My relationship with Nathaniel began shortly after I launched MORJAS in 2017. My colleague Marcus and I had been looking for a person with an X-factor for our first bigger photo shoot. Nathaniel, who was working in Paris at the time, caught our attention which we couldn’t let go of. Finally we managed to get together in Almansa (Spain) during the spring of 2017 to shoot our first campaign together.
I didn’t know much about the guy. Only thing I knew was that his style appealed to me and we wanted to link that with MORJAS. At the time we were visiting our family-owned atelier in Almansa where we craft our shoes. The idea was to combine the trip with production visits and the photo shoot. We used Almansa as our base and went shooting during the days and then spent time with Angel, our production leader, during the afternoon and evenings. As Nathaniel comes from a family working in clothing & production the conversations took off right off the bat.
Nathaniel was intensely curious to learn about the handmade production. How each shoe is constructed from the ground up. How production flow is designed. What role each step of the 128 passed have in the process of creating a pair of handmade shoes.
He absorbed like a sponge and learned how everything works. Understanding the complex and detailed process behind the production of quality shoes often take quite some time. It’s complicated. You could tell right from the get-go that Nathaniel was a sharp knife.
He is the kind of person that is either all-in curious or all-out uninterested. When he’s in the zone with tentacles of learning ON he’s 100% dedication and will learn something on first explanation.
We spent 3 days together combining conversations around business, production, music, life, while shooting the first-ever serious MORJAS campaign. Since then we’ve remained close and acted as passionate sounding boards to each other. Our bonds have grown from light to deep. Our relationship has emerged to one shaped by trust, shared ambitions and a highly valued friendship.
For the launch of our Hiking Boot I turned to Nathaniel and his brother Noam. Nathaniel has been involved during the whole process from idea to realization and seen the samples evolve along the way: a time window spanning over 14 months. We both thought that the hiking boot has an edgy expression to it that took us back to the 90s Timberland-cult-kind-of-feeling. We wanted to incorporate a bit of that nostalgia, add our spice of alp luxury and build from there together with both Nathaniel and Noam.
Together with our friend, photographer and John-Mayer-lover, Abraham Engelmark, we traveled to Gothenburg to execute on our vision.
But this time it was time to get under the hood. Who is Nathaniel? What’s the story with the family business Broadway & Sons? How did he start his own brand Casatlantic? Is he really Swedish or what’s the deal?
In between searching for WWII military jackets in the Broadway warehouse and walking his Afghan dog Willy, we sat down to have a more structured chat to share the story with the rest of the world. What was planned as a 20 min conversation evolved into a 2-hour mind-bending tête-à-tête.
Henrik Berg (HB): OK brother. I know it might feel weird but it’s time to dissect you and your family even if I know much of the story. But I know our community is very curious to learn more about you. Cool?
Nathaniel Asseraf (NA)
No middle name.
Nothing more needed.
50% Moroccan. 50% Belgian.
Where did you grow up?
I know what you’re thinking. A Moroccan-Belgian guy living in Sweden. We’ll get to that.
What do you have for breakfast?
When I have time a sour dough toast with smashed avocado, yoghurt and granola.
Don’t drink much coffee. Prefer freshly squeezed orange juice.
Really? Didn’t know that. That’s new.
Well we mostly drink beer or wine when we’re together so it hasn’t come up, but yes Moscow Mule is the best.
Marabou Orange Crocant.
Soon I’ll be loving you again – Marvin Gaye.
Thanks for the nuggets. OK so you’re part of the family who runs Broadway & Sons: A famous vintage clothing & military store in Gothenburg. Tell me about your family. Let’s start with your parents since you got quite an eclectic mix in you.
My mother, Christine, was born in a north-eastern city by the coast of Belgium called Knokke.
My father, David, was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and moved to Paris 1962 with his whole family. Then he moved to Sweden when he was 15.
HB: And you all now live in Sweden. That’s interesting.
