BSTN on How They Turned Their Streetwear Brand Into a Sneaker and Sportswear Hub
The Munich-based founders talk about the history of their store, partnering with Jordan Brand and the Jordan Delta SP.
As kids in Munich, Germany during the ‘80s and ‘90s, Chris “Fu” Boszczyk and Dusan “Duki” Cvetkovic, co-founders of fashion label, BEASTIN, had to go to great lengths to get a glimpse of American sports and hip-hop culture. Information about sneakers, the MJ-led Chicago Bulls or new rap records wasn’t readily available, it was sought after with patience and ingenuity.
The desire to learn more was so strong that Chris recalls climbing through literal fences to stare in awe at Nike’s booth in the Internationale Fachmesse für Sportartikel und Sportmode (ISPO), a top sports trade fair in Munich. Now, Chris, Dusan and business partner Roberto Aufiero are helping to build the culture itself, at their BSTN shops in Munich and Hamburg, by providing curated access to the exact types of things they used to chase.
What began as BEASTIN, a line sold out of car trunks in 2008, grew into BSTN, a streetwear and sportswear retail concept. Local buzz soon turned into a global following. Although basketball fanatics in Europe were sometimes seen as outcasts, in a culture dominated by soccer, the trio’s earnest passion helped them establish a new cultural foothold in a city that’s often in the shadow of Berlin.
BSTN has garnered acclaim through numerous innovative product launches and over-the-top activations; a web of loyalty has been spun from the brand’s authenticity. Through these events, releases and otherwise, Chris, Dusan and Roberto provide both access and opportunities for clientele to make new memories with shoes (that usually also spark memories of decades past).
We recently sat down with the BSTN team to discuss their upbringings, their influences and a new silhouette, the Jordan Delta SP.
Chris “Fu” Boszczyk and Dusan “Duki” Cvetkovic of BSTN
How did your upbringings influence your present work with BSTN?
Chris Boszczyk: I was brought up in a very loving, healthy family, and I was honored to have parents who worked hard for their living. They both came from humble beginnings, so seeing them work hard and achieve what they achieved was something that inspired our approach. That’s where I get my drive, and I think it’s the same for all of us.
How did sports, and basketball in particular, have an effect on your early lives?
Roberto Aufiero: I was born in 1980, so I was a teenager wearing a Chicago Bulls parka during MJ’s peak. At that time, there was no way around the Bulls, Jordan and Nike. It all became essential to who I am. It’s still a part of my life right now, and I try to translate all my memories to my 13-year-old son.
“We had to buy a basketball or hip-hop magazine once a month at the train station, and those were our bibles.”
What was the basketball scene like in Germany and Munich when you were growing up?
Chris Boszczyk: Basketball back then was very small. It was a real subculture, in part because we didn’t have the online presence and the global community that we have now. Everybody was playing soccer, so the kids who played basketball were outcasts. But even from young ages, we could tell that basketball was culturally connected to other lifestyle elements such as fashion and music.
How has the basketball culture shaped you guys overall?
Chris Boszczyk: Growing up without the Internet, we had to really fight for every bit of information surrounding this culture. We had to buy a basketball or hip-hop magazine once a month at the train station, and those were our bibles. We only had one TV channel that briefly showed a few basketball highlights at a specific time. It was such a mission, and it was crazy fulfilling to be a small part of this movement. I think that’s what drives us to put so much love into the business, especially when it comes to Jordan. We are so proud to have gained access to this culture. Today, thanks to the Internet and social media, it’s easier to become a part of this world.
Air Jordan XI Concord launch at BSTN
Munich now has the best basketball team in Germany, but it wasn’t always that way. How has the team’s development reflected acceptance of the sport in the country?
Roberto Aufiero: Chris and I played for Bayern Munich at different times. I played for them in the second league when I was 19. I remember when the old Bayern Munich president said, “No basketball here. We only want soccer, and basketball can stay in the second league.”
But after he went to Madrid and Barcelona and saw both basketball and soccer, he realized there might be a good co-existence. He changed his mind and opened his checkbook for basketball, and it changed everything. Since then, we are seeing good development and good steps forward, and now they are building a huge arena near the Olympic Stadium that will be one of the best basketball venues in Europe. That sort of underlines the development of basketball in the city.
Where did the original name or concept for BEASTIN/BSTN come from?
Chris Boszczyk: In 2008, Duki and I mutually had the idea to start our own streetwear brand. The first name was supposed to be Gin and Juice, and I’m quite happy we didn’t use that name. [Laughs] At the time, I was working for another company, and we were doing a project with a streetball legend, who always used the term “beastin’.” It just stuck with me. It’s a name and a philosophy in one.
As things progressed, we used BSTN as short for BEASTIN, and in 2013, we opened up a BSTN store. We wanted the store name to be different from the brand name, because we didn’t want it to be too focused on just the clothing brand. We wanted a pinnacle, open environment for other brands, and that’s how BSTN evolved as a standalone concept. We had experience with building a brand from the start, so when we went into retail, we treated our store more like a brand than simply a retail space — something we have upheld until today.
Roberto Aufiero: Coming from a brand and going into retail was totally new. Most of the time, it was the opposite; the retail stores started their own brands. It gave us a different perspective.
Dusan Cvetkovic: Our very first store was literally too small to accommodate several customers at once, so we were constantly interacting with our customers in the most direct way possible; it was the only option. Being up close and personal with the community gave us a good feel for different perspectives.
