Stay Hungry Logo

How an ex BMX pro runs a brand linked to fishing

Stay Hungry has been with us since the early days. From caps to tees, sweats, and even shirts, the Berlin-based brand makes garments and accessories for your everyday activities while always maintaining the connection to nature.
Being a former BMX pro, Matti - the founder of Stay Hungry, told us about what BMX and fishing have in common and how a small brand from Berlin that is run by a tiny team became popular in Japan, even though they only have a handful of stockists in Europe. We also spoke about the downsides of having an own business and the challenges you face when you’re trying to responsibly produce high-quality garments manufactured in Europe whilst dealing with German bureaucracy. 
Being a passionate fisher himself, Matti also gave insight into the fascination about going out on a Kayak, fishing in a city that is better known for brutalistic architecture than for it’s uncountable number of lakes or rivers, as well as how fishing and his brand are intertwined with each other, since the fish-logo is omnipresent in the Aborre collection of his brand. 
Living in one of the major cities for fashion trends such as the ubiquitous Gorpcore, Matti also shared his ideas on the functional aspects of fashion, the importance of actually feeling the fabric and how the use of fabrics might change to ensure that the fashion business becomes more environmentally friendly. 
For those of us who always seek for new cultural input, Matti even has some recommendations to give.
Matti, the founder of Stay Hungry
To someone who has never heard of your brand: could you maybe describe what your brand is about?
Stay Hungry is an individually owned and run sportswear brand based in Berlin. We create classy sportswear and all our gear is produced in Europe in small quantities. 
What that really means is we're real people, forming a tiny team, running this brand. We want our products to be made responsibly and in hiqh-quality. We produce in Europe so it's as "local" as possible, we even produce certain things in Berlin. We work with small facilities and other small entrepreneurs who live and love their craft. 
The whole process of creating our gear and running this brand is very personal. From the idea to having the garment ready for the customer, every step of the way I and my partner take all of the decisions to be made. And basically every single item we create goes through our hands. Also we only take up themes and ideas for our clothing that we know by experience and/or have some real connection to: such as growing up in the countryside, going fishing, camping, doing sports as well as living and traveling urban interests and spaces. 
Your brand is named „Stay Hungry“. Where does the name come from and why did you choose it? And why did you start a brand that is closely tied to being outdoors?
While listening to music and doing some drawings the name "Stay Hungry" came up. I might have even heard it in a song. Truth is I don't fully remember but once I had that sketch it stuck with me.
I think the sportive aspect is what felt motivating to me, I understand it in a way to staying creative, motivated and just interested in life.
Way later I was made aware that Steve Jobs held that speech with his often quoted "stay hungry, stay foolish". What most people leave out or don't know is that Steve Jobs himself quoted another person: Stewart Brand, founder of the "whole earth catalog"; a product catalog of the whole earth with strong DIY and ecology emphasis, published in the 1970s. When I read that I liked it as this circles back to our Stay Hungry brand. 
And the outdoor aspect stems from my upbringing on the countryside. Being in the woods, fishing, going camping. Later I spent endless time outside with my BMX but now more on sports courts and any flat spot I could find. To translate these experiences into clothing was something that I was always drawn to. 
The biggest influence to pursuing this passion was my travels to Japan I would say. There I became aware that interests and activities like hiking, kayaking or fishing can really find a cool expression in clothing. I extremely liked the fusion styles of sportswear, fashion, fishing and streetwear there. 
Also in the Go Out magazine I found a lot of familiar faces as my BMX buddies from Japan where modeling for the magazine, that was around 2010.
Which changes has Stay Hungry gone through since it existed and are there any difficulties that you had to face?
When we started Stay Hungry I wanted to give it space to grow organically, as it was a very personal and pure project. Everything that goes into Stay Hungry stems from real lived experiences. It still is very personal but I and my partner shifted to doing this as our main business. 
Becoming more visible had it's challenges, the more you grow the more things you have to do and learn. There are many aspects to a business that can sidetrack you from your core activity, like bureaucracy, legal matters, people copying your inventions etc. 
Then of course the pandemic (and general state of the world) came with huge difficulties for us. Our Berlin-Mitte store had been the most important and vibrant part of our business, having to close it down for so long was hard in many ways.
Generally there are constant changes that can be difficult but also bring you development. 
The core ideas and values of the brand have never changed though and we`re very intentional about keeping them on track.
You define yourself as a "classy sportswear" brand. What is classy sportswear for you?
In our opinion classy sportswear are pieces that have their origin in being used for doing sports or being in the outdoors, but developed over the years into some classy casual pieces for your everyday wardrobe. As a comparison there are sneakers that have been running shoe silhouettes in the 80s / 90s but are used nowadays as casual footwear and then there are up-to-date technical running shoes, which are also sneakers. 
Or for example Rugby shirts became very popular with climbers because of its practicality for it. That developed into a casual-wear piece. 
I always liked the relaxed and "neutral" style and fit of the 70s – 90s outdoor and sports pieces. Like a fishing button down shirt, kayaking jackets, stuff like that. 
