for people and the planet. In addition, we are a member of the Fair Wear Foundation and received a ‘Good’ rating in our first Brand Performance Check.
On the same topic of sustainability, you launched the “Hero Campaign” together with Jonas Lindstroem. How was it to work on this project and spread such an important message together with a beautiful campaign?
Susanne Schwenger: The Fall/Winter 2021 and Spring/Summer 2022 campaigns have been developed with and produced by Jonas Lindstroem. These were the first Marc O’Polo campaigns centered around a film. Through the campaign film, we expressed an even deeper level of emotion and delivered a strong message. Last year, our first TV campaign further increased our reach, which we accomplished using a breathtaking setting. Jonas Lindstroem was the right partner, of course, as he is known for his iconic imagery and has created a truly atmospheric film. The current Fall/Winter 2022 campaign as produced by Emmanuel Cossy, represents a wonderful next step on the Marc O’Polo journey, following the “IT’S ON US” idea by including only sustainable products.
What is the concept behind the new SS23 collection “Garden of Sweden”?
Susanne Schwenger: “The Garden of Sweden” symbolizes the connection between Marc O’Polo and nature, a feeling of new freedom, and the brand’s Swedish roots. The collection will be launched in 2023 and continues many themes from Fall/Winter 2022, such as the collaboration with Manteco. Our approach to sustainability continues to develop, especially in terms of more eco-friendly and innovative materials – almost all styles in the Spring/Summer 2023 are already made with more sustainable materials. The collection presents fresh colors, natural handcrafted structures with a distinct “Artisanal Look” and new body-hugging femininity contrasted with oversized shapes.
What are some of the short-term goals Marc O’Polo hopes to archive, and do you have a specific new vision for the brand?
Maximilian Böck: Following 55 years of success, we ended the past fiscal year with our highest-ever turnover. We want to continue this trend. To do so, we will further increase the market share of our menswear and we also see great potential in Marc O’Polo Denim, which is aimed at younger target groups, internationalisation is also an important pillar. We are expanding our physical presence in Italy, Spain, Denmark, Greece, and Canada with the Autumn/Winter 22 collection. At the same time, we are growing our business in the Netherlands and France and we are currently evaluating further options in the North American market.
To conclude, can you tell us anything about future projects? What are your aspirations for the company?
Maximilian Böck: As I already mentioned, our vision is to become the leading sustainable Casual-Lifestyle Brand within the global premium segment. This is what the fantastic Marc O’Polo team is working towards.