The Designer Who Wants To Do The Right Thing

Fabio Panzeri, Braun Buffel’s new creative director, isn’t just refreshing the German brand; he is also ramping up its efforts to do right by the environment.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

On paper, it sounds like a perfect fit: a designer of 30 years who has designed leather goods at brands O 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.

“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.”

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 off cuts from the season.

He also makes sure to procure leathers which are tanned without the excessive use of chromium, and aims to use more vegetabletanned 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.”


My Reading Room
1. The Space Bully Drawstring Backpack is made only from leather offcuts. 2. The Kelis Clutch features futuristic geometric detailing and is a day-to-night accessory. 3. Made of neoprene, the Kirk Drawstring Backpack is flexible and lightweight enough for daily use. 4. The Harrison Backpack is a 16-hour bag that takes the user from office to gym, and even overseas. 5.The Z-Gen Clutch features the brand’s new retroflex reflective fabric underneath a perforated nappa leather outer.