Stella McCartney

Women We Love: Roberta Benteler

Roberta Benteler is the woman behind the onlineshop Avenue32. A power woman about her career

Piffi (aka Roberta Benteler) is and was virtually a love at first sight. We met at the time in London through friends on a blind date in the Electric House, and without looking at the clock, completely lost track of time in broad daylight. In those days her online shop Avenue32, which she runs with her sister Maya, was basically still in its infancy. I was already impressed back then by her revolutionary approach, to support small and experimental labels (in combination with established ones) rather than always wanting the next big thing. That this required a lot of time, patience, and the motivation to provide a lot of explaining work to anyone who wanted to hear it, I understood very naturally after two pots of green tea.

A good amount of time has passed since then, and still every time that we see each other it’s like that morning in England. Today, here she has her say and tells her story again from the very beginning:

The idea for Avenue32 came about while I was working for a young London-based designer. At the time, I was already an enthusiastic online shopper – but unfortunately, at the time it was nearly impossible to buy young designers like Chris Kane or Erdem online or off. Previously I had worked for a few years in private equity in London and New York, with the goal of sometime changing to strategy at LVMH.

During my time with this young designer, it became clear to me that it wasn’t just crazy frustrating for customers, but for the designers as well, and I resolved to found an online platform that would curate young and unknown designers next to the big names. Avenue32 stands primarily for discovery – of new designers, of established designers that you can fall in love with again because Avenue32 has pieces that otherwise no one has, etc.

With Avenue32, I made my dream come true and found my dream job, but the best part is working with our fantastic team who have become my second family. A close second is discovering new brands while traveling or during fashion weeks.

The biggest success for me is having brought together such a strong and motivated team. But one crazy successful moment was also the day when we, still not one-year-old, were chosen by UK Vogue as the 2nd out of the 100 best online retailers, right after NAP.

My father was and is my most important mentor when it comes to anything to do with business. He’s an entrepreneur himself and gives me a lot of advice on topics like leadership, business culture, and strategy. When it’s about fashion and the creative part, I have Maria Lemos, founder of Rainbowwave Showrooms, to thank because she’s always fought for us and we would have had it really hard without her advice and her trust.

Through her I also learned, for example, what’s important when looking for labels for the shop: for me, there has to be an emotional reaction, something like love at first sight. Stephen, our Fashion Director, is responsible for the rational side. Hence, I think we’re a good team. You should especially keep an eye on these designers next season: Thomas Tait, Y Project, Annelie Schubert, Charlotte Chesnais, and Koché!

London as a location plays an important role. It’s the home of the European economic industry, which means as much as the presence of an ideal infrastructure with software companies, photo studios, etc., but also skilled workers. To boot, London is also one of the most important cities for fashion and large number of our designers reside here. And as heavy as it is on my German heart: I find German fashion, in comparison, just too serious. It’s lacking the playfulness, the craziness…

And honestly, I couldn’t imagine living in another city. I’ve spent a lot of time in cities like Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, and New York, but I haven’t loved any of them like London. I’ve been here almost 20 years and love the city more and more. It’s unique in that it’s wonderfully tradition at the same time that it’s insanely creative. So it’s here that my fulfilling professional life takes place.

When I’m not working, which is rarely, I do everything to spend as much time as possible with my friends and family! I love visiting my parents in Salzburg and spending the whole weekend in the forest with the dogs and only wearing boyfriend jeans, sneakers, and my father’s cashmere sweater. The anti-fashion program, so to speak. Otherwise, I really like cooking.

When I have a minute to think about the future, for example, how everything will look like in five years (what for me in itself feels like an absolute eternity at this point) the first things on the agenda are: break even, external investment, and a warehouse in the US. Contrary to all the skeptical looks, I would still leave everyone who wants to found their own business with this: where there’s a will, there’s a way!

photos: juliane späte

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.