Is carefree consumption still an option? Not according to Matthias Mey, the heart and mind behind mey story, and Michael Kugler, head of the Stan Studios creative agency. A conversation on credibility, true luxury and the new simplicity in our wardrobes.
A historic mansion in a quiet street of Stuttgart’s tranquil south: Behind its picturesque façade, we might expect to meet retired teachers, young couples or student flatshares. Michael Kugler’s presence and sense of flair only shows once we step inside: His campaigning house Stan Studios occupies two light-flooded floors with large windows, dark parquet floors, heavy carpets, glittering disco balls – and Kugler himself.
The creative entrepreneur is expert at what he calls cultural communications. And thus, the ideal protagonist of the first #meystory, a format that pairs Matthias Mey, managing director and mastermind of the progressive mey story brand, with key cultural innovators.
Together with more than 30 employees, Michael Kluger designs digital communication strategies for premium high-fashion brands – campaigns that constantly skirt the boundaries of business and culture. Kluger himself considers this dichotomy the greatest strength of his creative hub: Besides commercial solutions, Stan Studios also produce in-house curated content and products that tackle the questions:
It’s all part of Kugler’s vision, splicing mainstream and avant-garde, culture and commerce to craft those relevant, credible contents currently considered the holy grail of luxury marketing. “Stories are no longer enough; they need substance”, Kugler explains when asked about his strategy to battle increasing irrelevance. And this is just one of the opinions the creative director and entrepreneur share, according to the following exchange.
Michael Kugler: Matthias, the first time we talked about mey story, I was very impressed by the way you showed an entire industry how to stay credible and desirable with simple, yet premium essentials. Do you remember what sparked the mey story project?
Matthias Mey: It all started when I asked myself a simple question: Faced with this wealth of trends and things that surround you every day – what do you really care about? What is the essence of it all? In the end, it always boils down to a single aspect: quality. So, why not highlight our commitment to quality – something that’s immediately obvious when you feel it on your skin – and make it visible? A simple, yet excellent basic that stands for itself, the creation of the perfect white T-shirt – that became my personal challenge.
MK: I guess what delighted me, personally, was your focus on “what makes a premium-quality essential so modern?” It’s a minimalist product, further validated by its sustainability.
MM: Creating this very special, high-quality basic for mey story means controlling the entire value chain. For the past 35 years, we have sourced our cotton from Peru, regularly monitoring the production on location. Unlike many commercial cotton strands, it is entirely picked and sorted by hand, without the use of any defoliants. Thanks to the local climate and weather conditions, cotton farming in Peru also requires less water than in other regions around the world. And every single mey story t-shirt is handmade in Germany.
MK: At mey story, there is a genuine story behind the product, a story worth telling. That really inspired me. When we craft communications for you, we can get up close, show absolutely everything and disclose every step of production. That is truly exceptional.
MM: That aspect was really dear to my heart. To reveal and visualise just how much work goes into such a sustainable premium product. To make a statement against the “cheap and cheerful“ trend and “tight is right” mentality. In order to spring for our high-quality t-shirts, customers need to be aware of this added value.
MK: It’s about generating a sense of mindfulness for things, a precondition of fair consumption. In the end, both sides need to be on board, right? Entrepreneurs who don’t put profit before all else and consumers who appreciate the cost of sustainable production.
MM: Sure, but the question remains: What exactly does sustainable mean? Fair fashion has already become part of the zeitgeist and mainstream. But to me, fair production also means full transparency. When you can tell your customers to come over and have a look for themselves. I firmly believe that there are demanding consumers who want just that. Customers who want to know how their t-shirt was created. And while this might still be a very small group of people, it is growing every day.
MK: In the end, it is these people who will transform society long-term and in a sustainable way. In our agency, we tend to focus on this “future consumer” and we increasingly notice that people are buying fewer, but better, fairer and more long-lasting products. In future, luxury will no longer mean showing-off, but paring down and doing without.
MM: To me, modern luxury has a lot to do with simplicity and purity. With focussing on the essentials. A pair of jeans, a cashmere sweater and a white t-shirt. That’s all I need. Take the t-shirt I’m wearing today: It’s probably been around for two years and washed a hundred times. Yet it’s still one of my favourites and constant companions. Why? It doesn’t lose shape after the first wash. And it was crafted from especially soft and durable cotton. It contains plenty of precious expertise and handmade craft.
MK: What is sensible and useful? What do I really need? Those are questions I, personally, keep returning to more and more. The idea of relinquishing everything unnecessary. For example, I get to travel a lot. Often at a moment’s notice, so I no longer travel with check-in luggage. So, what goes into my carry-on? Most of all, perfect basics that are comfortable, but equally suitable for meetings. Items I know I can trust and rely on. I think that’s the benchmark modern luxury products have to hit – they also need to meet the demands of our everyday lives.
MM: A few years ago, I treated myself to a very beautiful – and very expensive – jacket. When I tried it on, the sales assistant said: That looks exceptionally great on you. And I replied: Well, it is also exceptionally pricey. Her answer was that I could only determine the jacket’s true cost and expense at the end of its lifetime. To me, this was an incredibly apt description of a product’s intrinsic value. In the end, what counts is whether you enjoy it, whether you wear it for a long time and whether it becomes a favourite wardrobe staple. If the answer is yes, the product is a good investment.
MK: So, luxury is less about the item itself than the experience you associate with it. That’s a really interesting angle. When I think about it, modern luxury is not the 5-star restaurant meal, surrounded by ten over-attentive waiters, but a plate of pasta on an Italian piazza under the open sky – simple, honest and authentic.
MM: Our notion of luxury is changing. In today’s fast-paced society, luxury also means taking some time for ourselves. Sometimes, it takes the simplest things to realise and appreciate this.