German handmade products are back in fashion | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 01.03.2012
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German handmade products are back in fashion

Manufactures are currently experiencing a comeback in Germany. Some 1,000 firms make handicrafts in the country, and they've launched a joined initiative to advertise their products.

There was a small pair of scissors lying on the table. Those attending the dinner were to use it to cut open the serviette ribbons. The scissors were filigree, and yet appeared to be solid. The blades were sharp and elegant. The cutting devices were made by the Paul Scissors Manufacture based in the northern German state of Lower Saxony.

The company has been making scissors in the old handicraft tradition exclusively in Germany for over 125 years.

The European Hall in The Foreign Ministry in Berlin had probably never looked so festive before. The dinner was classy. The guests – entrepreneurs, journalists and representatives for industry associations - had come from all over Germany and further afield.

Joint objective

"Ladies and gentlemen, you're sitting on chairs from the Thonet manufacture, the lanterns come from the Engels Kerzen candle maker, the wine glasses were made by the Freiherr von Poschinger glass manufacture, and the plates for the starters come from the Royal Porcelain Manufacture in Berlin", said the chairman of the Initiative of German Manufactures, Michael Schröder.

Schröder addressed the audience with a lot of pride as he looked around in the hall. He was a bit nervous. After all, this dinner with several hundred guests, including German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, was something out of the ordinary.

The manufactures, which provided the table and hall decorations that night, can look back on a combined history of 2,600 years. In a way, they are the embodiment of the German economy, with their products standing for reliability, top-notch quality and tradition.

And they are no longer fighting alone. They've launched an initiative to market themselves together.

Not just cars or machines

"They've been doing something that the digital world is not capable of. They show that not only cars, chemical products or machinery come from Germany, but also down-to-earth handicraft made with a lot of care," said Florian Langenscheidt whose publishing house German Standards had just presented a book about 70 German manufactures.

It's a book that's already being sent to all German trade chambers abroad, embassies and foreign representations. It'll most likely prove to be a hot-selling item when it comes to picking a present for guests.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was sure his colleagues had already ordered a few copies, and he called the book a piece of good advertising for Germany.

Handmade shoe

Quality means everything to shoemaker Kay Gundlack

"Believe me, there was a life before the mobile phone and the e-book," Westerwelle said with a slight ironic undertone. It was still a special thing to hold a printed book in one's hands, he added. "Let us show others a nice bit of Germany with that book," Westerwelle said as he sat down at the table, which was decorated with plates from the porcelain manufactures of Dibbern and Fürstenberg.

Drawing international attention

Twenty-one journalists from abroad were among the guests that evening. They came from China, Saudi Arabia or the United States. They had spent a couple of days in Germany visiting manufactures up and down the country and learning a thing or two about the quality of German handmade products.

Phillip Inman, who writes for the British newspapers The Guardian and The Observer jotted down that the German Foreign Minister specifically said he thought there was nothing wrong in putting in a good word abroad for the quality of German products and Germany as a good business location. "Our well-being is based on this quality," Westerwelle explained.

The journalist from the UK wondered why Westerwelle made this remark that sounded so self-evident to him. In Britain, he said, it had long been quite normal that foreign policy also invariably included foreign economic policy.

And then he started looking at the loudspeakers from which a clarinet concert by Mozart was filling the air. "Are those loudspeakers also handmade," the journalist asked. They were indeed, coming from the Berlin-based Burmester manufacture.

The company's high-end loudspeakers are handicraft masterpieces - second to none among the products available in this category on the world market.

Author: Manuela Kasper-Claridge / hg
Editor: Nicole Goebel