Runhof Talbot Men in Black

After creating a renowned evening wear label, the German and American fashion designers Adrian Runhof and Johnny Talbot are turning their attention – and money – to launching their own stores in Berlin and Düsseldorf.
Adrian Runhof and Johnny Talbot met in Munich in the early 1990s and have been working together ever since.

When guests arrive at the Munich studio of designers Adrian Runhof and Johnny Talbot, they often get a demonstration in obedience training.

“Roll, Cooper, roll,” Mr. Talbot commanded on a recent visit.

On the floor, a little beige and black border terrier rolled over two times. Then he sat and waited patiently in front of a treat lying before him on the floor. Only when his master said “OK” did the dog snap up his reward.

The Munich studio also serves as a cutting and sewing workshop, outlet store and administrative offices for their fashion label — the Talbot Runhof line of elegant evening and cocktail wear.

Mr. Talbot, an American, and Mr. Runhof, a German, both grew up in fashion families. After meeting in Munich, the two fashion designers went on to launch their own label 20 years ago.

“From the very beginning, we focused strongly on marketing and PR,” said Mr. Runhof. “We wanted to bring our involvement in fashion into a different, more international dimension.

From the very beginning, we focused strongly on marketing and PR. We wanted to bring our involvement in fashion into a different, more international dimension. Adrian Runhof, fashion designer

They quickly managed to present their elaborate clothing in their own showroom in Paris, at the luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman in New York and at their own fashion show in Paris.

Now they're investing heavily once more in opening new boutiques in Düsseldorf and Paris. They will then have four stores of their own in Germany, counting their Munich showroom and store they opened last year in the city's luxurious Palais Preysing.

That’s a lot for a little firm with roughly 50 employees and sales “in the lower two-digit millions.”

The couple are the two sole shareholders in Talbot Runhof Purple Label Fashion GmbH. And they are proud that, up to now, they have done without external financing.

They are able to make such investments because “we put much of our profit back into the firm,” said Mr. Runhof.

According to the German Federal Gazette, they invested more than a €500,000 ($554,000) in the company in 2014.

The entrepreneurs who advertise their products as “breathtaking dresses for modern goddesses” established themselves in the fashion world even though neither of them received professional training. Mr. Runhof, 53, was born in Mainz, Germany, and earned a degree in business administration. Mr. Talbot, 51, is from Nashville, Tennessee, the country music capital, and studied information science.

Fashion, however, was always their passion.

Mr. Runhof’s parents ran an elegant clothing store in Wiesbaden under their own label, Amarotico, for cocktail and evening wear. At 14, he visited Paris to see his first fashion show.

Mr. Talbot’s mother sewed costumes for singer Dolly Parton and other stars in the country music business.

When Mr. Talbot came to Germany to work as a computer technician at Radio Free Europe, he met Mr. Runhof in Munich. There, they gained practical experience and started their first small store and label, All About Eve.

The store was open only in the afternoon as each had other jobs, Mr. Talbot at Radio Free Europe and Mr. Runhof as a salesman for fashion labels.

They spotted demand for modern evening dress in the 1990s and built up a core of regular customers over the years. One was Maria Furtwängler, the actress and wife of publisher Hubert Burda, who needed a dress for the Bambi Awards. On the red carpet, she promoted the two fashion newcomers. German television stars Veronica Ferres and Barbara Schönberger followed.

For years, Talbot Runhof apparel has been featured at fashion stores such as Breuninger in Stuttgart or Ludwig Beck and Loden-Frey in Munich, as well as the luxury department store KaDeWe in Berlin. Andreas Rebbelmund, head of the Breuninger branch store in Düsseldorf, praised the duo as “extremely communicative, approachable and always relaxed.”

Prices for their clothes range are in the upper premium to luxury range, where a dress can cost up to €1,500 – about as much as one from Dior. Talbot Runhof produces all its clothes in the area around Munich.


Georg Weishaupt writes about fashion, design and retail. To contact the author: [email protected]