From our clothing the Aborre Overshirts are probably a good example for classy sportswear. They have you looking very classic and elegant, yet their cut is rather sporty. Meaning it has a bit of a sporty and relaxed fit, it´s not a shirt you`d tug in like with a classic suit for example.
What's your connection to functional fashion and how do you think it will develop in the future?
Being active and outdoors is like I said a big part of us. And feeling comfortable in your gear especially when you get active is really important. I got to appreciate certain functional aspects also of casual wear when riding my BMX and also when fishing. Like a simple cotton shirt can be perfect sometimes and when you now add a small simple pocket it can do a lot for you. So often it doesn´t have to be crazy technical to be functional in my opinion. Like our hook-necks for example; they have a small carabiner that you may like just as a style detail or actually use the small functionality of it. Our Fleece-Jackets all have pockets that can fit quite a lot and are great to rest or warm your hands in.
For me the feel of a fabric is a very important function so to speak. Therefore we focus a lot on the touch of the fabrics we use – and in some cases the protection they can give (from wind, water, rain or sun). 
For example some eco fabrics just feel better on the skin as they are more natural yet they may be simpler with less "function" in the classical sense. Yet again that's often all you really need. And that is actually an important aspect to keep in mind: being outdoors also means being in the elements. So I think the whole point is also to feel wind, water, sun etc. – so I don't want to "overprotect" myself when it's not really necessary. Of course there are occasions when it's great having well-designed pieces that support your comfort and even performance in outdoor-undertakings.
In the current outdoor industry there are still a lot of oil based materials being used which sooner or later will probably disappear and more and more natural and recycled materials will be used. 
What are the core principles that define your design and what is it that you get your inspiration from?
There are different ways of our design process honestly. One thing can happen is that we see a fabric and think that it could fit well on this and that style. Sometimes a specific piece comes to my mind and we try to get as close with the materials and design to what is our vision. I have to have some connection to the piece I'd say.
We're playful with our designs yet pour a lot of care into the making of our clothing to offer unique quality clothing.
A lot of inspiration lies in my nostalgia of childhood and youth. I think of all the kool outdoor and sportswear from the past we grew up with or we have been lucky enough to see some of our friends or parents with. 
Then like I already said, a lot of inspiration comes from the things we lived, do and or experienced. The 90s had a big impact on us (aka our youth) for sure. I always found great inspiration at places where people come together, that could be traveling, sports events, parties etc.
Travelling has played a big part in having a lot of ideas that nurtured the urge to do something with it. Travels to Japan, the USA and Sweden in particular. And also our city of Berlin is full of great inspiration. There's a lot going on and a lot of different people mingle that is very inspiring to me.
The Fish Logo is very present in your Aborre Collection. Could you give us a little explanation on why that is the case? 
Everything with our beloved Aborre fish patch is part of our Aborre Collection, the Aborre Family. We liked the idea of working with a patch and were happy to see that the initial drawing came out really nicely as a patch. It gives our Aborre pieces a beautiful and playful detail without being too loud though. 
"Aborre" derives from the Scandinavian term for perch. Again it has to do with nostalgia from my childhood. It's a beautiful species with red fins and, I caught my first one as a child on a holiday in Sweden. The small ones are easy to catch and often one of the first fishes you catch as a kid or beginner here in European waters. (The bigger ones are tricky to catch). So you could say it summarizes the European and classy aspects in our collection.
The Aborre Logo
The Aborre Logo
For those of us who don't fish, could you explain what makes it so special to you?
Well, for one it's again a childhood thing. Then fishing can be a nice activity to do something being connected with the nature. You're doing something where you are focused but relaxed at the same time. Then it is just nice to be outside, the best is on a boat. To really fish you need patience and also skills. There are like hidden rules you have to find out in order to find fish with a tackle. That is special. I was always into "sports fishing". So it's not like in comics that you have your float and sit on the riverbank drinking beer. But you're active with your tackle and you change spots.
You're on or at the water concentrating on a subtle movement or feeling the ground with your bait for instance. So you're not thinking much else. Things can be simple. You feel at ease even though it's raining and it's cold because your mind is somewhere else.
For a while I also fished a lot of Berlin's city waters. There may be not much nature on the surface but some of my most incredible fishing experiences I had at industry channels and harbours. I understand that here in Germany fishing has still a rather "dusty" reputation in comparison with other countries like Japan or Scandinavia.
Is there a book that had a really big influence on you and that you would want to recommend? If not, maybe a film or a music record? 
Well, maybe I wouldn't say a big influence but a book called "The golden spruce" impressed me a few years back and I can recommend it.
As an album: I really liked The Streets, Original Pirate Material. It was so fresh and rough when it came out.
A movie I really liked was Good Will Hunting. There you also see a lot of this Eastcoast/Boston/Ivy League sportswear vibe. 
Where do we see you and what are you doing when you’ve got a day off? 
So honestly the answer now is a bit different from what it was just a few years ago. It has become more challenging to pursue my usual activities. As currently the days off are rather rare. We have family so often you'd find us taking kid-friendly strolls through our Kreuzberg-Kiez here in Berlin. But we still manage to squeeze in outings around Berlin where I go fishing in my kayak for example.
Back to blog