Four generations. One legacy. German maker of leather goods Braun Buffel certainly has something to be proud of. The family-run brand remains just as relevant today as it was first founded back in 1887.

Braun Buffel started as a saddlery and upholstery business. It was in Kirn – more famously known as Germany’s town of leather, that the late Johann Braun first plied his trade.

The years however, have afforded Braun Buffel a steadfast and stable growth. Its products are no longer of the functional leather goods variety, but fashionable accessories as well.

“If you can maintain a family business through all these decades, I think it is really something to be proud of,” notes owner and managing director of Braun GmbH & Co KG Christiane Brunk.

Braun Buffel

Brunk is from the fourth generation of the Braun family to helm the business. Photo: The Star/Art Chen.

She happens to be from the fourth generation of the Braun family to helm the business. Johann is her great-grandfather. Both her grandfather and father had also continued on with the family trade.

According to Brunk, there is no real secret to the success. She thinks that the reason Braun Buffel has been well loved is because it listens to customers and meets their demands.

It goes without saying that the brand constantly maintains the quality of its craftsmanship. But as Brunk points out, the designers and people working with leather are focused on the details too.

“This is an aspect that is really crucial to the brand. I think in all these fast-changing periods – if you have core values that you maintain all the time, it could easily lead to success.”

A cause to celebrate

The 130th anniversary is an occasion that Brunk certainly feels very strongly for. Not surprising, as she has a deeply personal and emotional connection to the brand, having grown up with it.

“We had this event where we presented our history film. It was touching because I was involved in this film. That was a highlight. We also had Orlando Bloom coming to Singapore last month as part of the celebration,” she relates.

Brunk was recently in Kuala Lumpur in conjunction with the Braun Buffel anniversary milestone celebration, as well as for the launch of its Buffel Art Project here.

Since its inauguration in 2014, the project focuses on reinforcing Braun Buffel’s commitment towards supporting the two key pillars of art and philanthropy through community building.

There is also the Buffel Art Competition. This involves aspiring local artists and students from various Malaysian schools having a hand at personalising their own bull figurine.

Through its partners, the United Nations Children’s Fund and Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics Assessment Program, the project serves to strengthen the advocacy of equal education opportunities for all children and youth in Malaysia.

Braun Buffel

The Buffel Art Project raises funds and awareness on equal education opportunities for children.

“I find that their programme, which we are supporting right now, is a very important thing for the Asian region – which gives underprivileged children the same chances as other children,” states Brunk.

She further explains: “It is quite an important thing to take care of the education of children. I think education is a main factor to have a good life and to have equal chances.”

Old and new

Braun Buffel has unveiled a special collection to mark its 130th anniversary. The designs draw from the archives of the brand, and trace both its history and heritage.

Braun Buffel

The anniversary designs draw from the Braun Buffel archives.

“We came up with a range named after the wife of the founder, Katharina. The other is named after Johann himself. These are offered in very limited quantities worldwide,” says Brunk.

When asked about the challenges of balancing the old and new, Brunk states that the solution is to choose new materials. The new combination helps in making established forms trendy again.

“There are certain shapes that remain popular through the decades. The bags that the younger generation are wearing? We have seen them before, 20 or 30 years ago in our archives.”

It is this ability to adapt to change that has probably helped Braun Buffel weather the decades. Social media for example, is another thing Brunk has embraced – even if it has perplexed her.

“Sometimes, I need my daughter to explain it to me,” she jokes, adding, “It gives you opportunities to address your customers though. With social media you get an immediate feedback. I think this is quite interesting and I’m excited.”

The same global approach is what Brunk applies to growing the brand. From Germany to Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia and more, Braun Buffel has crossed borders.

“We were founded as a family enterprise, and we are still a family enterprise, but now, the family has grown, and the family has become international, and that’s wonderful,” she concludes.