Elegant men’s knitted fashion garments have been made in Herning, Denmark since 1955, the company Clipper stands for fine yarns and timeless design. Workwear has also made up part of the Danish company’s line-up for years too – which has been sold under the brand CC55 since 2015.
When one enters the headquarters of the knitwear specialists Clipper in Herning, Jutland, one is immediately immersed in an elegant world of men’s fashion. The old, flat building of the former knitting factory is light-flooded, the wooden floor is characterised by the marks of decades; desks on the sides of the huge, loft-like main room, shelves halfway up to the ceiling serving as room dividers; separated off by glass walls meeting rooms and showrooms containing black metal clothes rails with heavy, dark wooden clothes hangers on which fine knitted jumpers are hanging. But above all: lots of room and air. Classy and timeless, the company building reflects the fashion that is designed and sold here, on both the retail and B2B markets.
Herning has a long tradition as a location for the textile industry, the diligent business man, Bernhardt Sørensen, founded a company here in 1955 that carried his name, which commissioned local, highly-specialised knitting factories to produce men’s clothing. The company changed its name to Clipper in 1981, in 1982 the second generation, Ove Sørensen, moved the knitting factory into the building that is still the firm’s headquarters to this very day. Clothes were produced there until 1998. From 1994 onwards, the production was relocated to Latvia, where today 130 employees transform the designs of the Danish company into fine threads. Clipper has four brands: The three retail brands Clipper, Belika and Breidhof – the latter two have been produced under the umbrella of Clipper since 2015 – and the brand CC55, under which name the workwear and promotional textile collection is developed. Clipper already produced knitwear for companies from the early days onwards, in 1995 the company created an own brand for corporate wear named Vision. Incidentally, however, the line-ups of the other brands also encompassed corporate clothing – CC55 has summarised these under one single brand since 2015. Bent Nørskov is primarily responsible for brand creation and development: Nørskov joined the company in 1987 and was employed as the Retail Sales Manager of Clipper until 2006. Since then he has been in charge of corporate sales in his capacity as Sales Director Clipper Corporate. In the meantime, the B2B market makes up around 50% of the Danish company’s overall turnover, “and there is still significant growth potential on this market,” assessed Nørskov.
“Clipper was always positioned in the premium segment of the knitwear market, CC55 is also primarily implemented in the workwear and uniform segment and more seldom in the promotion area. Whereas all of our retail brands purely only cover men’s fashion, the CC55 brand also includes ladies’ models. 90% of our customers comprise of professions in which uniforms are worn: Among others, the European customs officers, the Danish and Norwegian police, the Danish rail services, many airlines, traffic companies, security personnel, hotel and retail employees,” is how Nørskov describes their target group. “The special challenge with workwear is developing garments that are comfortable, attractive, durable, comparably timeless and which are available for delivery for long periods of time – while at the same time fitting people with totally different figures. Nobody chooses his uniform himself, the employer decides what one wears. Nevertheless, we still want people to feel comfortable in our garments. And despite all uniformity, the individuality aspect shouldn’t be neglected,” stated Nørskov.
Uniform and yet individual
A glance through the CC55 catalogue demonstrates where the strengths of the collections lie: They comprise of many different models – pullovers with V-necks, round necks or polo necks, cardigans, long cardigans, tank tops or polo shirts – which gives the wearers the opportunity to vary daily. And yet all of the items recognisably stem from the same design series and thus label a group of people visually as a team. Nørskov sees the Clipper range as an alternative to the big full-range stockists of the promotional products market, who also distribute polo shirts and jumpers – Clipper being the ones with a bigger choice in models and sizes and the guarantee to be able to supply all sizes and variants for uniforming a complete staff. He also sees an obligation to be different and highly innovative within their field. “We are the knit nerds, we have perfected the production of knitwear over more than six decades and feel quite at home in our comparably mid- and high-priced niche. As far as I know, we offer the largest selection of knitted items from stock in the corporate wear segment throughout the whole of Europe.” 220 models and colours are stocked in Herning, some of the models are available in two versions, as a “regular fit” or “slim fit” alternative. If one also includes the different sizes, which range from XXS to 8XL, that’s more than 1,800 different items. “In spite of this we still receive requests every day that we cannot accommodate from stock,” reported Nørskov. 50% of the CC55 knitwear items leave the warehouse unbranded, the other half are customised or produced in line with the customers’ requirements – from embroidery, to zips and applications in CI colours, through to complete special designs or qualities. The product range also includes a plain-coloured collection of finished pullovers and cardigans that the customer can have dyed in every possible Pantone colour.
The most important markets of the Danish knitwear specialists are Scandinavia, the Benelux countries, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. “We work exclusively together with distributors,” said Nørskov. “Marketing and communications are often more of a challenge for us than the production: Our clothes don’t sell via the price and the advantages we offer require explanation.” Short videos about the individual corporate wear lines, newsletters and a blog on the website supply the distributors with information that they need to provide a good consulting service. Nørskov is convinced that the timeless fashion of Clipper will also remain en vogue in the future. And that it does matter to people what they wear – even in the case of workwear – indeed: “Men are much more concerned about their appearance than 15 years ago. In the past it was more difficult to dress women. Today men are equally vain.”
// Brit München
photos: Brit München, © WA Media GmbH (2); Clipper (1)