Picture this: A woman walking down the street wearing a dirndl skirt and bust-hugging bodice paired with ankle boots. Or a man sporting lederhosen — leather shorts, traditionally worn with suspenders — with a T-shirt and sneakers.
Wiesnkoenig (pronounced VEE'-sehn-koh-neg), the official supplier of lederhosen for the Munich Oktoberfest, is hoping its fashion-forward take on traditional German clothing takes off in America with the opening of its flagship U.S. store inside a Cincinnati brewery.
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Wiesnkoenig USA planned a launch party for the store Wednesday in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine historic neighborhood, which was founded by German immigrants in the 1800s and is now home to a fledgling brewery district.
"We're not selling costumes to make it look like Germans," said Oliver Pfund, a Wiesnkoenig consultant who lives in Munich and his helping his sister, a Munich-born Cincinnati resident, launch the store, which opens to the public Thursday. "We want to show people here in the U.S. you can wear the lederhosen with Chuck Taylors, you don't have to wear the suspenders," he said. "Or you can wear the dirndl with cowboy boots."
Think Bavarian countryside meets Abercrombie.
Founded in 2007, Wiesnkoenig has five stores throughout Germany and sells in department stores there and in Switzerland and Austria.
The Cincinnati store will be its first presence in the U.S., and the company is eying other expansion opportunities in the states.
Cincinnati was a natural choice for Wiesnkoenig, Pfund said.
Not only is Cincinnati sister cities with Munich, it hosts the largest Oktoberfest in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world, drawing a record 600,000 visitors at last year's event.
Wiesnkoenig is opening inside one of the city's biggest success stories, the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company, once the fifth-largest brewery in the nation before Prohibition hit in 1920 and it closed.
In 2010, a longtime beer seller and executive decided to revive the old brand and opened the new Christian Moerlein in a long-shuttered brewery that had underground lagering cellars and a malt house from the 1860s. Its owners plan to turn the brewery into a multimillion-dollar tour facility that includes a rooftop beer garden overlooking the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and the downtown Cincinnati skyline.
Pfund said the brewery was perfect for Wiesnkoenig's first foray into the U.S. market.
"Obviously the advantage at the brewery are the tours in the building, the constant traffic in front of our store of people interested in the beer culture and the brewing culture," he said. "We hope they have an interest in the German culture, as well."
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