In an inner courtyard of the Hackeschen HÃ¶fe, a complex of traditional buildings and courtyards in the center of Berlin, elegant legs trip lightly over the blue-lit cobblestones, keeping time with dapper male feet shod in bespoke shoes. A few local celebrities can be observed mingling at the bistro tables in front of the brand new Edsor Flagship Store. Cameras click and ice cubes tinkle in cocktail glasses as Jan-Henrik M. Scheper-Stuke walks down the red carpet toward the lights. Passing through the crowd he shakes countless hands and then goes on to address the audience in his capacity as the brand's figurehead. He is followed by Federal Minister of Economics and Technology, Dr. Philipp RÃ¶sler, whose speech is an endorsement of family establishments in this day and age. A toast, some music and the evening is well underway. Yet another step forward in Edsor's time-honored brand history.
A day earlier, we met with the young entrepreneur at the manufactory. It is located in an anonymous courtyard in Berlinâ€™s Kreuzberg district, a setting so humble as to be almost provocative. However, a few steps up, in the waiting room and the showroom, the brand experience makes itself clearly felt â€“ indeed it is almost clinging to the WMF vases and whispering among the antique cupboards and cabinets that give the venue its character. Two silver horse-head figures are mounted on the wall, each with an exclusive cravat dangling from its mouth. Next to them a sofa with dark red upholstery on which a few tired sunbeams rest after having found their way through the high windows earlier during the day. As yet, it is unoccupied.
Half an hour later, a young man comes rushing into the waiting room, white as a sheet and obviously somewhat under the weather. His greeting words, however, are surprisingly energetic. Within seconds he has delivered a complete explanation for his lateness with an overwhelming display of syntactical fireworks. In our surprise that such an exhausted-looking person could immediately start firing off a long and convoluted monologue, we find it difficult to follow his account from start to finish: Bow too tight, no air, too much work, two years without a break, it had to happen, a stay at the hospital, but now it's time to continue, opening tomorrow â€“ some water? No chance to get in a word edgewise, let alone ask questions, before Jan-Henrik M. Scheper-Stuke has already latched on to the next topic. His apologies for the delay are so profuse that we are almost ashamed to demand more time from the obviously packed schedule of this extremely busy young man. After calling out a brief, yet friendly greeting to several employees who are busy in the next room, he starts telling us what it is that has taken over his life so completely these past two years: Edsor and its development.
I never had the urge to rebel. There was nothing I really wanted to change. Doing drugs never appealed to me, and not wanting to excel was not an option. I find mediocrity dull.
"My father ran his own agricultural holding which one of my brothers has taken over in the meantime. Hunting as well as breeding pigs and cattle are his passion. Which is fine, but not at all my world. Mercifully there is another side to the family that is dedicated to aesthetics. This is where my passions lie." Already during his time at boarding school Jan-Henrik stood out from the rest. Instead of wearing the tie that was part of the dress code, he preferred to knot himself a bow tie from the same material. Thanks to his family's background and their long-standing tradition, Jan-Henrik was and remains the only student ever to receive permission for this. Since that day he has hardly ever been seen without a bow tie. "In fact, one can say that from that point in time onwards I started living our brand."
He's never had a lot of spare time, but "always time enough to do everything.â€³ Class representative, student body president â€“ always at the top, always on time, and not yet thirty.
Getting older does not worry me. People who don't want to grow older, don't want to experience development.
Time definitely has become a luxury ("If I had time, I'd play more golf again. And not badly either.") since he decided to lead the brand in a new direction. His aim is to leave what works, but to infuse new zest into those divisions that need a boost. His strategy of choice has been to become the brand ambassador himself. Something he does with enormous conviction. And which explains why it is his face we see looking at us from billboards and in brochures. ("I inherited the good bone structure of my mother.") Taking charge of communications entirely, he plans to recreate the brand as an internationally sought-after niche product.
When a brand has fallen into decline, it takes at least 5 years for it to recover.
GÃ¼nther H. Stelly, his godfather and the former managing director of the company, introduced the ambitious young man to manufacturing. In 2010, Jan-Henrik assumed the role of managing director while GÃ¼nther H. Stelly continued as the leading designer, responsible for the three thousand fabric patterns they design annually.
Meanwhile, due to our initial delay, it is almost three o'clock. A large number of the employees have already left. Many of the wares are produced by homeworkers who deliver and pick up their assignments around noon. By the middle of the afternoon, the premises have become very quiet indeed. Jan-Henrik M. Scheper-Stuke reaches for the phone that stands on an Art Deco side table. And suddenly, we become aware that the mode of conduct in this establishment is extremely formal.
We prefer to employ a formal mode of address. In our opinion, it leads to a more respectful business relationship than the over-familiar tones that are generally adopted nowadays.
In truth, it's a bit hard to imagine lighthearted banter on first-name terms between this carefully groomed and faultlessly attired epitome of aristocratic style and his employees. What does catch our eye â€“ although this may be just an example of a consistent brand experience â€“ is the listing of names next to the pushbuttons on the telephone: all names are prefixed with "Herr" or "Frau". Jan-Henrik M. Scheper-Stuke presses the pushbutton labeled Frau Hartmann. "Mrs. Hartmann, hello, it's me. You were just on your way out? â€“ Ah, I see. Would you mind giving our guests a short demonstration?" We give a wave to indicate it is not that important. But he waves back at us. Lowering the phone and covering the mouthpiece with a slender hand, he whispers: "She'll do anything for me, don't worry," playing the role he has created for himself to perfection.
Up in the atelier, Mrs. Hartmann patiently stitches a cravat for us with precise, exquisite craftsmanship. Her movements reveal years of practice, and she could probably tailor a tie with her eyes shut. Annually, the manufacturer Edsor Kronen prepares two exclusive collections made of the finest Italian silks, their fabric of choice from the very beginning. As Jan-Henrik disappears behind a few brightly colored fabric bales to conduct a phone call, Mrs. Hartmann smiles and says: "It has become a tad more hectic since he joined us," and then continues to stitch in calm, precise movements.
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