Max and his band Damager
Max spent his youth roaming the streets of East Berlin and “painting" the city walls without any regard for authority. He became involved in the local music scene and played electric guitar for a series of bands, had finished his audio engineering degree. He developed a habit for drinking and smoking, and although he occasionally thought about quitting, each addiction fed into the other. Every time he had alcohol, he would start smoking all over again. He didn’t question his lifestyle much; he assumed it was part of being a musician. Then one day, his band welcomed a new member to fill in for the bass player.
"Miki was the first guy I ever met who called himself vegan straight-edge. I was smoking during every break from rehearsal, but Miki just sat there and did nothing. That was new for me because everyone in my environment was smoking or drinking.”
Mikita and Max became fast friends, despite their different lifestyles. Miki didn't consume alcohol, drugs, or animal products. Soon after they met, Max decided to do the same. Given his environment, giving up alcohol and smoking was one of the best decisions he ever made. By the beginning of 2011, Max was hanging out with more and more people who shared a philosophy of staying sober.
“It was a really positive thing for me. Everything in my life changed for the better. I was completely dedicated and wanted to spread the word."
Max started to look for straight edge merchandise that he could wear to demonstrate pride in keeping clean , but soon realized he couldn’t find any within Europe. He tried buying apparel from the U.S., but shipping costs were high and it took months to arrive. Like any entrepreneurial problem solver, Max decided he would respond to the gap in the market by creating his own merchandise.
Diebo & Max (left); the first shipments arrive to the Stay Cold home office (right) 2013
He teamed up with his best friend, Diebo. Together, they created some samples, produced a modest inventory, and started an Instagram page. After six months of laying the groundwork, they launched the website for Stay Cold Straight Edge. The brand attracted straightedge customers but Max soon realized that he wasn’t simply interested in churning out t-shirts with simple text. He wanted to create a fashion label that would allow him to design art pieces and express his creative desires.
"I was trying to build a fashion brand or a skater brand, but it didn’t work out as I planned because I was attracting customers who only wanted to have merchandise, but weren’t interested in the design or artistic elements of the brand."
In order to fulfill customer expectations, he felt like he had to repress his creativity. In the meantime, he and Diebo realized that they weren’t a good match as business partners, so they decided to split up the business.
“I’m really glad we were able to leave this behind us," said Max. "It was hard for both of us. I’m happy that we are still best friends."
Max began focusing on himself and thinking about how to organize the business so that it could be a creatively fulfilling full-time job. Though Max had originally started brand to demonstrate pride for straight-edge culture, he realized his anti-authoritarian message appealed to people beyond the straight-edge scene. While he remained straight edge in his personal life, he decided he would build a new brand that represented the attitudes of rebels from all walks of life: heretic, anti-authoritarian, and anti-establishment. The idea of Stay Cold Apparel was born in 2014, and on February 2015, he launched the official website.
Max launches Stay Cold Apparel with a new office in the Friedrichshain district of Berlin
Broadening his new audience gave the brand new potential to grow. While Stay Cold was getting off the ground, Max had been running his own music studio. Soon, he had a new problem. By the end of 2015, Stay Cold had expanded so successfully that he couldn’t keep both businesses going. He had to make a choice between music and fashion. For him, it was a no-brainer. He closed the studio and concentrated full-time on Stay Cold. What started as a passion project had now become his career.
No matter which direction he takes his business, Max insists on staying true to his values.
“I only do things I love to do. I only design things I love to wear. I only do things that I can stand behind."
Max at work in the Stay Cold office