With La Tribune Noire a very new retail concept went online at the beginning of June: with his Black-owned retail concept, Hamburg-based founder André Cramer wants to create a platform for Black Person of Color (BPoC) designers, creatives and creators and present fashion, culture and aesthetics of BPoC designers and creatives to consumers–initially digitally, but a mobile pop-up concept is also planned for the summer.
In addition to fashion, La Tribune Noire’s product range also includes cosmetics, food and home interiors. In the fashion section, the e-shop currently lists seven brands backed by BPoC entrepreneurs and creatives, including Norwegian Rain, Art Comes First Ashes & Soil and Kids of the Diaspora.
We talked to Cramer about his retail concept.
Please tell us a bit about your personal and professional background…
During my quite successful and intense years in the textile and fashion industry, I worked in sales for various prominent German fashion brands. I was able to acquire market knowledge and experience in the high-turnover German fashion market, and later also in the European fashion market. For S.Oliver, I was able to advise and consult franchise partners during the opening of the first S.Oliver stores in East Germany, and later also the first stores in Italy and India. I became a sartorialist at Mac Jeans, where my passion for denim and beautiful, well-designed products was triggered.
How and why did you start La Tribune Noire?
From 2010 onwards, I was travelling an enormous amount, both professionally and privately, at fairs, in metropolitan cities and at festivals too. At a meeting with my friends Sam Lambert and Shaka Lambert in Paris, I met Amah Ayivi and Margi Vandoren, who were involved in the Comptoir Général at the time. The Comptoir Général was then the hangout and melting pot for international creatives, artists, musicians and the Parisian scene in the 10th arrondissement on the Canal Saint-Martin. The Comptoir Général was a mixture of restaurant, barbershop, photo studio, bar, fashion store, secondhand market and became a club in the early evening. I loved spending time there and was completely fascinated by the creativity and energy of young Black entrepreneurs. It was definitely there that I first got the idea to create La Tribune Noire.
Why is now the right point of time for you to start La Tribune Noire?
For several years now, the fashion industry and the retail sector in Germany have been looking for new concepts and fighting against sinking frequencies. The paralyzing uniformity in the retail assortments has had a negative impact on consumer sentiment and the willingness to buy. Increasing digitalization and, of course, the pandemic have, in my view, promoted a more conscious, sustainable and solidarity-based buying behavior among many end consumers.
Apart from featuring BPoC entrepreneurs: What criteria are used to select the brands?
When I selected the brands and products, it was important to me to have high standards of quality and craftsmanship, but also to have the passion and ambition to establish themselves in a primarily white consumer market. By the way, all the brands I contacted were immediately excited and willing to support the concept to the best of their abilities.
Where do you search for new brands?
Some brands come from my friend circle and my network. But I have also received and still receive many recommendations from the community. From my point of view, the concept still needs to be expanded in all assortment directions.
How do you experience racism in the fashion industry?
Just as racism is present in our society, racism is unfortunately also present in the supposedly tolerant fashion industry. Yes, I have experienced racism in the fashion industry, from subtle to unbelievably offensive. Many people in the fashion industry are not even aware of their racist statements and degradations. For this reason, I also have the book Exit Racism by Tupoka Ogette in the La Tribune Noire assortment, which I can recommend just as much as Alice Haster’s book What White People Don’t Want to Hear About Racism But Should Know. Both books, in my opinion, should be standard literature in every fashion company’s management and HR department, just like the book Fashion Changer. Having Black People of Color as Brand Ambassadors in PR and marketing campaigns doesn’t mean that a company doesn’t discriminate. Can you name a major German fashion company with a Black Person of Color on its board?
Hip Hop, Soul and Black Culture in general are fundamental parts of the music industry and Western pop culture–why are BPoC entrepreneurs still struggling to be fully respected?
Unfortunately, people with non-white skin color are still stereotyped in Germany. Music, sport and as already said, as a model yes, but in business management? We don’t have a lack of talent and clever, creative minds, and that’ s what we want to show with the brands at La Tribune Noire.
Do you feel that society is currently changing for the better with movements such as BLM etc.? Is the younger generation on a good path?
As already mentioned, 2020 has changed the awareness and perception of some. The fact that more and more consumers care about sustainability and social solidarity when buying products shows that a slow change is taking place. In any case, a generation is coming that is very far away from the existing trade and retail concepts. This generation wants to be inspired with completely different concepts than the old, established ones.
Any business plans you can already unveil?
One of the next steps of La Tribune Noire will be the realization of our pop-up store concept. These can take place in vacant locations, at established retailers, but also at events completely outside the sector. Entrepreneurs who would like to participate with their companies and products have already contacted us. One of my personal wishes is to include the topics of art, culture and events in La Tribune Noire in addition to the fashion and lifestyle segments. Somehow they belong together, don’t they?