“A true gentleman is someone who leaves nothing to chance. It’s not enough to dress impeccably and have everything flawlessly maintained. The overall appearance has to be perfect. Are the fingernails manicured well enough? Does the hat sit on the right angle? Is the umbrella rolled up as tight as it should be? A gentleman needs to ask himself all these questions as soon as breakfast has come to an end,” states Nick Yapp.
Alexandre Briatore serves as an example of such a description. Frenchman by birth, he likes to occupy his time with beautiful and pleasurable things, combined with a passion for detail and a tendency towards perfectionism. So it came as no surprise when he established one of the most interesting concept stores in Hamburg: YBDPT STUDIO. Located in St. Pauli, its doors were open from 2008 until 2014. During this time spent in the Karolinenviertel he formed close friendships with Herr von Eden and other like-minded style pioneers from the Hanseatic city.
As an explorer, Alexandre’s curiosity continuously propels him to discover fresh influences. Never remaining in the same place for long, nowadays he is seldom found in his home harbor town by the Elbe. We had the chance to meet this unique ‘Hamburg boy’ during his last week living in his Eimsbüttler apartment and find out about his next move.
Where do you come from originally and what brought you to Hamburg?
I am originally from France. In the beginning of the 90s I relocated to Germany. When my parents divorced, I had to make a life changing decision at a very young age: stay in France or move to Hamburg, where my mother had lived for a long time. I chose the latter and never regretted it. During my teenage years I could be found roaming around Hamburg. I developed the closest bond to the neighborhood of St. Pauli quite quickly. Until very recently I used to manage the concept store YBDPT STUDIO there – on Markstraße to be precise. I always sensed this air of restlessness and change in this district. I think it’s one of the places where it is possible to constantly reinvent yourself. It’s s like a playground and the place I evolved, both personally and professionally. To this day Hamburg remains my old love.
Can you tell us a bit about the history of YBDPT STUDIO, the idea behind it, why you started it, what products you sold?
The YBDPT STUDIO was a concept store from Hamburg, which established itself in November 2008 as an independent and growing company. The focus was on selected products and exclusive fashion brands from around the world, such as Comme des Garçons, Wood Wood, Hien Le, Reality Studio, New Balance, A.P.C., Our Legacy and Dana Lee. The high quality assortment and minimalistic store design was conceptually reconceived twice a year. In addition to the day to day sales, we also had unique product presentations in cooperation with selected brands and designers. The store was made up of a pool of illustrators, strategists, fashion and product designers and photographers from fashion and lifestyle branches.
How did you come to put down roots in Markstraße?
This close connection to the street and the overall neighborhood emerged between 2008 and the beginning of 2014, when I still had my store there. I also continue to have a close and friendly relationship with Herr von Eden and the people from the record store Groove City. It’s definitely still a place where I like to stop by for a coffee and linger around and chat for a bit. I also enjoy visiting restaurants, such as Mess or Peacetanbul. Even though I don’t live in St. Pauli, my heart beats for it.
Why did you decide to close this year?
The lease ran out and together with my then partner Radek Sadowski, we thought it was best to sell the store or slowly fade the concept out. At the same time we were very pleased with over five years of the successful development of the company. It was the perfect time to start writing a new chapter.
What is different about the Karolinenviertel in comparison to the other parts of Hamburg?
This district was fairly left oriented – especially from the 80s through the 90s – and still seems to display this leaning today. Many long-time residents from St. Pauli probably think that it has developed quite negatively, heading towards commercialism. But I still love this personal, village-like feeling that’s especially present during the summertime. It just feels so familiar to take the bike through Markstraße with its small side streets, and see well-known faces at every corner. Even though there aren’t many big clubs or bars, there is always a social feeling on the streets. I really appreciate this lively atmosphere.
What do you want for Hamburg?
I would like there to be a greater accessibility to or between marginalized subcultural groups. More openness towards the fields of photography and design. Underground, established and talented people alike should have a greater exchange and learn from each other. Especially when it comes to the theater scene. From afar, Hamburg is somewhat regarded as a musical city. I think a healthier connection between subcultural institutions could be established. Today, open spaces and venues that are necessary for the creative process are almost unaffordable in Hamburg.
The city’s development, with regards to living and working has become hard for many young entrepreneurs who work creatively. It is usually connected to high costs and a strong existential fear. In this regard, Hamburg could really learn something from Berlin. Of course, Berlin has also had negative changes during the past ten years. Concerning its open space for instance which is often brought up. Simultaneously, Berlin is becoming more expensive, commercial, and de-romanticized step by step. Regardless, there are many more possibilities in Berlin when it comes to fulfilling oneself creatively and trying things out without entering into financial risk.
What sets Hamburg apart from other cities?
I am a harbor-boy at heart because I love water. An urban, culturally interested harbor city the size of Hamburg is basically unique in Germany. I really appreciate its people’s honesty and directness, while possessing a friendly warmth. I love the casual chit chat. Whatever grows in Hamburg usually develops over time. When you have really made a friend here, they stay by your side. This mentality and connection are almost incomparable in other cities. At least I have never experienced it anywhere else.
What are some of the differences you see between French and German cultures?
There are a number of differences between the two countries, for example the domestic politics and various social structures within the working classes. Historically I find Germany very interesting. It would be a difficult decision if I had to choose one of the two countries in regard to living and working, because both countries can elicit so much sympathy. But at the end of the day I miss Provence and the unforgettable fragrances of the world famous lavender fields. Anyone who has been there knows what I’m talking about. The French way of life.
How you you spend your free time?
