Interview: Jutta Brenneisen (Head of Product)

stichd Culture stichd
The bigger the playground the more opportunity there is for creativity. The smaller the playground the more it forces you to become creative. That is the charm and the challenge of working with our product categories.
Originally from Germany, and having worked for some big brands, you decided to make the move to Den Bosch and to stichd. What about stichd do you find so unique?

If I think about what makes stichd and Den Bosch so unique, then five things come immediately to mind:

- First is our CEO. Nina’s ambition and passion for this business is contagious and inspiring.

- Secondly, compared to other brands, especially the larger companies I’ve worked for whose organizational structures were very boxy and rigid, our company gives you a wider scope of responsibility. A wider scope to grow, to make an impact, to make decisions. In short, it gives you freedom to really develop yourself.

- Thirdly, the city of Den Bosch is enchanting. Like a smaller Amsterdam. Being from Germany and having lived in bigger cities, there is something about this place that is so ‘gezellig’. I like working with the Dutch, the Dutch culture and their mentality. I find them to be very open, relaxed, social and just enjoying life.

- Fourthly, whatever you ask for here you hardly ever get a no. Whether a new research tool or a professional development course, if you have a good argument for something, stichd is fully supportive and willing to help.

- Lastly, even though we are in the Netherlands the diversity at stichd is refreshing. Diversity in backgrounds, in nationalities and in interests. And we cannot forget the diversity in brands we work with.

You lead the essentials product department, from designing, to product management, to developing. And all of this for socks, underwear and swimwear. What is so essential about these wardrobe essentials and your team?

We call our products humble heroes. When you think about it, especially socks and underwear are worn by everyone. They are the first products people put on and the last they take off. In this sense, they are intimate items. Anybody wanting to work on these products must love details and exploring the technicality and construction of garments with limited components and their relationship to the body. You almost need to be a little bit of a nerd and see how you can take a sock or a boxer or a bra to the lowest amount of details while still creating a product that will be loved by both our customers and our brands. People who love product and people who want to go deep, these categories are for them. Diving into the details and the nitty-gritty on the daily is our business.

How complicated and complex can it be to create legwear, bodywear and swimwear?

I thought the same, how hard can it be? I learned though that the bigger the playground the more opportunity there is for creativity. The smaller the playground the more it forces you to become creative. That is the charm and the challenge of working with our product categories. Roughly seventy-five percent of what drives our business, no matter the brand, are our hero products. The other twenty-five percent is then seasonal and focused more on trends and storytelling. The seasonal collections are extremely important to create consumer journeys while our Core collections need to be consciously developed further to remain future proof and keep turning big volume. Finding the right balance and translating the brand into even a single item is challenging. We are category experts and taking these categories to the next level is our aim every day and every season.

And this is all done in Den Bosch?

The diversity at stichd that I mentioned is also seen in our product department. We are a very diverse group and are only becoming more so. We have people that have backgrounds in architecture and geography. Additionally, we have our HQ product team, but they collaborate even more closely now than ever with our product hubs in Shanghai and in Hong Kong. We are truly living up to our goal to be a global partner for our portfolio of brands.

If we want to talk about sustainability at…

Yes of course! Sorry to cut you off, but we take responsibility seriously! It can almost be said that the product team embedded it first. While being perhaps the original drivers, it is now ingrained within the whole company. It remains our core. We don’t make any decision without considering if it is responsible or not. For our people, for the planet and for our partners. We have been with some of our suppliers for years, creating a long-term relationship. Growing with them. Progress over perfection is our motto and we are continually progressing with all onboard.

Your passion for product, for your team and for stichd is obvious. Any last words you would like to add?

Our product team is currently around 45 people. If we look to just 5 years ago it was under 30. This just shows you how we are growing and developing. Challenging but safe, that is stichd. Safe in that we have a strong business and also safe because we are a team that really supports each other. Nobody at stichd has his or her own agenda. We are a business that still has the mindset, drive and passion of a small company, but with the influence, talent and expertise that even the largest brands have. We say we are a family of experts, and this is so true.