Mercer on the Ferdinand Bol
Pim Dresen was ten years old when he bought his first pair of sneakers with his parents in New York. In Mercer Street, in an athletic shoe store, the likes of which we do not have in Europe. Years later he started his own brand of sneakers, Mercer, and this year he opened his first store on the Ferdinand Bolstraat in Amsterdam.
At the building on the corner of the Ferdinand Bolstraat and the Saenredamstraat, stylish, black awnings bearing the name Mercer are lowered. Inside, next to the sneakers and athletic wear, the American atmosphere of the decor is blatantly obvious. you can follow the US Open on a TV screen. Basketballs from the Mercer brand are on the shelves. Baseball jackets hang elsewhere in the store. In the back are a couple of attractive, young people behind the computer, busy designing the next collection and the marketing and branding of the brand. Downstairs is a space designed for retail sales, with the collection for the coming season.
'At one point I had 350 pairs of sneakers’
Pim Dresen began this adventure eight years ago and opened his first store in February this year, during the corona lockdown. ‘You could
say that I got addicted to America and sneakers on my first visit to New York. This sneaker culture rose much earlier there. Here, there
were just a few people obsessive about sneakers, and I was definitely one of them. It was even so bad that before I started working at a
bank, I would post myself in front of a shop in the morning if an exclusive trainer was launched there that day. I had to have and was going to have those shoes. At one point I had 350 pairs. All of the storage space in my small flat was full of these shoes. That, incidentally, I didn’t wear. I collected them, and was constantly searching for unique designs. So, as often is the case with an obsession, there came a point where I designed my own unique shoe. Because that’s what you ultimately want. Your own handmade shoe that no one else has.
Nod to Mercer Street
I flew to Portugal because I had Googled that this was the place to be for custom production. With a piece of leather that I liked, my design and ten of my favourite shoes, I walked into a factory. Using gestures, I explained exactly what I wanted, including the soles. And voilà, I had my own first pair of shoes, which I immediately set the name Mercer on, more as a nod to Mercer Street, New York. I proudly posted my sneakers on Instagram, and guess what? A store called me that wanted to buy the shoes. That was impossible, of course. They were my own shoes.
After that I quit the bank. I wanted to followmy boyhood dream, so I went back to Portugal to work with them in the factory to learn the
trade. I also visited all the manufacturers: from leatherworkers and shoemakers to sole manufacturers. Everything. Until I dared to do it myself. My first shipment was a thousand units. My whole house was crammed. I then dropped by the stores literally with a suitcase of shoes. I also started an online store. That was pretty easy in the Netherlands. I managed to find a group of ten stores that each took 30 to 60 pairs. I absolutely could not live off this,so I did administrative work for 2½ days at an investment company. Sticking receipts in folders. It was fine, I didn’t have to think, and the other 4½ days I could spend working on developing Mercer.
We’re now eight years further. I started with the product and the brand name. Along the way, I’ve hired a brand manager; when it comes to sales, you also have to tie emotion into your brand. Marketing and branding are, of course, very important. We are moving now from a very good product to a very good brand. It’s progressing steadily. We advertise with billboards in the city, but we also do a lotvia Instagram. Influencers like Future, Bella & Gigi Hadid, Lewis Hamilton, and Lady Gaga wear our shoes. We’re noticing that now that we have Mercer baseball jackets as well, that the brand is being picked up much faster. Now that we can showcase Mercer from head to toe with the clothes, people suddenly seem to understand. They see that Mercer is somewhere between sport and chic.’ Pim goes on to say: ‘We design everything
ourselves. Our designer Lea comes from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (Amfi) and knows everything about design and the technical aspects needed for the clothing, and now I know everything about shoes. The Mercer brand stands for Unique designs, High-end sustainability and Effortlessly cool. That’s true for all our clothing too and for the shoes that are made in Portugal and Italy. We have, for instance, vegan shoes made of pineapple leather or leather made from the by-products of wine production in Italy, and shoes made from plastic bottles. We source our own leather for shoes and manufacture our own soles from Vibram. Those are the Pirelli tires under the soles. We know exactly where all the materials come from that is used in our clothing and shoes. Next year’s collection will have a code you can scan, which will give you a readout of all the product information.’
The store has turned out to be much more important for Mercer than we could have anticipated before,’ he explains. ‘In the 2020 corona year, I signed a lease for this building from AHAM Vastgoed. I thought: we’ll see, even if I only sell one pair of shoes, I’ll at least have a nice office here. I thought that retail was dead, but it’s going like crazy. I’ve been here now for five months and am seeing the target group come in for the first time. You also get more press with a store, and more passers-by who otherwise wouldn’t have discovered you. Besides the Netherlands, England and France are important countries for us. This store is really an eyeopener. So, I now have an option on two buildings in London, but because of corona, unfortunately, I can’t view them yet. After that comes Paris. The focus is now on our own chains: our own stores and websites. In your [own] store, you can create your brand story and image much more. That is so important. Besides, I like nothing better than when a kid, for instance, comes in who is buying cool sneakers, and that you can then say that this sneaker is made from recycled plastic bottles. A kid like that suddenly thinks it’s really cool. While he wasn’t into that at all. He just wanted nice-looking trainers. This is how I try to make the world a better place, one customer at a time.’