An entrepreneur is an easy word to use but a tricky one to achieve. Making the best choices as well as choosing the right opportunities is a quality not to neglect. A wrong one could take you down, and a good one… you never know.
Hugo Boss mastered the subject. Using his determination to follow his heart while operating in the most controversial environment, he managed to create a history no other brand will ever possess.
The spirit of a winner
Born in Metzingen, Germany, in 1885, Hugo Ferdinand Boss grew up into fashion. His family was in the lingerie business. However, he did his apprenticeship s a merchant and was enrolled in the german army for his military duty for 2 years. After his service, he decided to use his apprenticeship and worked in a textile factory. Nothing was really successful for him, he preferred turning himself towards the army again. He ended up going home early since Germany lost World War 1. His mind of steel pushed him to finally follow his dream and open his own fashion company producing work clothing for the postal service and the national railroad, Hugo Boss AG in 1923.
Unfortunately, in the late 20’ the depression hit Germany which stopped his business. As a good entrepreneur, he saw a good opportunity to fight since the fashion industry in Germany was carried out by Jews who left an empty market after the political measure taken by the Nazis.
He joined seriously the Nazi party and got a minimum amount allowing him to continue producing. His success was either based on his willingness to collaborate or on his economical instinct.
A strong identification
Hugo Boss worked really hard to maintain his company over the water as well as giving his time to Hitler’s party. He went up in ranks and late 20’, he became “Reichszeugmeisterei”-licensed supplier. In 1928, an advertisement pushed him directly to the top, citing him as the sole supplier of the German army. He supplied uniforms for the Hitler’s youth, for the SA but also the SS. By 1932, he had already made the mythical full black SS uniform.
Hugo Boss has always been about imbuing a piece of clothing with power, masculinity at its highest point. The association, although negative, fitted perfectly with what Hitler was looking for. Moreover, fashion of all time reflects society, the aura of a piece is important and can be dangerous. Hitler knew that and Hugo Boss had the skills to translate its vision into fashion.
By the end of the war and during the denazification process, Hugo Boss lost his company as well as his voting rights. His daughter continued the company with her husband. They goldened the name of Hugo by applying perfectly the boss part. They put Hugo boss as what exactly a man should wear. The company had a bad advertisement after this scandal but recovered quite quickly after the creation of the first men’s suit in 1953, which Hugo boss never saw because he died in 1948. When Boss’ grandchildren took over the company after their parents, it became a reference for formal menswear. Hugo Boss was the first brand having created a real identity. In 1980 Hugo boss developed in new market by developing its range of products, fragrances, dress shirts, sportswear, knits, and leatherwear.
The end of the family control in 1992 was beneficial. Mazzotto holding the majority pushed Hugo Boss to the international scene developing new collections and style with Baldesarini as fashion designer and house director.
Fighting the controversy
Fashion renew itself; trends and collections are temporary, and every mistake can be recovered. However, it could be harder for Boss to completely recover. Two reasons could not help the brand balance the controversies.
Boss followed opportunities, he was an economical strategist and his choice to save his company and work for the Reich could be understand. What can’t be the part where he used prisoners, jews and women to work for him as slaves. Looking forward in the present, what’s the place of this in a contemporary world? Past won’t be forgotten but time has healed the wounds eventually.
Another dimension is the aesthetic one. With the uniform, Boss lost the individuality by creating a collectivity. Adding to the association of the design with violence, darkness and secrecy, re-branding is an everyday challenge.
The specific historical background of Hugo Boss is a proof of a strong identity and this impressive determination has allowed the brand to never stop renewing itself. It may be the reason why it’s link with the nazi faded.
The success of Hugo Boss is therefore based on its perfect understanding of the fashion world and its adaptability to new days. Boss as an entrepreneur demonstrated his determination for success and has left a remarkable legacy to his successors.