I AM FELIX. I AM BULANG.
For our portrait series, we caught up with Felix Engelmann. He is an independent Fashion Sales Rep from Munich with a passionate work ethic that brought his agency Haptiques and us together in the first place. Upon meeting Felix a few years ago, we were taken aback by his refined taste and eye for detail. A straight-up and humble guy, Felix is definitely one to feel inspired by – so we talked to him about his work, life and style.
Please tell us a bit about how you got where you are today.
I started as a somewhat clueless adolescent who was heavily into snowboarding. I even had a company sponsoring me, and my team manager suggested I do a job training with them – maybe a charming way of letting me know I wasn’t a good enough snowboarder to make it as a pro.
So I learned to be a salesman in the surf and snowboard area. I went on to work for Oakley, and then got asked to be their sales rep in Hamburg. I was in my early 20s and it was a total overnight decision, for the first weeks I was sleeping in hotels. Later I shifted from action sports to fashion, and there was the idea of doing my own thing.
How did you get to work with the brands that are in your roster today?
I started my business in 2005 with Clae Shoes which are still at Haptiques. I am lucky in that I’m very fond of the products and companies I work with. Being your own boss might be stressful and risky, but it can be also very satisfying.
But in those first years, I worked too much and wore myself out a bit, so in 2011 I decided to move to the Bavarian countryside to find a retreat from all the travel and all that. And there is this good vibe philosophy that I’ve been following – I don’t want to work with assholes that make my life a mess, I want to find joy in my work. So it all eased down a bit – and funnily enough, I became more successful.
What are your criteria for taking on a brand or product?
There are no fixed criteria, basically I have to like the products and see some potential. Most brands I work with I have engaged with personally even before doing business with them, for instance Porter or Pendleton.A recent example is Ovadia and Sons from New York which I discovered by chance and simply sent them a message via Instagram. They directly replied whether I had time for a quick phone call. So we talked – they are twin brothers, Shimon and Ariel, and we’ve become friends, laughing about what a happy accident it all was.
Yours is a classic case of »making your passion your work«. Besides this passion, what does it take to be successful at it?
Most would say it’s hard labour, but fortune plays a big role as well. And good people. Nobody can go it alone. You need support, and what goes around comes around. If you treat others in a fair way, it will come back to you. And you always meet twice. Honesty is most important for me, whether in private or in business. Don’t gloss over things, always speak your mind – people who can’t cope with that won’t be the ones who will help you on your way. I’ve always disliked this »fake it to make it« attitude. I believe that if others sense that you’re honest with them, it creates a base of trust that all can build on.
How do you find the time for your favorite things besides work and family?
Work and family are my favorite things! And most topics I care about are already present in the things I deal with on a daily basis. When I talk to you guys at Bulang and Sons for example, we naturally exchange info on watches, but also discuss other interesting things or topics. Recently a friend asked if I had any hobbies, and I didn’t know what to say. Although I have to admit that I’m a total night person, I love to dig into new topics and products when everyone else is asleep. But I don’t know if you could call that a hobby?
You travel up to 200 days a year for work. Where do you feel most at home in the world?
Definitely Hamburg. I’ve lived there for eleven years and never intended to leave. Then Berlin, where I spend a lot of time these days. On a global scale, I’d say Tokyo, even though I do feel like a caveman there, all these rules of conduct and codes that one can never fully comprehend. I’m also a fan of Seoul, an amazing city. But if you ask me where I really feel at home, it’s my place in the countryside, between lakes and mountains.
There’s no accounting for taste – true or false?
It’s true, there’s no accounting for it, but it’s still wonderful to talk and argue about these things, because that’s where you learn and develop your own taste. That isn’t possible without exchange.
Let’s get to the watches. What’s on your wrist right now and why?
The Heuer Montreal Automatic. There is a big book on Heuer which sparked my interest for the brand. I bought the watch from a friend – who got it from the author of the book! An unpretentious everyday watch from 79 or 80, I was smitten rightaway. Heuer is the most straight and authentic race driver’s watch. It’s a beautiful piece with understatement. Just like my first watch or my most recent acquisition, a GMT Pepsi from the year I was born. But the Heuer is special to me, I will always keep it.
What role do watches play in your personal style cosmos?
I started very late, for most of my life I did not wear watches at all. There was always the thought that if I got a watch, it had to be the right one. Finally I found the watch I desperately wanted – a Tudor Snowflake in blue. For years, I would come back to the model but never bought one – while it got more expensive every year.
We were going to ask about your holy grail watch … sounds like this was it?
For me, such a Tudor is an understatement piece, just like a Porsche 912. I basically told everyone about my desire for this watch, and at some point a friend decided to find it for me. When he got it, it really was the one! I remember picking it up and looking at it on my arm and thinking I would never need another watch. But I had to learn that there is not that one holy grail for me. There are watches that I enjoy longer, and there are others that have to go, to someone who wears them and doesn’t only keep them in the drawer.
We are proud to offer an exclusive project together with Felix that is visible in some of the images for this interview – vintage original Eames side chairs that have been professionally redesigned with exclusive Pendleton blankets. Click here for more on these stunning one-of-a-kind pieces.