Drapers speaks to the managing director of lingerie brand Hanro, Stephan Hohmann, about how the label stays true to its roots as it pushes future innovation.
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Premium underwear brand Hanro was founded in Switzerland in 1884 by the Handschin and Ronus families – their names were combined to form the brand’s name. The business prides itself on its craftsmanship and natural fibres, and has been championed by fashion muses such as Coco Chanel, Isadora Duncan, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.
Today, the business is run by Stephan Hohmann, who joined as managing director in 2006. He has focused on product innovation and quality, taking inspiration from the company’s history: “Heritage is not a contradiction to innovation. Heritage is just a base. Innovation has to come from the product.”
The core product is knitted underwear, which the brand has created since its early days, explains Hohmann: “Knitted means that you have elasticity and stretch. Our items are 100% cotton, and knitted cotton really clings to the body and stands for comfort.”
Today, the brand has 12 stores worldwide – in cities such as Gstaad, Vienna, Beijing and Beverly Hills – and has a presence in 50 countries worldwide. It has around 100 UK stockists, among them Fenwick, Harrods and Selfridges, as well as a London store on South Molton Street. Retail prices for womenswear range from £11 for a thong to £242 for pyjamas.
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Despite its global reach, Hanro is true to its Swiss roots, and the company is still based in its home country. The manufacturing process remains almost entirely in house, and all pieces are produced in western Europe. Yarns are knitted, finished and dyed by Hanro at its facility near Lake Constance in Switzerland, and then are sent to Portugal for assembly. Hanro manufactures all its own knitted fabrics, which make up 90% of the range, while woven fabrics are produced by a local Swiss manufacturer.
For Hohmann, this allows for greater control and exclusivity: “We don’t look to source from places such as Bangladesh. We need the quality control that comes from being nearby. If you go to Asia, they do excellent products, but you need much higher quantities than a premium brand wants.”
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He adds that local sourcing has additional appeal: “Our customers really ask where the products come from. And to make things in Europe is sustainable. The carbon footprint is much smaller, as our garments don’t travel around the world.”
Hohmann reports growth in the premium underwear sector: “On the one hand you have the chains offering varied price points – Intermissimi, for example. On the other hand, you have the quality customer, and this premium target group is growing. These are people who have an expectation for their product – they understand it. It’s a very strong trend.”
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Hohmann has also observed a shift in the needs of Hanro’s consumer. He notes the rising popularity of leisure, and says sleepwear is shifting into hybrid daytime products.
Natural fits and materials are a growing trend, and Hanro is designing accordingly, introducing a cotton version of its “spacer” T-shirt bra for spring 18.
“We’re focusing on soft and comfortable bras and non-wired bras,” says Hohmann. “We’re seeing a huge comeback of that natural form.”
In addition to shifting its product focus, Hanro is looking to its own stores to innovate and expand.
While the brand has ambitions to open two new stores a year, including more in the UK, Hohmann is cautious: “Stores can be very successful. When you read that stores are closing, it is probably because they were opened too fast. Our plan is to open depending on opportunity.
“So far we have been doing well. We have very loyal customers – they seek us out when they are travelling. This is one of the factors of our success.”