Marie Claire had the pleasure of interviewing Christiane Brunk,owner and Managing Director of Braun GmbH & Co. KG during her recent visit to Kuala Lumpur to celebrate Braun Büffel’s 130 years anniversary.
What’s in store for Braun Büffel’s 130th Anniversary celebration?
This is a very interesting time for Braun Büffel because we started our celebrations in Singapore, and we had a fantastic event there together with Orlando Bloom. In Malaysia we will be starting the Braun Büffel art project, where we are working together with UNICEF. We will then move on to Indonesia, where we will be opening a new concept boutique. There are a lot of activities going all around the world celebrating 130 years.
Will you be launching a limited edition collection in conjunction with Braun Büffel’s 130th Anniversary?
We have a capsule collection which we have taken from our archives, the collections are named after my great-grandparents, Johann and Katharina. The Katharina handbag and the Johann a briefcase for men are both serialised editions, limited to only 130 pieces worldwide. An amount of the proceeds will be donated to UNICEF.
Being part of the fourth generation of the Braun Büffel family, how has the brand changed since its debut 130 years ago?
We have faced a lot of changes, but the brand is built on a stable foundation. I would say our dedication to the the craftsmanship, quality and brand are the main principles we have maintained throughout the decades. My great-grand father, he listened very closely to the demands of the consumers, he created for example the men’s clutch bag, its used as a cash bag where the merchants will keep their daily earnings to bring to the bank. This has always been a main principle and the brand listens very closely to our consumers needs. This is also why we changed our products slightly in being more fashion forward, having more brighter colours and using different types of leathers.
What traditional Braun Büffel values are maintained when designing a new product?
The clear focus on the quality of the workmanship, material and value for money aspects are key when designing a new product. We are also very innovate and open for new things. Function and style are also a key element.
How has your product range changed in the last century? Are the same items (bags, wallets, leather goods) still popular today as they were before, or have you seen designs change to fit latest trends?
Yes there are, especially for the men’s collection as they tend to be quite conservative. Especially with their wallets, all over the world if you are used to a certain wallet you wouldn’t want to change it. This is the good part, for the men’s collection we can remain with the successful styles and just modify the materials slightly. However for the ladies, we have to be more fashion forward because especially in the Asian region, we were more successful with the Buffy and Bully collection. This for me is a really good combination where we have fantastic designs, but also cover the sustainability aspect because we can make use of these leftover material. We also have a story to tell with Buffy and Bully, they travel around the world and there is a fun aspect that we can add to our product.
How has the brand evolved in the past 10 years in your role as Managing Director , especially with the rise in online shopping and social media?
We are very strong on our basis of having our own boutiques, I think the future of online shopping and social media is a challenge. But it gives you so many new opportunities because it also encourages our approach of being consumer driven, with the boutique you get direct feedback from your customers. We will be doing some projects linking our boutique experience to our online experience. I think online we are still at the beginning and this is also one of the crucial points for Braun Büffel. In certain areas its better not to be ahead of the trend but to see and carefully study and what is a good strategy for our brand.I think social media will bring us a lot of opportunities and we will have a younger audiences supporting us.
Your vision for Braun Büffel is to become a leading and sustainable global luxury-lifestyle brand. How are you achieving this?
By maintaining our traditional and core values but also to be innovative in the future. For example we are also using quite interesting material, an olive-oil tanned leather which is interesting because before olive leaves were burnt because there is not use for them. Now we make it into a liquid like a tea, (you can taste it) its Eco-friendly. We used this to dye our bags and this is the approach we should have for future innovation . We are also going into different project ranges like sunglasses, shoes and timepieces. The future for Braun Büffel is to maintain our core values but to add more products and more distribution channels. We try to use wastage materials and make new products, evident in the Buffy and Bully collection.
What is your opinion on luxury retail in Malaysia? How has the retail industry in Malaysia evolved since Braun Büffel’s debut ?
The Malaysian market is tough as in all markets in the luxury segment but I think we positioned ourselves as an affordable luxury brand where we are in a certain price point. The strong reputation in terms of quality and craftsmanship have created a certain client base that have becomes friends of Braun Büffel and I think in this way to steady growth.
How do trends differ in Asia and Europe? Are there specific items more popular in Asian than in Europe?
I think its especially a matter of colour, we have identified in the Malaysian market brighter colours are more accepted than in Germany. It’s also about the shape, now bags are becoming smaller. The trend started in Asia, bags become smaller. In Europe you always see ladies carrying huge bags, even myself. But we see that the sizes get smaller, and back packs are really popular here in Asia but not much in Europe. The backpack is a key item in Asia. The more I travel, the more I see the trends change between countries. If you are in Germany, Munich you will see this trend, women are using their bicycles to commute so they cannot hold on to a handbag, therefor they would opt for a backpack or a cross body bag.