Fashion, completely naturally by Markus Meindl
BY SANDY STRASSER
Smooth, robust, timeless and individual – that’s how the products from Meindl are supposed to be. Like a second skin. Alpine and urban ideology dictate the design language of the company. Owner and CEO Markus Meindl lives for this subject and for his brand - which has been producing the finest clothing for 11 generations - and so a design language which links both worlds together has developed over the past few decades. The look of a modern mountain-city dweller, so to speak. He doesn’t just dress the alpine folk in high-class trousers and jackets – celebrities throughout the world love his products too.
The company, with its headquarters located in the Bavarian municipality of Kirchanschöring, was founded in 1935 and represents a prestigious international brand with a unique profile. One with style, charm and character. The highest quality, best materials and craftsmanship are the credo of all Meindl products. Today, craftsmanship is still used in production when the hand is superior to machines in terms of sensitivity. Machines are used when technical intelligence helps – in production and logistics. Articles of clothing are carefully processed with up to 60 hours of handiwork. Materials such as oil-tanned stag and deer leather from domestic tanneries and the finest goat and reindeer leather are processed and refined. And of course, the materials are subsequently dyed their respective colours entirely by hand.
CEO Markus Meindl runs the company together with his father in the third generation. However, the family has been practicing the art of leather processing since 1683. It was in this year that Petrus Meindl was documented as the first shoe-maker in Kirchanschöring. Since then, there has continuously been a Meindl as shoe-maker in the Bavarian municipality. In 1928, Lukas Meindl, Markus Meindl’s grandfather, decided to lay the cornerstone for the family business which has steadily been developing ever since, and has been carrying out all types of tailoring work. In 1934 he began with the production of leather clothing. Everything which was needed was manufactured.
The end of the Second World War was also a new start for the production. Leather clothing was mainly manufactured with paid labourers because as a result of the cultivation in the post war years, there were hardly any materials available for purchase. In 1948, Alfons, the son, joined the family business – for the first time the family name appeared on the local shoe market. The market was explored and analysed bit by bit, and the first niches were discovered. The family saw ski boots, work boots and walking boots as their great opportunity. They specialised in these areas and steadily built up production step by step. In the following years, new clothes lines were designed, and strategies and new products were developed and introduced at international trade fairs. Shoes and leather clothing found loyal customers worldwide and the family continued to steadily expand production in Kirchanschöring. However, because there were not enough seamstresses and a growing number of people all over the world wanted to buy Meindl products, the search began for new production locations abroad, in Italy and Austria.
A milestone in the history of the family company: in 1987, Hubert Hillmaier was the third German mountain climber to stand at the top of the world – on Mount Everest - in Meindl shoes. At the beginning of the new millennium, a far-reaching cooperation with BMW motorbike and Meidl meant the development and manufacture of special motorbike clothing for the group. A few years later, Porsche knocked at the door – an international fashion collection for Porsche Design was created. Today, the product portfolio ranges from tailor-made leather clothing and clothing made of high-tech materials as well as the best cotton, loden and linen fabrics, to tailor-made, oil-tanned leather furniture.
Mr Meindl, what does your brand stand for?
Markus Meindl: Modernity, authenticity, honesty, responsibility, sustainability and timelessness. We are quiet, loyal and reliable. And we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We are a brand which is down to earth. We produce with respect – respect for our history, our fellow men and for nature. We manufacture products with soul. Products which are needed and valued.
What does identity mean for you?
M. M.: It is the accumulation of the above empirical values. For me it is very important to maintain these values which are necessary for the identity. We have been working on this for decades and have invested a lot of time, money and work into being true to it. Identity is what distinguishes a brand. It has to be credible. ‘Authentic luxury’ is top priority for these values.
How can a high-quality and authentic leather product be recognised in your opinion?
M. M.: It speaks a language. You can see it in the details and the haptics. The fit and feel are signs of the high quality of a leather product. The majority of the features can’t be seen but felt. The brand takes particular responsibility for the credibility of the inner values.
The tanning at Meindl is an ancient tradition of craftsmanship and requires a lot of experience and handicraft. A tannery needs three to four months in order to create a quality product according to its criteria. What are these criteria and how do you select your partners?
M. M.: Our partners have been working for us for decades. We work together very closely and fairly - in good times and in bad as the saying goes. We work with tanneries which comply with environmental standards. These are exclusively European tanneries from EU countries.
What cultural meaning does hunting have for you personally and for your company?
M. M.: Hunting is a passion for me. Hunting is an experience. Life in the countryside and with nature, in the mountains is what the fascination is all about for me. It is passion and hobby at the same time. The animals are respectfully hunted and killed and then they find a place in our community. For me, it is an honourable task to make things from these skins which allow us to be proud of this ‘culture of experience’.
Hunting has values in society which are very difficult to find today. There are clear rules and very close, valuable friendships. There is a lot of appreciation for the products which are created as a result of hunting and which are used for hunting again. This ranges from meat to stag horn buttons. Everything is responsibly processed.
Next to all this success, the steadily grown company culture and tradition is still the core of everything today. “It is more of a duty”, says Markus Meindl. “We lay great value on the care and maintenance of this tradition. Today we bring technical innovation and craftsmanship together more than ever and choose materials according to ecological aspects. For decades we have been spending a lot of time with products which accompany us in daily life. Products which are timeless and whose best before date does not depend on a fashion season. Our employees and the related experience are our capital, Meindl values are present everywhere where Meindl is written.”
The entrepreneur Markus Meindl was born in Freilassing in 1970. At an age of eight he was already helping his father in the family business and made his first school satchels - at 15 his first jacket. After his Abitur (A-levels) he completed his training as a clothing technician. At the age of 21 he successfully completed a tailoring apprenticeship at a renowned men’s tailor and returned to Kirchanschöring. Since 1994, he has been the creative brain of the 120-man team of Meindl. His credo: respect for tradition and a bond to real values.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue Q4 2015. Picture credit © Sammy Hart