Trunk Clothiers founder Mats Klingberg on the power of style in business

In creating a store that could offer Brits international brands, the entrepreneur combined a continental bonhomie with a very Scandinavian expertise

Mats Klingberg and I are sitting on a bench on Chiltern Street outside his shop, Trunk Clothiers, and every three minutes or so an exceptionally well-dressed and good looking person will stop and say hello. 

This is business as usual for Mats. The entrepreneur has become part of the elegant furniture on the best-appointed street in London, while Trunk has become as much of an institution as the celebrity-haunted Firehouse opposite. 

"The entrepreneur has become part of the elegant furniture on the best-appointed street in London..."

“I still feel like an outsider in this city, though,” he tells me. Perhaps that’s part of Mats’ singular appeal — that he combines a continental bonhomie with a very Scandinavian expertise.

In fact, when he came to open his first retail site in September 2010, Mats brought with him a host of international brands — Beams Plus from Japan, Incotex from Italy — that the British gentleman could scarcely get his hands on at the time. As the sun pours down on Chiltern street, Mats and I discuss style, substance and the power of asking for help. 

Trunk Clothiers founder Mats Klingberg on the power of style in business

I can remember the first items of clothing I really loved. I was 18 or 19, and I had saved up a lot of money to buy a bright blue Kenzo jacket. I wore it once and my parents thought I was crazy. But I was so excited about this jacket.

My grandfather was a big influence on me. He was an accountant, and I never saw him without a tie. Even when he went for Sunday lunch or whatever, he was always perfectly dressed. He taught me the power of style.

When I was 10 years old I moved to Brazil. My dad got a job there in Sao Paulo. We came from a town of 8,000 people to a city of 35 million, and this was the time in life that my eyes opened up to the rest of world. So I fell in love with travel at a very early age.

Trunk Clothiers founder Mats Klingberg on the power of style in business

I still feel like an outsider in London. I didn’t grow up here and I think lots of others in this industry have a very strong network from school and I don’t have that in the same way.

My first step with Trunk was to put a business plan together, and build a forecast, but it didn’t look like we were going to have the sales in the first year to get going and still be able to pay rent and stock. In the end, though, I just decided to go for it.

There were a few big challenges early on. Finding a good alterations tailor was one of them, surprisingly. In the beginning, customers would come in and try something, and we’d take it to a tailor to make some changes, but it would come back all wrong. When that happens and you’re trying to build customer loyalty, it’s a very big deal, especially if that’s the last pair of those particular trousers in the country!

Trunk Clothiers founder Mats Klingberg on the power of style in business

Boglioli Cotton Corduroy Trousers

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Trunk Clothiers founder Mats Klingberg on the power of style in business

Caruso Camel Hair Jacket

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Trunk Clothiers founder Mats Klingberg on the power of style in business

Altea Wool Silk Polo

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The advice I would give to retail entrepreneurs is this: don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s really about being honest with yourself. What you are good at and what you are not so good at. Then finding people around you that are good at what you are not good at. I am not an expert on finance even though I have a business background.

I am not obsessive with my style. I don’t have any hard guidelines that I stick to in how I dress. The perfect jacket, for example, is the one that fits you best. I suppose you could say I know the rules but I’m happy to break them, too.

My motto would probably be something like “just do it”, like Nike. I think a lot of Trunk’s success comes down to us seeing the challenge but doing it anyway.

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