GIVING WINGS TO ALPHA TAURI
From its humble roots as an energy tonic for Thai truckers to becoming one of the world’s most well-known drinks, Red Bull has a history of breaking the rules. Now one of the world’s most powerful brands, it is now as commonly associated with Formula One racing, extreme sports and athletics, as it is with the drink that defined its pathway to success.
But when Dietrich Mateschitz founded Red Bull back in the mid 1980s, not only did he launch completely new product to the market, he gave birth to a totally new product category. Today Red Bull is available in 171 countries, and over 62 billion cans of Red Bull have been consumed so far, with over 6 billion cans sold annually worldwide.
And Red Bull continues to surprise and defy convention at every twist and turn through its innovative marketing tactics, sponsorship packages and by being at the cut and thrust of what progressive consumers are searching for in their pursuit of leisure.
But for years, there’s been a feeling that the one thing that’s been missing from Red Bull’s extensive (and impressive) arsenal of products has been a credible collection of men’s and women’s apparel.
You can probably see where this is going. Back in May, under the zodiac sign of Taurus, Red Bull launched its new fashion brand AlphaTauri. Inspired by Red Bull’s DNA, AlphaTauri is ready-to-wear apparel for men and women, combining functional fabrics and innovations with natural premium textiles. The collection ranges from jackets, sweaters, jerseys and shorts to bags for men and women, with a key focus on its Parka jacket, which incidentally is made by KTC.
Manufaktur catches up with Ahmet Mercan, Red Bull’s head of global consumer products to discuss the launch of AlphaTauri - a modern lifestyle collection, designed to fit both body and mind.
UNTIL NOW, NOBODY IS MAKING PRODUCTS WHERE FASHION CAN ACTUALLY BE FUNCTIONAL AT THE SAME TIME
GREAT TO MEET YOU. WE LOVE THE NAME ALPHATAURI. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Thanks for having me. At the centre of the Taurus (the Bull) constellation is its brightest star, AlphaTauri. It’s a brilliant red light and enduring symbol of energy in the vast black sky.
TELL US ABOUT WHY YOU LAUNCHED THE COLLECTION?
It was always the dream of our founder, Dietrich Mateschitz, to launch products next to the beverage, and he has often talked about wanting to launch an apparel collection. So in 2014, I was contacted by Mateschitz and he shared with me his vision for an apparel collection and together we developed this vision. Out of that conversation AlphaTauri was conceived.
WHAT’S THE THINKING BEHIND THE COLLECTION?
The fashion industry is changing. Lots of well-known brands are struggling out there; outdoor brands are trying to do fashion and a lot of fashion brands are trying to do function. But the thing is none of them are convincing or successful doing it. Brands such as Nike are trying to do fashion or ready to wear. On the other hand fashion brands are trying to make the functional stuff. But there is a niche of consumers who are looking for some new stuff, a new direction. They are looking for brands that have a story behind them, along with a quality and premium approach to product. Until now, nobody is making products where fashion can actually be functional at the same time. For example, if I want to buy a merino wool or cashmere sweater, I might also want it to be functional at the same time, but without it looking like I’m about to climb a mountain. Customers want something more than functional products, they want quality. AlphaTauri does exactly that.
In emerging markets customers are buying a trench coat from Burberry because it’s made by Burberry. They are buying a polo shirt from Lacoste because it invented the polo shirt 80 years ago. Those markets are still really hungry for brands. But in the mature markets such as the UK, Germany or the east coast of the US, customers are questioning why apparel cannot not be more interesting and have some added value beyond a brand’s history
THERE IS A MASSIVE OPPORTUNITY FOR RED BULL BECAUSE WE ARE A FASHION OUTSIDER
DO YOU NOT THINK THAT THESE GLOBAL BRANDS CAN WIN CONSUMERS OVER WITH ADDED INNOVATION AND VALUE?
You can buy the iPhone 7 for €700, but a luxury brand jacket with a poor down filling and poor materials costs you €1200. You can be sure that there’s a lot more innovation in the iPhone than there is in the jacket. A brand like Lacoste might try and sell its customer a functional polo shirt, but its consumers will wonder why for 80 years it has been trying to sell them cotton polo shirt and why they’re now telling them to buy an added value shirt. It doesn’t add up to most people.
