The Art of Reinvention – Braun Büffel’s creative director, Fabio Panzeri, joins DAMAN’s Ricky Ronaldo in a chat about his first full collection for the house and the big changes happening to the 131-year old leather goods brand
Reinvention is a risky business, especially when it comes to Braun Büffel. As a leather goods and accessories brand, who for more than a century pioneered collections of classic elegance, changing that DNA into something else sounds nearly impossible to do. Loyal customers, for example, might not react suitably to the change. Yet styles have transformed drastically over the years, trends have shifted and customer behavior have changed. So while there are a lot of high stakes placed on the table, at the end of the day, a change is definitely needed for a brand to pull through, especially in this day and age where everything moves so fast.
Meet Fabio Panzeri, Braun Büffel’s creative director, who understand what customers wants today. Originally aspired to be a comic designer, the Italian designer joined the German house in June 2017, bringing it extensive experience designing leather goods for major luxury fashion houses before, including Prada, Helmut Lang, Etro, Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein. So seeing that Braun Büffel is a leather house, his appointment sounds like a natural match.
But Panzeri had a lot more planned. Ever since his appointment, Panzeri had slowly shifted the brand’s DNA into something more modern, whether through more street-savvy, non-leather or sportier pieces. Everything became clear at Braun Büffel’s spring/summer 2019 collection, which marks Panzeri’s first full collection of the house. Taking the theme “Retro Future Vision” with the catchphrase “The Future Is Now,” this collection marks a significant turning point of the 131-year leather goods brand, while at the same time, showcases Panzeri’s radical vision for the house.
DAMAN: Hi Fabio, thanks for having us. So this spring/summer 2019 collection marks your first full collection for Braun Büffel. What are you most excited about?
Fabio Panzeri: All. [Laughs] There is no special piece that I am very excited about. I’m excited now because I have finally changed a lot about the perception of the collection. It’s not just about leather goods; the classic Braun Büffel approach. I have the opportunity to mix and match new materials, not just leather but also neoprene and nylon. I play a lot with this kind of new materials. I also change the approach to a more unisex collection. I try to open more to the new and current market and I think that this is a good first step to change the brand.
DAMAN: Perhaps for a younger audience…
Fabio Panzeri: Yes, for sure. I think the market has really changed. The new generation would be our customer now and our customer in the future. So in this collection we didn’t just consider the previous customer—the classic customer, but the new generation as well.
DAMAN: How do you plan on merging the old and the new customers together?
Fabio Panzeri: For sure the approach would be more respectful to the environment. The new message is also more positive. We’re not only talking about our DNA here, because my idea of the spring/summer 2019 collection is to create a new DNA for the brand. That’s why “Retro Future Vision” is used because it is a combination of different point of views. Retro in respect of the previous DNA, such as the craftsmanship and quality, future to make this collection jump in the future—but the future is now because everything is so fast with technology and vision, as in my vision to move the brand to a new direction. Then I want to explore the next season with different cultures such as street style, while also considering the “Retro Future Vision.”
DAMAN: So is that why you used a space theme in Braun Büffel’s spring/summer 2019 collection?
Fabio Panzeri: Yes, because it is completely connected with the travel of everyday, and it’s not just about traveling from one nation to the other, but it is the travel in our life. We like to discover different approach of our lives in general. That’s why the Space Bully this season is unisex, because it’s our first signal to expose the message that this collection is for all. We’re here to cancel this kind of border now. And space, because it’s about flying to the future, it acts as a message as well to fly with the fantasy. I try to explore the self because it is another important of travel, to explore yourself.
DAMAN: How do you plan on spreading sustainability with the Space Bully line?
Fabio Panzeri: We always try to buy the good quality leather and by that we mean we don’t buy a lot of quantity, because there’s going to be a lot of waste. So we reduce a lot in this stage by using all this leather, so there’s zero waste. Secondly, we use more fabrics than leather in this collection. I start to use neoprene, because it is super light and waterproof, then mix it with the leather. Step by step, I want to move 50% of the collection into these new fabrics because the environmental impact of that is zero. You know, you can have a lot of bags without destroying this planet because this planet is just one, finish this and there’s no bag to buy [laughs].