I like to go to museums, you can often find me at Haus der Fotografie (House of Photography). It is a great place to soak up inspiration and enjoy some peace and quiet. I also love the small library that is connected to the building. I always feel so comfortable there. Alone or with someone else I also like to walk through Hamburg’s Speicherstadt or along the harbor. I like to get a bite to eat at Le Plat du Jour or at Cafe Paris. For a fun night out I like to party at Pudel or Golem at the harbor. There are also always a lot of interesting openings and exhibitions at Island. I could go on forever about my list of small, special places where I happily stroll around day and night.
What constitutes good style? How does one get attention?
I believe that good style defines itself through personality. Style shapes a person. Therefore, it really doesn’t matter if we talk about the idea of personality or clothing. With regard to clothes, I have immense respect for someone who knows what they want; someone who has found and connected with themselves and their personal style. At the same time, I also have great respect for people who consistently reinvent themselves. It’s exciting when something is well thought through, when a certain conscious development takes place. People with humor and a sense of culture, art, good food, and music – they are my most preferred qualities in someone and how I gauge good style. Young or old, male or female, it doesn’t matter.
What potential do you see within the field of fashion?
Similar to music, fashion has the ability to move. It is a medium that speaks all languages. Since the consciousness of man, fashion is primarily an aspect of clothing – it is functional. Later design arrived. For me fashion is an interesting medium because it is able to communicate strongly via subtle codes. This can be positive and negative. Fashion can trigger a lot of emotions. It is malleable and adapts to an era. Throughout the history of fashion you can trace society’s evolution. Personally, I am a fan of minimalism.
Can you briefly describe Hamburg’s style?
The style, as I have experienced it, is very classic, nordic and has a maritime feel. Hamburg’s style embodies dark colors and is not attention grabbing. Many people still think of Hamburg as a bit posh. However, aside from this ‘posh side’, I guess I would consider it as snotty. It is, within the realm of comparison to other cities, a good mix between Munich and Berlin. It is not overly classic, but it is not run down either. There is still much to discover, aside from its establishment. I think it’s most beautiful when someone embraces Hamburg’s permanent charm with a global perspective.
You have a Charlie Brown textile by the designer Ayzit Bostan hanging on the wall. As far as I know, these are not officially sold anywhere – how did you come to own it?
It is a napkin, which Ayzit Bostan created as a limited edition for a very cool restaurant called Charlie in Munich. There are regular events with exclusive give-aways as a result of cooperations with interesting artists from all sorts of corners and disciplines. I really wanted to have one of those Charlie-napkins, so I wrote an email to Ayzit Bostan to express my interest. But as you mentioned, this piece was not for sale and basically out of stock already. But I was lucky: Ayzit agreed to do a trade-off and in return picked something from my store – a hat from the YBDPT webshop.
Is there a story to your flat?
Oh yes, quite a few worlds have been here before me. The building used to be a warehouse, in the 90s it was an office complex and then the late Deichkind-artist Sebi lived here.
Why did you choose this loft?
The view is amazing, I live within the city but always see a part of the sky because it is so elevated. This unobstructed view into the distance is the best quality of the flat. The brightness and the light – especially during the summer – is just wonderful. Somewhat bizarrely, the actual highlights of the property exist outside of the square meters you pay for.
Let’s take another look at your apartment, you have quite a lot of things hanging on the wall. For instance the image of the girl with the rats on her shoulder.
I really like this picture. I was given permission by Amos Fricke – who shot this photo – to hang it in my store. Amos is one of my favorite German photographers. His minimalist style and the graphic accents in his work have a painterly quality.
What about this bent woman, who so boldly stretches her bum towards us?
I bought this picture from an exhibition by Art Lawyer/Das Magazine. This French photographer from the 70s and 80s is still not well-known. He remains a mystery to this very day.
And these revealing deck of cards, did you find them on the Reeperbahn?
These vintage porn cards were a birthday present from my former store partner. I used to collect them back in the day. In foreign countries, especially in the south, they were quite popular.
Fashion plays a big role in your life. What comes to mind when looking at the blouse your partner Mary is wearing?
This oversized silk blouse is by our favorite female fashion brand called Reality Studio. Svenja Specht, the designer and founder, is also a friend of ours.
Who are some of your favorite fashion designers?
I have a lot of favorite brands and favorite designers, but my top three are definitely Rei Kawakubo, Christophe Lemaire and Alexander Wang. All unique, timeless and experimental at the same time. For me, they are the ones shaping the zeitgeist of our society.
Is there a piece of clothing that you especially hold dear?
This hand-painted shirt comes from Ghana. An African friend called John gave it to me. He came to my store everyday, just to say hello. He was a very lively person. Because of his non-existent visa, he suddenly disappeared. This shirt reminds me of him and long summer nights in Marktstraße.
What are you working on now that the store has closed?
When one door closes, another one opens. I’ve taken the opportunity to raise my professional experiences to a new level. Now I work on the industry side of the business at one of the best product houses in Germany called Parasol Island. There I am responsible, along with my boss and the creative director Charles Bals, among others, for the fashion department Another Slang – a 360° creative studio – it’s really unique, a hybrid of creation and production.
What are your plans for the future?
To work on large national and international lifestyle and fashion campaigns and to understand and implement innovative and targeted daily approaches. Likewise, I hope to travel a lot and to stay on top of things culturally. A cowboy’s work is never done.
Thank you so much for this conversation, Alexandre. Alexandre Briatore has worked as an independent creative and, among other things, works at the agency Another Slang in Düsseldorf.
Photography: Uwe Jens Bermeitinger
Interview & Text: Anika Väth