During a trip to Manchester, Mainline Menswear visited 2squared agency. A leading brand distribution centre that stocks footwear and clothing from many leading brands, including Android Homme, Creative Recreation and Cruyff Classics.
We spoke to Tom Jones, brand manager for Cruyff, who showed us around the agency and gave us more detail on the trainers Cruyff sells. This was done for one of Mainline Menswear’s first video interviews. Showing everyone not only the story behind Cruyff, but what their showroom looks like, and some of the many products they have on offer.
Walking into the Cruyff section of 2squared, the walls were lined with footwear and clothing. A table football game was positioned to the side of the room, showing the link between the brand and its founder, Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff. A large poster of Johan Cruyff also hung on one of the walls, keeping the link between how the brand began and where it is now clearly recognisable throughout.
Standing in front of the Cruyff logo, Tom began to tell us how Cruyff was developed, and where the brand has evolved to today.
Tom: Cruyff was launched in the UK about seven years ago. Although Johan Cruyff first founded it in Barcelona, in 1979 as a footballing brand. Since coming to the UK, the trainers have changed to include a more technical look and feel, but are still modelled on the original Cruyff Classics. This allows the brand to move with the times, but still retain its originality.
He spoke about Johan Cruyff, who had a large amount of success, in both the football and fashion worlds. He both played for, and managed the leading Spanish football club, Barcelona; winning numerous awards during his time at the club.
MM: Since his death, how has the football influence changed in the whole brand?
Tom: It’s still massive. Probably more so now than ever; the awareness of the brand and of him as an individual. I don’t think many people realised just how big he was. In the UK we’ve felt a massive upturn in awareness, both from consumers and retailers. It’s really taken the brand to a different level.
Because of this, we figured football lads would be the core customer for Cruyff trainers, but Tom told us that the brand actually reaches much further than that.
Tom: To a degree there is an element of the football look and feel, specifically in the Classic range. But the tech is more based on trends, materials, silhouettes and sole units that are working in terms of other brands and retailers that we’re similar to. Guys from all walks of life are buying into Cruyff now, although naturally it is more popular with those who know the heritage of the brand.
MM: So what about the market trends? What big things is Cruyff doing at the moment which are taking off within the current footwear trends.
Tom: The biggest thing this season is creating more of a sync between the footwear and the apparel. We’ve recently started working very closely with the guys in Holland who design the footwear, to make sure things in the footwear are linking up to things in the apparel.
Tom: In the market at the moment, you’re seeing a lot of knitted designs, different lacing systems and so on. This really ties in with our tech side, especially with our rapid trainers. The detailing on the branding is key, and it’s taking elements from the market and bringing them into our collection which works best.
MM: Obviously within the market, there’s going to be a lot of competition. Who’s your biggest rival at the moment do you think?
Tom: Biggest rivals are the likes of Hugo Boss and EA7 for sure. Hugo Boss is the biggest, they’re very good at what they do, right down from the premium level to the more independent stuff. They’ve got a very strong sports fashion and lifestyle product too, and that is what we’re going up against now. We’ve got a similar consumer, so in the market that’s who we’re mainly competing against.
MM: In the future then, do you aim to reach that level? Who are you aspiring to be like?
Tom: At the minute it’s taking inspiration from what works. So if you look at the premium level, you’ve got the likes of Valentino, Balenciaga… they’re doing an amazing job in the high price market. We’re at that level of retail but we sort of take elements of what’s working and bring it into the Cruyff collection. We’ve just got to make sure we’re doing something similar, to keep us up to date and relevant.
MM: What about as the market changes? Where do you see everything in ten or so years’ time?
Tom: Speaking to the guys in Holland that we work closely with, there are elements of development in the collection. So going forward we’re going to have three different tiers; a collaboration tier which is going to be a high craft product, only available in one or two retailers. Then the second tier, we’ve called JC14, which is a new collaboration for the brand, producing products between £200 and £250, but again that’ll be in a different level of retail. Then the volume for the UK is more classic and tech – the third tier – which is where most of our products will be sat.
Tom: Looking towards new market trends, we’re always known for a low profile silhouette, which is what we launched the brand with in the early days. Since then we’ve developed, but we’ve got a core customer that buys the classic side from us. So it’s just making sure that that is still relevant; so low profile, using patent details. If that stays strong then we know we’re in the right place.
At this point in the interview, we moved Tom to a different place in the room, to get him talking about the football element within the brand. Positioned in front of the Johan Cruyff poster was the ideal spot. We wanted to know who he’d most like Cruyff to collaborate with, and naturally a star footballer came to mind.
Tom: The likes of David Beckham definitely. He’s the iconic footballer of this time, just like Johan Cruyff was of his, so to keep in line with that, someone like him. If there was anyone we’d most like to see wearing Cruyff trainers, that’d be Beckham.
MM: What about where the brand sells most? The football culture in England is huge, but is it here or in Barcelona where the brand started? Or in Holland, where Johan Cruyff was from?
Tom: The biggest territory is actually Holland. That’s where we’ve got a massive following, not just for the brand but for Johan himself; and since he’s passed away the following has just grown from city to city. Plus, with more countries which had never previously bought into the brand, they are now starting to show more interest in it.
We then wanted to know more about the recent press Cruyff has had. Tom told us about a piece in The Green Soccer Journal; they’d covered a previous collection by Cruyff, as a luxury sports fashion business. Tom said the placement alongside other aspirational brands worked really well for them, making them stand out and giving off a clear impression of what the brand stood for.
MM: So in light of this, if you’ve got people viewing the brand for the first time, what would you say to them to convince them to buy from Cruyff?
Tom: Definitely buy trainers from Cruyff! The biggest thing we do is look at what’s working in the marketplace and bring it into the collection. Whether it be knitted, patent, low profile, new sewing, new branding. It’s having a point of difference from everything else at the moment; because footwear is that big. It’s trying to find something that not everyone else has got, which we do quite well, and we continue to look forward and develop throughout the different collections that we’ve got.
MM: With this in mind, looking at the brands stocked by Mainline Menswear, what outfit would you create to go with Cruyff?
Tom: Well, from going out in retail and seeing the lads who buy into Cruyff, definitely Hugo Boss or Stone Island. Not necessarily the football lad, but the lads that like brands. Probably Y3 or EA7 for the daytime, then when it goes into nighttime, Hugo Boss and Stone Island.
MM: And finally, we’ve got to know – what’s your favourite pair of trainers?
Tom: The rapids. It’s the latest design that we’ve done, and the first shoe that we’ve done without a lacing system. At the moment, that’s what’s doing really well in retail, it’s taking elements of what’s really cool at the minute and putting it into this.
After the interview, Tom took us around the showroom to show us some of the specific trainers he’d talked about, including the rapids which were proudly displayed at the front of the room. The full video version of the interview will be available online soon.
In the meantime, if you want to shop any of the Cruyff trainers, or any of the other brands mentioned in this piece, visit our website here.