NA: Haha yes. I have two siblings: my little brother Noam and my little sister Audrey. We all grew up in Sweden and my parents have lived here since the 80s whereas my dad has lived here since 1969.
HB: OK let’s just rewind the tape. How did your father end up in Sweden?
NA: Love man. It was all love. He met a girl.
NA: My dad loves life and grabs the opportunity when he sees it. He moved from Casablanca to Paris and met a Swedish girl (not my mom that is) and did like any guy his age would have done: explored the world and joined her to Sweden.
HB: But he stayed in Sweden despite the flame being just that: a flame?
NA: Yes. He started doing a bit of work here and there. You know the ordinary things you do to get around as a kid. A few jobs here, a few jobs there.
HB: So we got that sorted. Your father in Sweden. How did your mom, who’s from Belgium, enter the picture?
NA: To understand that we must first know the story about how Broadway came to be.
HB: I think we all want to know.
NA: OK look. So you got this kid, my dad, just short of 18 years living in Gothenburg. He had always had a sense and appetite for creating his own savoire-faire if you will. His own kind of being. His own kind of style. Every now and then he went back to visit his family and friends in Paris. Many of his childhood friends had at the time started working in the business of clothing, particularly in the area of Sentier in Paris. And during these visits he found unique pieces of clothing every here and there which he then obviously started using. When he then came back to Sweden his friends and the people he met started asking him about the clothes he was wearing. Again, this is a guy who stood out. And Sweden at the time, with all due respect, was very much H&M and Gul & Blå. Brands that all had their charm but maybe were a bit same same. There wasn’t much of a mix.
So when my father came back adding a bit of spice people really started craving that. And that’s how things really started in the first place. The opportunity came to him, he seized it, and made it into his living. And this was just around the era of flower power you know when jeans with braids, jeans with patches, painted jeans and all those kinds of creative takes on clothing really started to become a buzz. And my father was living and breathing that.
HB: I get it and I see it. Good looking guy with a style that stands out. Naturally the Swedes wanted a bit of that. But how did your dad bring that to the market? How did he get his hands on clothes and started selling?
NA: He literally rented a truck and drove down to his friends in Paris and started sourcing clothes and then brought that back to Sweden.
HB: Of course he did.
NA: And during that time around the 70-80s there wasn’t any mass production to talk about you know. So the things that were more unique and the items that were buzzing were simply harder to get a hold of. So he sourced second hand 1970s “fashion” if you will. And then he opened the store in Gothenburg, called Broadway.
HB: And “& Sons” was added to the name (Broadway & Sons) when you were born?
NA: That’s right.
HB: So Broadway was officially established 1982 but your father had started selling a bit here and there a few years before that?
HB: Now we know the foundation. How did your mother enter the picture?
NA: My father was on vacation in Agadir, Morocco. My mom was there at the same time with her family and her twin sister. And there they met and fell in love.
HB: It’s quite the story. Born in Casablanca, moved to Paris, moved to Gothenburg, back to visit Morocco and then met the love of his life.
NA: Gives me goosebumps.
HB: And then your mom decided to come with your father to Sweden?
NA: That’s right.
HB: And this was what. 1980s?
NA: Mid 80s yes.
HB: So a few years after your father had gotten up to speed with opening Broadway?
HB: Which meant that your mom joined your dad back to Sweden when the business was in full swing?
NA: Yes. At the time my dad had started to get in contact with enterprises in Sweden that sold dead stock. Through them he sourced items from the Swedish military and then sold that to his brother in Paris who then sold it further.
Things started to escalate and he was getting his eye more and more into vintage & military surplus. So my mom came into the life of the business at a very good time. Just when the foundation has started to settle, but before things started to take off. The two started a life together and dedicated it to themselves, the family and the business.
HB: I know from experience that you’re a jack of all trades in the beginning of a business, but what role did your mom take?
NA: She brought structure and order. Started structuring operations and took care of the books.
