Photo: Braun Buffel
On paper, it sounds like a perfect fit: a designer of 30 years who has designed leather goods at brands like Prada, Helmut Lang, Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein, and a German brand respected for its leather expertise.
But in person, Panzeri is not quite the sort of creative force we would associate with Braun Buffel (BB). He sports two full-sleeve tattoos, is a passionate environmentalist and animal lover, speaks bluntly about the brand (“I didn’t like its style before I joined”), and admires the avant-garde works of Rick Owens, his favourite designer. But it all makes sense when you realise that that’s exactly why the 49-year-old Italian is here: to overturn – not keep – the status quo at the 132-year-old brand.
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“When I first saw Braun Buffel, I thought the craftsmanship, quality and prices were good – there was good potential – but still a lot of work to do,” says Panzeri. “It’s a big challenge for sure, but that’s why it’s fun. I am not a person who likes to stay in my comfort zone.”
Since his appointment in June 2017, he has launched BB boutiques with new concepts, like the one at Changi Airport T2 with a monochrome palette, marble and concrete as the main design elements (“I met with some resistance at first – it’s very not Braun Buffel”), redesigned staff uniforms, proposed installations at the boutiques, and directed the advertising campaigns.
As an environmentalist, Panzeri is helping to drive the use of more sustainable practices and materials at the brand. “I work closely with the factory to reduce wastage as much as possible during the leather-cutting process. We don’t want to waste good leather – we try to use every part for something.”
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For example, for this season’s Space Bully line, which features the brand’s sustainability mascot, Bully, all the bags and small leather goods are made of 100 per cent leather offcuts from the season.
He also makes sure to procure leathers which are tanned without the excessive use of chromium, and aims to use more vegetable-tanned leather in future collections. Chromium is an environmental pollutant and harms the health of workers who handle it for prolonged periods.
He is also revamping and renewing all the packaging collaterals. The new designs will use sustainable eco-friendly paper and eco-friendly ink.
“In upcoming collections, we are also planning to use more sustainable and eco-friendly materials such as recycled nylon.”
This story was first published on Her World's April 2019 issue.