DAMAN: Other than neoprene, you also used RetrofleX fabric in this collection. Can you tell us more about this fabric?
Fabio Panzeri: There’s a lot of influence in terms of athleisure. But I use this special material inside our bags just to have a touch to modernity and because it is a message for the future to move in a more sport and active way.
DAMAN: You also debuted a new design for the spring/ summer 2019 collection, the 16-hour backpack, can you tell us what inspired it and how is it different from the other collections?
Fabio Panzeri: I travel everyday from the office to my home or to the gym and I understand that there are a lot of professional people that comes to the gym. So with this, it’s really like a bag for all day. You can use it for the weekend, to the gym, or for work. So that’s why the name is 16-hour, because it is completely with you for a day.
DAMAN: Moving on, how do you balance your vision of the brand without comprising the brand’s DNA as a leather goods brand?
Fabio Panzeri: No compromise. [Laughs] If you stay in the middle you have no personality. You have to decide, I want to be modern or I want to be classic. But the classic market now has changed completely. Modernity means respecting the brand’s DNA through its craftsmanship and good quality but that can also be translated into new materials.
DAMAN: Undoubtedly one of the huge markets nowadays is the millennials. How do you think Braun Büffel is approaching this generation?
Fabio Panzeri: With my collection. [Laughs] For sure, it’s a big challenge for us to change so fast. But at the same time, I am really confident. I know I can lose some customer, but I am really sure that I will get much more customer. If you imagine a 60 to 65 year old customer, their mentality is, “I want my bag to be nice and expensive because this is my bag for a long term.” But on the other hand, the new generation wants something really cool, right here and right now. It’s not important if it’s leather or plastic, it’s better if it’s respectful to the environment because the message is everywhere. There is a new sensibility to understand that there is just one planet.
DAMAN: So overall, what story would you like to tell in the new collection?
Fabio Panzeri: The message is really positive, absolutely. For sure, there is more of my personality in this new collection. In the end, the collection I make is really modern.
DAMAN: Since Braun Büffel is a brand synonymous to luxury, can you tell us what does luxury itself mean to you?
Fabio Panzeri: I am sure now there is a new approach of luxury because the generation has changed a lot. There is a socio-political change every day and the perception of luxury is not related to the past, it’s not a question of the value of the leather or of the products, but it’s a value of style. I think to discover—or to approach—a new style is much more important than trying to sell something really expensive, because price is becoming relative now.
DAMAN: So when you’re designing a collection, where do you start?
Fabio Panzeri: Music. When I start listening to music, I start to travel in myself. In my office there is always music because without it I don’t work. I have a soundtrack for everything. When we do the shooting together, we organize the soundtrack before. Every season, there is a different soundtrack.
DAMAN: So what’s the soundtrack behind this collection?
Fabio Panzeri: There is a lot of electronic and industrial music. My favorite is metal but I listen to every kinds of music. There is a playlist on Spotify: “The Spring/Summer 2019” with soundtracks from Space Odyssey and artists like David Bowie. From there, you can start to visualize the collection and the mood. That’s why for this “Retro Future Vision” collection, I took inspiration from the spaceship. Inside the video campaign, there’s a story of three different personalities, one male, one lady and one android and it’s like three electronic music players. They fly around the universe to play music, and then I start to think what kind of bags this guy wants to bring with them flying in space from a different universe. And why is it different universe, because they are from different races and cultures. But the message is really positive because there are no differences from every culture, religion or sex. We are all together in the same level. This is also one of the things that I discovered when I move to Singapore, because it is really multiethnic and very respectful. It’s nice because I have friends of every style, race, religion and sex. I try to move this personal experience and translate that inside the collection.
DAMAN: One final question: How do you see Braun Büffel evolving further in the future?
Fabio Panzeri: With me? For sure. [Laughs] This is the first step, the “Retro Future Vision,” and then I want to explore all kinds of artistic approach as possible.
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