HB: If you just take a step back and zoom out from all of this I can image word spread like wildfire. Here you have the clothing market which was quite.. dull. And in comes your Dad who had started to get a bit of a reputation bringing something new to the table. When rumor spread about this guy being quite unique in the space with military clothing your parents must have had their hands full.
NA: That was exactly what happened. And in addition to the military clothing we had highly sought after brands that people wanted, such as Schott, Chevignon, Avirex and so on. My dad then slowly but surely decided to focus a bit more on military dead stock from the army and vintage items. Mostly made in America. He went back and forth to the US on a regular basis.
HB: Why the US?
NA: The US has always been more playful in their take on clothing and uniforms overall which has created the feeling you have of American vintage today. You know the patriotism in the US stood out and that appealed to people. No matter if you worked for a truck company driving trucks or if you were in the army the items you wore all had a proud sewn-on patch. And it looked good (and still does). The proudness of showing what school you attended. What company you worked for. What military branch you served. Those kind of things really stood out from the rest of the world and appealed to people. That in combination with the level of quality which was at another level made my dad focus more on America. Which is still a big focus for us today.
HB: And how do you source the stuff you sell at Broadway?
NA: Wow at this point we know everyone in the world that has something of value within vintage. These are relationships that have been built during the last 40 years. One contact led to the other and so on.
HB: So you have your go-to contacts you turn to?
NA: Yes and we pay attention to what the customers are craving and try to be fast in meeting the needs. One period the pulse can be about vintage 501s. One period it’s all about college sweaters. One period it’s all about military jackets. And then we fly and visit our contacts in everything from Paris to the US and bring those items back to Sweden and then serve the whole world with our e-commerce.
HB: You got two siblings and then we have you. You’ve all grown up with the business. What roles have you taken in the family business?
NA: Naturally we’re all involved, but my sister Audrey has taken a different path. She’s the academian. Of course she’s up to date with what happens on a regular basis, but it’s more my brother and I who are involved in the business.
My mom takes care of the economy.
I pushed a lot for developing Broadway into a more accessible brand, giving life to our website, more social media presence and a more well-curated collection.
My brother, Noam, started working in the store every day after school when he was 13. Now he’s 19 and works in the store full time. He has great instinct on what’s popular around the corner and really speaks to a new audience with for example the hype of the basketball culture.
My dad continues to work with a bit of everything, but he mainly brings the network and procurement to the table.
At the end of the day we all work across boundaries and are really synched.
HB: How has growing up with the business shaped your personal life?
NA: We’ve grown up with history lessons. Some people learn history from books. I’ve learned history through items whether that’s clothing, jewelry or cars. It has expanded my view on the world and made me deeply curious in how everything is linked.
HB: Your interest goes beyond vintage clothing. You’re deep in all things old and beautiful. Cars, watches, furniture, music. Were you directly educated in this by your parents or has this been something you’ve explored yourself?
NA: My parents have given me curiosity which I’m deeply grateful for. The curiosity to explore for myself. But of course I’ve been exposed to all the things you mentioned and received an informal education which has then propelled into my own kind of liking and interest.
HB: To someone who wants to learn more and become knowledgeable in the field of vintage, in what end would you recommend one to start?
NA: Start with what you like. Don’t go after anything else than that. Buy what you like and then explore that specific item further. Maybe the same pair of jeans you like were produced with a straight leg? Maybe that model was produced with a different colour of the thread? Maybe that model was produced with a selvedge welt? Then the rarity and uniqueness will follow and your appetite for learning more will follow. Think of the world of vintage as a tree. You start at the top with something you like and then you build from there.
HB: We know by now that you have a great interest in clothing but you also have an impressive car collection. Which ones you got now?
I got a green 1972 Volkswagen Beetle 1302 LS convertible.
A 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL convertible.
A 1943 Willys MB Jeep that I bought during a summer when I visited France. I had been looking for this car for a long time and was browsing the French version of Craig’s list and finally found one. The man who sold it to me was very sentimental but in the end his wife said “it’s either me or the car” which sealed the deal.