“We wanted a pinnacle, open environment for other brands, and that's how BSTN evolved as a standalone concept.”
How would you describe the sneaker, streetwear and fashion culture in Munich?
Chris Boszczyk: Munich is small compared to some of the major European cities, so it’s niche, but it’s also informed. There’s a sense of loyalty, too, so the kids will continue shopping at your store if they believe that you’re doing something for the community or putting in work to move the culture forward.
How did sneakers come into the picture?
Chris Boszczyk: We always considered BSTN more of a sportswear store than a streetwear store, so we originally focused on this look of ‘90s sports culture that we grew up with and embraced. Adding sneakers, especially when we got our first Jordan approval, was a huge step for us. Growing up, Js and Air Forces were literally all we rocked, so getting them in the store next to our own clothing brand completed the cycle.
Do you guys remember the first Air Jordans that were ever stocked at the store?
Roberto Aufiero: We don’t remember the exact first pairs we got, but one of our first major Jordan releases was for the Air Jordan IV White Cement. We had a small amount, maybe 24-36 pairs. Chris got angry, because he didn’t have a chance to buy the shoe for himself, and we got into a huge fight.
Chris Boszczyk: It was painful, because the IV is my favorite Air Jordan. Normally, I would put in my request and get the shoes no problem, but Roberto sold every pair. I threw the biggest tantrum I’ve probably had since I was five years old. [Laughs]
How did early cosigns and backing from various athletes and celebrities impact and strengthen the brand?
Dusan Cvetkovic: It’s part of our marketing philosophy that we have never paid anyone to wear our products, and we never will. That being said, we certainly appreciate players showing love, because they are true fans of basketball and sportswear culture. Having them in our corner early on was re-assuring that we were on the right track.
Chris Boszczyk: We have a saying, “From Munich to Madison Square,” because we have endorsements from around the world. I think we were accepted by celebrities, athletes and artists, because they saw and continue to see how genuine and authentic we are. I’m not saying we have all of these A-listers on speed dial, but there’s mutual respect. We give back and endorse these people, they endorse our brand and we stay in contact. We approach them as people rather than putting them on a pedestal, and we try to keep it as real as possible.
That’s always how we approach this aspect of community with trendsetters, leading athletes and artists. With the FC Bayern players, we didn’t want to hand it out to all the players. We made a tight list of guys who we think would really enjoy and appreciate the product. If it’s just another piece on an athlete who has no cultural tie back to what we do, then it wasn’t of interest to us.
Team alliances aside, what does it mean to have Jordan Brand in the soccer/football space, and where do you think the brand could go from here?
Chris Boszczyk: It’s a very cool step, and I think it could help our business grow a lot. Jordan Brand branching out into other European-dominated sports is really good, especially starting with Paris Saint-Germain, which has the strong connection to the city of Paris and the overlapping coolness of basketball and soccer.
Nike Air Max 1 Atmos advertising outside of BSTN
What are some of your favorite memories from special releases for consumers?
Roberto Aufiero: In our retail area in Munich, we were the first ones to elevate the in-store releases to a whole new level. I think our first time was when we closed our doors and walled up the front of the store with a huge, elephant-print Nike Atmos logo.That was the moment when other retailers were thinking, “What in the world are they doing?” That was the start of going beyond window stickers and going crazy.
Back then, we used our own money to invest in these releases in a way that nobody else was doing. And it was hard, because of the high expectation that we would always top the previous release. I think we have proven to Jordan, to Nike, to consumers and to the community that we are able to deliver and will continue to step it up.
Dusan Cvetkovic: Our motto on release day is best described as, “Do the release right, or don’t do it at all.” Having put our hearts and souls into these projects, it’s amazing to see people react to them. When they discover all of the small details we put into our campaigns, it deepens the connection with that specific shoe. It’s like a nod of approval between two parties who share the same passion. We’re unapologetic about our rigorous attention to detail. Ain’t no half-steppin’ at BSTN!
Chris Boszczyk: We’re motivated to think of unique ways to put on events, and it’s something you only get from BSTN. We always put love into our projects, and that translates into details you won’t find in other shops.
Right now, you’re working with a new Jordan Brand model, the Delta React. What do you think about the silhouette?
Roberto Aufiero: I really like the material. We saw in the Jordan Brand journey last year that material and execution of the product is very important right now. It takes a new direction outside of the retro business, and we can really build on new lines like the Delta.
Chris Boszczyk: It’s a very different approach, but it also takes me back to the days when Jordan branched into cross training. It’s unique within the Jordan lineup and gives me Trunner vibes. I like the material mix, I like the patterns, and I think it’s a shoe that will translate well into both sporty or contemporary looks. It also bridges the gap between hardcore Jordan fans and a new, younger customer that might not be as attached to the history of the brand.
What’s next for BSTN?
Roberto Aufiero: We are moving to a huge, new place that will have enough room for expansion and the future. It’s going to have a large professional photo studio, a 10,000-square-meter warehouse and 2,000 square meters of office space. We also want to invest in international store expansion, and the digital expansion is really important to us. We’re launching a new online shopping system at the end of this year, and we want to continue expanding while staying true to our core principles and concept.
The Jordan Delta SP is available in Europe, the Middle East and Africa starting May 2. It’s currently available in North America. Check out the latest Jumpman gear and kicks on Jordan.com. Learn more about the Air Jordan lineage on Jordan Collection.