The name Hanro might not instantly spring to mind when thinking of iconic underwear brands, but the heritage Swiss label has been quietly driving the sector since being founded in 1884. Having seen women through world wars, ever-shifting fashion trends and societal movements, Hanro has led the way in fabric and design innovation. That unforgettable image of Marilyn Monroe’s skirt billowing around her from The Seven Year Itch? She was wearing Hanro underwear.
However, times are changing, and the brand has found itself in need of an image revamp. Trend-driven, industry disrupting “Instagram brands” are flooding the market and on the whole, people are buying less sleepwear. But with more than 130 years of expertise behind it, the brand isn’t threatened. “We see a lot of brands coming — and going… what people love about Hanro is its continuity,” says chief executive and managing director Stephan Hohmann over a coffee in Mayfair’s Hide restaurant, a light-filled locale that over looks London’s Hyde park.
Servicing the 30-55 age bracket, the brand has partnerships within Harrods (their most successful point of sale worldwide, Hohmann believes) and Selfridges in the UK, as well as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus in the US. This particular target demographic, he says, “have money and they know about quality. When you’re mature, you want something long lasting. [However,] our brand — in terms of product — isn’t old fashioned,” he insists.
Herein lies the challenge: As Hanro’s current target consumer continues to age, it must attract a new generation to ensure its survival, all the while maintaining the values and legacy of the brand. “The woman in the lacey night dress — that is the past,” says Hohmann. “We’re changing the image of the brand. We want modern pieces for a modern woman.” Indeed, key to the brand overhaul is designing multi-functional pieces that pieces blur the lines between loungewear and ready-to-wear. “With Hanro, you’re dressed,” he says simply. “Is it nightwear? If you want. If you want it to be a blouse, it’s a blouse. We’re moving away from traditional sleepwear.”
Communication will also be crucial to successfully updating the brand’s identity. Without advertising campaigns, the company’s on-the-ground retail staff are currently the most important communication channel between the customer and the brand. “Hanro is a product you have to explain,” says Hohmann. Of the premium price points — a pair of womens briefs can retail from £26 up to £86 — he says: “Every person selling our brand has to communicate why things are so expensive — we tell our story through our people.”
“We want to be perceived as a contemporary, modern brand, maintaining the DNA of Hanro”
Social media is an obvious avenue which the brand is beginning to engage with, but there are many aspects of the “story” which are going untold, particularly the inherently sustainable nature of the brand. “We make our own fabrics, our products don’t travel the world, they don’t come from far away, they’re made in Portugal in our own factory,” he explains. Thus, with water from the brand’s dying facilities being recycled and returned to Lake Constance (one of the biggest source of drinking water in southern Germany) the impact of its production practices is not out of sight, out of mind — it’s in their own backyard. “Sustainability has been good for business,” adds Hohmann. “It’s a huge opportunity — young people are really interested in sustainability — there’s a huge trend towards it.”
In early November, Hanro will launch a pop up store in Selfridges, a first for the brand. Lasting until Christmas, it’s one of many signs that the Hanro is opening up, ready to embrace opportunities, engage with new customers and publicise this reinvented image. “We want to be perceived as a contemporary, modern brand, maintaining the DNA [of Hanro.] We still want to be the brand for people who want the best,” says Hohmann.