The in Switzerland living Italian, Romeo Rifino, is the founder of the boutique “The Concept Store” in Zurich. A shop, that focuses on high-end streetwear fashion and supports labels that are secret favorites in other places. At the beginning of 2016, the 29-year-old opened his first store and left the banking industry for the little more crazy but also challenging fashion world.
The Flow House: Romeo, you used to work in the banking industry. Why did you decide to open your own store?
Romeo: For years I dreamt of opening a store that offers fashion that I love. I always wanted people to be able to wear streetwear labels that still aren’t very well known in Switzerland. While working at the bank, I played around with the idea in my head a lot and never pursued it because I had a permanent job, which gave me security. Security, which the fashion industry cannot always offer. But eventually I realized that I didn’t enjoy my job and then the day came that I decided to risk it. I quit my job and immediately began with my preparations.
TFH: Did you have any troubles in the beginning?
R: It took a lot of patience to find the right store location. It was not easy but in the end, everything went according to plan.
TFH: What would you advise young artists and designers of when it comes to opening up your own store?
R: It is definitely very important to plan everything step by step. The entire execution is a complicated process. But in the end, all that matters is that you believe in your concept and what you create. It takes courage and you have to be willing to leave your comfort zone.
TFH: What do you especially like about streetwear fashion?
R: There are no rules! It is a kind of “more open fashion” that appeals to a wide audience. Women can wear men’s clothing and vice versa. You can wear what you feel and love and it isn’t actually that difficult to combine.
TFH: Gender-neutral fashion is very in at the moment. Is it more than just a trend?
R: I believe that it will become very “usual” one day. When you look around in the streets you can see many women wearing men’s clothing and men doing the same, trying out more feminine outfits. I think this is a good development. Unisex clothing allows one to reach men and women with the same style and this enables one to reach a wider audience and thus offer more to the customers.
TFH: What is your favorite brand?
R: A brand that I have always loved is Yves Saint Laurent. But I am also a fan of Marcelo Burlon and Arnodefrance – and I adore shoes by Maison Martin Margiela.
TFH: Who are you fashion icons?
R: Marcelo Burlon and Jerry Lorenzo inspire me a lot. They have achieved so much with their brands and that inspires me every day to pursue my dreams.
TFH: Why should streetwear in Switzerland be of greater importance?
R: Streetwear fashion has already made its way to Switzerland by now. It takes a bit longer to reach more Northern countries (laughs). People need to identify with the fashion. Streetwear is for everyone, works for everyone but still is very interesting and bold. Reason enough to get more attention.
TFH: The fashion industry is up and coming. The online market is booming and many stores need to close their doors, as there is critique from everywhere. How do you deal with this competition?
R: It’s true that everything is becoming much easier and you don’t even need to leave your house to purchase the newest must-have. I was always motivated to go into the shops, try on the clothes, look at the material, get some good advice and to just feel the fashion. I think that there are still many people that enjoy this and that is the advantage the stores have. Nevertheless, online shopping is a huge competition and there is nothing you can change about it.
TFH: Another interesting subject is green fashion. How important is it to you that fashion is produced environmental friendly?
R: Quality is more important than quantity to me. That is why I never buy entire collections for “The Concept Store”. I prefer individual pieces that offer quality and are exclusive as well.
TFH: What are the hot streetwear trends for this upcoming winter?
R: Flannel shirts and statement-hoodies are very in trend this winter. They are great pieces to combine with Chelsea boots. When it comes to color schemes, things remain with yellow, burgundy, beige, brown and of course black.
Thank you very much for this interview. “The Concept Store” is located at Zurich’s Bellevue and is open from Tuesday to Saturday. Karim