From the humble little town of Kirn in Germany, Braun Büffel has grown to become one of the most notable bags and leather goods brands around the world. This year, it celebrates its 130th-year anniversary, and it has brought the celebrations over to our side of the world. A family business that is currently in the hands of the fourth generation, spearheaded by managing director Christiane Brunk, we learn more about the brand’s celebrations, and what keeps it going for 130 years.
What do you think you have brought forth for the Braun Büffel brand for the years that preceded the 130th-year milestone?
Currently, as the fourth-generation’s representative of the founding family, it’s an honour to bring the brand into its 130th year. Every generation has done its utmost to bring the brand forward to the next generation, be it in quality or craftsmanship, but especially in terms of innovation—a set of principles that have stayed true to us over the years. In my case, it’s about being open minded to new challenges. This is now the digital era, but sometimes, I still need support from my daughter, teaching me the difference between Instagram and Snapchat, as I’m at an age when all these new technologies are unfamiliar to me (laughs)! I suppose, what I’ve added to the brand’s growing legacy is a more global approach to things, which is necessary to survive for any brand in this time and age. There is still plenty of room for growth while we operate from a very stable and solid foundation that is closely linked to the heritage and legacy.
What is it about the Braun Büffel brand that contributes to its perseverance for the last 130 years?
I would have to say the stable and steady growth we are on, the constancy of our pursuit. We may not be such a high-flying company, but it has always been in our strategy to listen closely to our consumers’ demands. This was done during my great-grandfather’s time, and it’s something we will keep doing to prepare ourselves for the future. Today, the consumers, especially those in the Southeast Asia region, not only want something stylish and fashion forward, but at the same time, sustainability and puristic designs. It’s our job to create more fashion-forward collections while adapting the core and traditional principles and bringing them into the modern world. Sure, there are certain guidelines that the designers have to follow in crafting a Braun Büffel bag, but nevertheless, we have to bear in mind what the market demands, as at the end of the day, we want to be economically successful as well.
How has Braun Büffel gone about the 130th-anniversary celebrations?
We had a fantastic start in Singapore, with a very special guest – Orlando Bloom. He has been a close friend of the brand for many years now, and has always loved our products, and despite the fact that he’s always engaged in his endeavours with UNICEF, and the many film projects he’s in as an actor, it really was a great pleasure for us to have him around for the celebrations in Singapore. Following closely across the causeway was the Büffel Art Project in Malaysia, an ongoing project which first started off in Singapore in 2014. For the instalment in Malaysia, we have invited six key opinion leaders from their respective disciplines in art to give us a snippet of their own vision of a Braun Büffel art piece. Whilst this project has been working with Very Special Arts Singapore in the neighbouring country, we are working with UNICEF Malaysia here, in which we focus strongly on education for children. Art is also a form of education for children and young ones, and by giving them a platform to present their artwork via the Büffel Art Project, we get to fulfil our objectives for better education with the partnership with UNICEF.
How is each personality selected for Büffel Art Project, and how does each of their different creative skills contribute to the project?
Despite our longstanding traditions, we strive to keep an open mind for inevitable changes coming our way and embrace them into our legacy. And I believe that the art project is the perfect platform to address the younger crowd with people and artwork that they can relate to. Each personality of the Büffel Art Project has their own approach with their own techniques that they practise from their different artistic disciplines, and have made them quite well known in the local scene. Together, we highlight the “unconventional” art form, something that you don’t necessarily see in a painting at a museum. To name a few, Silas Liew with fashion, Elizabeth Tan with music, Kenji Chai with graffiti art, Lynda Chean with tattoo art… much like the art of leather craftsmanship Braun Büffel has mastered through the generations.
Tell us more about the limited-edition 130th-year anniversary collections, and how they have written another chapter in Braun Büffel’s endeavour to bridge the old and the new?
Prior to the anniversary, we have delved deep into our archives, and found time-honoured designs that we could bring into the future by merely updating them for the modern generation. We zeroed in on a few archival shapes, and we fused them with our signature Gaucho leather that we have perfected over the years. I believe that when you’re celebrating a big milestone like the 130th anniversary, you should make a present for yourself and your customers, who have supported you along the way. A pat on your own back, if you may (laughs)! You know, a way to say we are proud of our timeless collections. For our anniversary collections, it’s our way to pay tribute to the founding family; the collections are named after my great-grandparents, Johann and Katharina, and they are both serialised editions, limited to only 130 pieces worldwide.
What is next for Braun Büffel following the 130th-year milestone?
We will focus on fully integrating ourselves into the digital world next, as many brands are doing or have done so right now all over the world. We have taken our first steps with the successful launch of our e-commerce platform in July last year. Besides our standing boutiques, it’s something that we will continue working on and improving in the coming years. Not only that, the digital era has also narrowed the gap between ourselves and the customers, which enables much closer dialogues with the consumers in understanding their demands, and come up with products that are more suitable for the consumers.