Then most recently I bought a 1984a Porsche 911 convertible in gold metallic.
Finally I also have a bike. A 1978 Honda CB500 in black.
HB: Don’t get me wrong, but people reading this might think you’re full of money and I know your way of living and collecting goes beyond that. Explain.
NA: Look. My father came to Sweden with 50 Francs. That’s about 50-60 euros in today’s value. He has worked, worked and worked. When he has earned some money he has bought something. It could be a car, a watch or whatever that appealed to him. Then that grew in value while he continued working. Then he sold something, bought something new and constantly grew the collection. It’s the same thing as investing in stocks. I’m not that good at it and I prefer to invest in things I can enjoy while also watching them evolve in value. It’s a pretty good model right? To enjoy your investments while letting them grow. Then you might sell it and pass it on.
HB: I think that’s a philosophy that appeals to many.
NA: Yet not many people does it right?
HB: I guess not. You do however need to have curiosity and some kind of knowledge if you want to see the things grow in value.
HB: The common denominator is that you like old things. I know you’re sporting a very special and close-to-heart watch today. What’s that that you got on your wrist?
NA: When it comes to watches I’m mostly drawn to what’s rare. I had been looking for a Le Forban Securité-Mer diver watch issued to the French Navy and Coast Guard in the late 1960s and 1970s. I couldn’t find it. I was looking and looking and looking.
And for my birthday this year my best friend surprised me with it. I was blown away.
That’s a watch that means a lot to me and that possess a lot of sentimental value.
HB: Walk me through the rest of your watch collection.
I got one Patek Philippe Ellipse ref. 3931 from the 1980s in stainless steel and black alligator strap.
One Zodiac Super Sea Wolf ref. 722.936 diving watch from the 1970s.
One Omega Speedmaster Golf with a racing green dial.
One 1680 Rolex Submariner
One Panerai ref. PAM141 with a black dial and black leather strap.
And then the Le Forban as mentioned.
On the topic of watches I wanted to chat a bit more with Noam who takes things to the next level when it comes to the interest in the space.
HB: I wanted to touch base on watches. But before I do: you’re a few years younger than your brother. What roles have you taken in the family?
Noam Asseraf (NoA):
Nathaniel has always been the big brother. The guy I’ve looked up to. He was always first with everything. Had nice friends who I thought were cool. You know very classic in that regard.
He really took things to the next level with Broadway. After finishing high school he started structuring the store which was well in need of an update. He updated the assortment, changed the structure and really did an overall facelift of the entire store. It was as if a fresh breeze had blown through the store. Parallel to that he took Broadway online and developed the e-store while also developing the content, social media and so on. He really deserves a lot of credit for that.
I started working in the store when I was 13. Every day after school I went to the store and it actually had to do with the fact that I wanted to wait until the shop closed so I could get a ride home from my mom because it took forever with the train. We have a vintage Coke vending machine in the store which I used to sell Coca Cola from to the kids. It was a nice start.
And you know then things developed. I started working more and more and now I just finished high school and work full time in the store which is a perfect transition as Nathaniel is working quite a lot with Casatlantic, even if he still works a lot with Broadway.
HB: You’re very humble. I know that you bring a lot of perspectives too.
NoA: I think I attract a younger audience and speak the same language as the kids. It’s been a big wave of basketball culture and all things Nike. That’s something I’ve brought into the store and really given the customers. Then I’ve tried to widen the kids views and show them that you can actually wear a pair of Air Jordan’s with a military jacket. And that kind of style has developed as I see it which has then gained our business to a great extent.
HB: And you can definitely tell that when you’re in the store. There are customers in all ages ranging from 15 to 50.
NoA: Exactly and that’s what’s so great with the family constellation. I might speak with the younger ones and then it’s perfect for Nathaniel to speak to the slightly older ones. It’s a good balance you know.
HB: I know you’re deep into watches.
