Interview: Nina Nix (Chief Executive Officer)

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In 2011, Nina Nix was offered the CEO position at Dobotex. Formerly PUMA’s Head of Accessories and Licensing, Nina moved from Germany to the Netherlands to take on a top management position at the age of 34.
Moving from Germany to the Netherlands, did you notice a culture clash?

What really took most of the time to get used to was that you always get the honest truth straight in your face. That is a Dutch characteristic, but at Dobotex you got the Dutchest of the Dutch. But that is good. I like that it also means being as transparent about mistakes as you would be about your successes.

So, you pack your bags and take a plane from Bavaria to Brabant. What was your mission?

When you want a company to grow, you have to make changes, but since Dobotex was seen as being very successful, change wasn’t exactly the thing on people’s mind. When PUMA sent me here, the CFO at the time even told me: “Don’t touch anything. It’s really profitable and we get paid good money for it.” That initially was the atmosphere here. People thought they didn’t need anyone to tell them what to do.

But you did do things differently. What was your first big challenge?

Some years later, we signed Levi’s and Head. That was very challenging, as they were very demanding customers and many people here felt we had bitten off more than we could chew. But we went through with it and we made it a success. So that really made people feel that we could take on further brands and categories.

How did you make stichd different?

What I never liked about licensing was, that often people treat it as putting your logo on some not-so-great products. That is what I wanted to change when I started here. We brainstorm together with the customer. We think with the brand. If our brands have a specific need for an event or capsule collections, we sit down together and with them. For example, when Tommy Hilfiger launched its “see now, buy now” approach, we adapted development timeline and approach to be ready for the consumers. In that sense, we’re the chameleon that can be adaptable and ready at any moment.

How do you want to keep moving forward?

We have this proud history and now it is time to be a brand ourselves. We’re rebranding and trademarking stichd to be outward looking. Dobotex wasn’t much known to the outside world. Now there is more transparency.

Speaking of taking the plunge, you’re entering a new category, swimwear. Why did you take this step?

If you think about it, swimwear was a very logical next step, as we already made underwear. We have the right basis, but it was a challenge to make it sustainable, both in terms of environmental performance but also in terms of finding the right business model. But I’m proud to say that we didn’t take any shortcuts and we now have a successful formula for PUMA which could also work for other brands in our portfolio.

Where do you see stichd in the next five years?

Lots of people here started at a ‘socks company’. Now we are so much more: we are multi-category, multi-brand, multi-region. We can be a home to smaller categories of big brands, because in many of those categories the brands may not have the expertise. Our medium-term target is to be a €500 million company, that’s the goal we were given by PUMA CEO Bjørn Gulden at the 360 meeting. It is really about creating that new global mindset that meets global opportunities. We need to get this mindset across to all of our teams. There are many ideas on the table. I really feel we are at a crossroads for the company. You can really feel the vibe in the team that everybody is on board.

What makes stichd special?

Here at stichd, I really feel connected to the people. It is a people’s company. Here we have a lot of awareness of our different departments. I really feel that we can be more connected with PUMA and our other brands through stichd.