There is a massive opportunity for Red Bull because we are a fashion outsider. We are premium brand – we have always stood for energy and functional drinks – and we have the ability to bring this DNA into apparel to deliver a new story to the consumer. It’s a bit like Tesla, as a company it looks at the automotive industry very differently to many of the key players. It will always offer loads of added extras and value to a car, which will probably make you buy a Tesla over a €500,000 Ferrari. It’s an attitude.
WHAT’S THE KEY MESSAGE THAT ALPHATAURI IS TRYING TO DELIVER AS A COLLECTION?
When people think about fashion they think about style, but for us it is more than that. AlphaTauri stands for contemporary ready to wear apparel with added function for men and women. It is a fusion of lifestyle apparel, appealing to an urban explorer consumer. We are trying to make apparel that fits the body and the mind.
DO YOU THINK CONSUMERS MIGHT STRUGGLE TO MAKE THE LEAP OF THE IMAGINATION FROM RED BULL SELLING A DRINK TO IT SELLING LIFESTYLE APPAREL?
In 2011 we started a Red Bull Clothing collection. The biggest challenge was that people thought that it was premium merchandise. It was too close to the can.
Our learning: we need to be more desirable – for fashion people. Play with all Red Bull attributes, but be 100% authentic for this target group. That is the reason we have called it AlphaTauri.
We will have to educate the customer about what we are and what we are not – we’ll have to take them on a journey with AlphaTauri. We are not thinking about what’s going to happen in the next three years. We’re looking to what the marketplace will be like in the next five to 10 years. We know we’re onto something.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH KTC?
We heard about KTC from Schoeller Textil. I knew Schoeller from my past and when we had a meeting with them two-and-a-half years ago, we asked them if they knew anyone in China who would be able to produce our ideas - a supplier who could apply our vision. When we first met with KTC we knew instantly that they are visionaries and the right partner to move AlphaTauri to the next level. Already we have created so many ideas together. KTC is an enabler; I have a lot of ideas, the team also has a lot of ideas and we are trying to deliver the best products possible. So we needed a Manufaktur that understands our mindset and our vision – KTC got it from day one.
You will always find a supplier who can produce volume, but our aim is not to produce huge volumes of products. We need someone who is able to execute our vision and KTC was the perfect fit for us. They know what we were trying to achieve and they talked the same language as us. They also have the ability, and knowhow, to execute all of our ideas to the highest possible standards. I wish all of our suppliers had the same mindset as KTC.
CSR IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US
HOW DOES THE RELATIONSHIP WORK?
In some ways, we have a traditional way of working, as we have our own design team here. After the design and creation phase we hand over the tech packs to KTC. We have a regular exchange with KTC, when either they come to Austria or we will go to x - we will discuss all the prototypes and how we can make things faster and better. But it goes beyond the normal relationship because we work together with KTC to find solutions to make the products more attractive or to push the products in terms of technical application and quality. There’s so much rubbish on the market – for us quality is key and KTC can deliver the best of the best.
FOR MANY YEARS ‘MADE IN CHINA’ HAS HAD A NEGATIVE PERCEPTION IN THE WEST? WE BELIEVE THAT PERFORMANCE SPORTSWEAR MADE IN CHINA IS THE BEST IN THE WORLD? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS IN RELATION TO KTC?
KTC is doing a lot to change the fashion industry’s perception of what apparel crafted by KTC in Shaping, China is all about. It’s impossible to do this through one supplier though. KTC is trying to make it possible to be a volume supplier, yet offering the quality of Europe. Nothing will ever come back to Europe as it’s too expensive and few suppliers can deliver the quality and the consistency that KTC does, day in, day out.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF KTC’S APPROACH TO CSR?
It’s very important to us – both at AlphaTauri and Red Bull generally. Red Bull has 6 billion can turnover a year, so what we are doing is just a drop in the Mississippi. But if we don’t get things right from a CSR point of view, it can have a very damaging affect on the main business. Nobody at AlphaTauri wants to damage the mother brand. Again, it’s why working with a supplier like KTC is the perfect relationship. Great product, incredible vision and they care – on so many levels.