NoA: It’s a rabbit hole. A very exciting rabbit hole.
HB: How did your interest start?
NoA: I remember going with my dad to the bank safe. He showed me a “Tudor Big Block” which Rolex was producing at the time. Early 90s. When I saw that the universe opened. I was blown away and my curiosity was lit. From there I started buying books. Wishing books for Christmas. Started following and covering auctions. Started researching online. And so on. This was about 7 years ago.
HB: And which was the first watch you bought for yourself?
NoA: A purely new Rolex GMT from an authorized dealer. Much thanks to my dad who had contacts in the space. They called him and said that they’ve received it. I had about 60-70% of the money and then my dad chipped in the rest. Then I worked off the money I had lent bit by bit. I didn’t use the watch one single time until my debt was settled. And the funny thing? Just when I had repaid the last penny I sold it.
NoA: It had grown so much in value and I had eyes on another beauty I wanted.
HB: Which was?
NoA: Rolex Submariner “The Hulk”. And then I built from there. I started feeling that The Hulk was a bit too ordinary and were drawn to more vintage watches which had a higher degree of rarity to them. So I bought a 1680 Rolex Submariner from 1978.
HB: So which ones do you have in your collection today?
NoA: The 1680 submariner, a Panerai and a plastic watch from Swatch. Keeps the time better than any of the Rolex ones I’ve had and it’s purely because it runs on battery.
HB: Dream watch?
NoA: I have two. 6265 Rolex Albino. And Rolex Double Red Sea Dweller Mark II.
HB: The most beautiful watch you’ve seen live?
NoA: 6241 Paul Newman which my dad sported at a wedding in Paris.
HB: You’re also into jewelry and you often carry the turquoise hanger. What’s the story?
NoA: 1987 two Mexican brothers are standing outside of NK (department store in Sweden). They’re called The Chevez Brothers. They’re crafting their own jewelry and selling to customers. My dad starts talking with them and learns that they are paying a ridiculous rent to NK so he offers them to stand outside the Broadway store and do the same thing but without any rent. Which they did for about 4 months. As a thank you they let dad design a few pieces of which one is the turquoise hanger that I wear very often. It lies very close to my heart.
Back to Nathaniel
HB: You started your own brand, Casatlantic, last summer. What made you do it?
NA: As I’ve grown and matured I’ve had an increasing desire to learn more about my roots. I’ve always been very close to my grandfather and been inspired by the fact that no matter if he’s “old” he has been sporting a pair of converse with camo trousers and an oversized shirt.
As my curiosity to learn more about our origins grew he showed more and more pictures of how he and his friends dressed when they were young. Military clothing with alterations made by local tailors if you will. Perfectly fitted trousers with an army shirt.
I was deeply moved and inspired by that style and wanted to bring that into life as it was hard finding something similar on the market. And from there I built the foundation to Casatlantic.
HB: You’re incredibly creative and I know you always get new inspiration from all angles of life, but is there a core and red thread that you keep coming back to when developing your brand?
NA: So true. I take influences and inspiration from everything. But one thing I always come back to is my grandfather. He, his style and his origin are a very good filter.
HB: I have the fortune of following and testing your trousers on a continuous basis and what struck me is how much you know about pattern design, fabrics and overall expertise in clothing. How did you learn all this?
NA: Nah not so much to be honest. I had a vision of how I wanted my pieces to look and then I showed the artisans in Casablanca exactly how I wanted it to be. Then I built from there and teamed up with a pattern designer who is a true master.
HB: You are 28 years old now. How would you describe Nathaniel in the following years of your life. What phase where you in and what did you mostly focus on?
NA: Interesting question.
HB: You’re definitely in the phase of execution.
NA: Let’s see. Let’s see.
After a long conversation I reflect on the energy Nathaniel always brings to the conversations. He’s pure curiosity. Pure passion. Pure excitement. And for that it’s no wonders why he seldomly drinks coffee. Life and it’s hidden gems is what brings this man his energy.