AugustMan’s Editor, reflects on growing up with Braun Büffel and how far it has come since its days as gift of choice for fathers everywhere
Braun Büffel has over a century of heritage but something needs to be said. Anyone can attest to the fact that, absent knowledge of this, the general consensus is that they’re makers of quality leather goods.
The secondary perception of this German brand is that the longevity and robustness of its products would appeal to our fathers and favourite uncles. After all, who could forget walking into a department store with our mothers and trying to pick out a suitable gift for that beloved patriarch of the family, while keeping within budget? And, with the perfect ratio of value and premium, Braun Büffel was always the go-to brand.
Some years ago, I happened to speak to Christiane Brunk, the managing director and owner of Braun Büffel, and the fourth generation of the family. I found myself musing about being the second generation of my family to have entered a career in media and fashion, and whether Braun Büffel’s products would appeal to my career-honed aesthetic sensibilities today.
Christiane saw herself as a change-maker at the brand. Indeed, the vagaries of fashion give ample opportunities for leather goods makers to falter under the inertia of legacy and history. Often, opportunities for change slip by under the guise of sticking to “brand DNA”.
“Evolution is ket to reinventing a brand that’s been around for over a century. To be classic, one has to evolve”
What I discovered surprised me: the large Explorer Tote bag, a pillar in Braun’s design vernacular, appealed to me from both the perspective of aesthetics and functionality. It makes a great companion whether I am dressed for corporate engagements or pared down in the street-linguistics of hoodie and cargo trousers.
The durability and toughness emblematic of Braun Büffel is all there, and yet at the same time, it is undeniably a product of daring avant-grade design from the mind of creative director Fabio Panzeri. Panzeri is himself an iconoclast. Trim, fit and sporting two sleeves of tattoos, the 50something is a 30-year design veteran who had previously shaped aesthetics at Prada, Helmut Lang and Dolce & Gabbana. He has honed a design language that isn’t just attractive to me, but also spoke to me in terms of self-identity.
Father And Magazine Editor
We are not just our careers. Prior to the pandemic, I had chanced upon Braun Büffelʼs new concept store at Changi Airportʼs Terminal 2, and the minimalist me was drawn to the monochrome palette of marble and concrete. The aesthetic isn’t one I previously associated with Braun Büffel, so I was surprised.
Walking through the store and seeing Panzeriʼs new designs, I witnessed exploration and evolution by the brand. For once, it was no longer “my fatherʼs brand” but something that appealed to me personally. Ironically, I myself have become a father and this was the sort of thing that I would buy for myself today.
Products like the Explorer tote are reminiscent of the pilot helmet bag I recognised from watching the Iron Eagle movies as a boy with my father, but today, it is updated with asymmetrical functional outside pockets combined with a spacious main compartment. A designer tote bag becomes a stylish yet immensely practical menʼs carryall, perfect for organising the many essentials required in the life of a magazine editor and a father.
During the workweek, it carries a laptop, Sony Nex mirrorless camera with macro lenses, and a leather pochette which holds a myriad of charging cables, portable chargers and disk drives. Itʼs a lot of baggage, not to mention the incidentals like interesting books I find at the bookstore or picking up a carton of milk on the way home.
During weekend rambles ‒ usually with my two young daughters to the neighbouring skate-park ‒ Iʼm typically pack water bottles, spare change of clothes, knee and elbow guards, and an iPad (for daddyʼs sanity). Could I carry all these accessories in a nondescript military bucket bag? Sure, but then one would be denying themselves any aesthetic pleasure.
Cordura Nylon paired with Nappa leather, the Explorer collection would fit the US Psychological Associationʼs definition of aesthetic pleasure: “a contemplative pleasure that arises from the perception of the object, mental image and recognition of the aesthetic qualities as well as the participation of the cognitive faculties to be fulfilled”.
Braun Büffelʼs latest collection checks all the right boxes, right down to the black ceramic finished hardware magnetic enclosures that can be manipulated with a single hand. Whether its proffering a packet of wet tissues to clean ice-cream smeared hands or fishing out a name-card while attending a media event, the functional tactility and visual artistry is not just a statement of style, but representative of the man Iʼve grown to become: a gentleman with a penchant for timeless classicism and athleticism.
Earlier last month, I had a lunch with Panzeri, discovering many simpatico perspectives and values that partially explain why Braun Buffelʼs Back to Origin collection engenders such an emotional reaction from me. Curious as to my attraction, I asked him, what was the secret.
“Evolution is key to reinventing a brand thatʼs been around for over a century,” he said, “To be classic, one has to evolve.”
Indeed, we are our fathers, evolved.
Photos: Allen Tan
Styling: Amos Chin
Grooming: Zoel Tee