‘Your address for tradition and present-day fashion’ – that is the motto of the traditional costume store Grasegger which has been established at the centre of Garmisch-Partenkirchen since 1984. The family-run company’s shop is a meeting place for today’s generation and its past. For more than 30 years, old values have been translated into modern times here, tradition and crafts are alive and kicking. La Loupe met with manager Franz Grasegger and in his interview he spoke about traditional costume in everyday life, the tension between ‘tradition and modernity’ and the fascination of mountains.
L.L. / Your grandmother Annemie, who laid the foundation for the family business Grasegger in 1945, used to regularly walk up the Kramer in her youth. Up there she would use a mirror to signal your mother that she’d arrived safely on the summit. What role do the mountains around Garmisch-Partenkirchen play in your company?
F.G. / For us the mountains are THE identification feature. They are always there, you only have to look out the window and there they are. They provide limits, in the most positive sense of the word. You are reminded of that certain amount of reverence and humility one should have. The mountain shows you limits and at the same time the summit provides a view that makes you curious to see what lies beyond. This mixture is something that influences the people in its surroundings and that also influences what we do. On the one hand we focus on core values, on the other hand we seek challenges and vision. So, at the end of the day, the mountains are a symbol for what we do.
L.L. / When is the mountain more fun? In summer or in winter?
F.G. / I am a passionate skier and in winter I spend every free minute on the slopes. But there is nothing more beautiful than climbing a peak in summer and finding inner calm in the process. So I really can’t decide, I’m afraid.
L.L. / After a phase of renovations you are reopening your shop at the heart of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Your motto here also is ‘traditional yet modern’. Why is it so important for you to combine those two points?
F.G. / Whenever you try to bring contrasting ideas or concepts together, tensions arise. ‘Traditional yet modern’ – this motto was already coined by my parents after they founded the business. They wanted to communicate that they knew where traditions and traditional costume came from. It’s a cultural aspect here and has a high value. However, modern aspects are also important to make sure one doesn’t get stuck in the past. What we do here is more than running a museum, we keep development going, too. We keep thinking back to our motto. On the one hand there is a basis of values that we respect and on the other hand we want to go with the times and recognise the daily needs of current times and set trends, too. We want to show that traditional costume definitely can have its place in everyday life – today and tomorrow.
The motto was also important during our renovation works. It’s the reason we used traditional elements from Werdenfels farmhouses when designing the façade; and we used traditional materials on the interior while still keeping in mind the requirements of a modern sales area. And that, again, creates a certain kind of tension – in a positive sense of the word.
L.L. / How do you decide which modern elements to use in your traditional store and how courageous would you say one can be without scaring off the more traditional customers?
F.G. / Well we didn’t have a checklist – it’s a matter of gut feeling – both regarding the product range and the room. Aside from that it’s important to have one’s own, firm opinion and stand behind it. However, if you act on your gut feeling and use it to take a decision, then that feeling is real too and you should stand behind it, too. That’s why it’s difficult to put in words which elements are allowed and which are not. Basically though, we have a big problem with all things kitschy. We don’t want kitsch, no matter if it’s about clothing or living accessories. We want to use down-to-earth and authentic materials. In many cases it really is the mixture of traditional and modern elements that makes the difference.
L.L. / How were the renovations received by the customers?
F.G. / We were afraid it would need a long phase of explanation. But that was not the case and the response was very positive, which made me very happy, of course. According to the feedback we’ve gotten the people are comfortable and that was exactly what we aimed for. We want a place where people like to stay and where they like to meet. In this respect we were quite successful and that’s great.
L.L. / You mostly hired local crafts businesses for the renovations. Was that because only they had the know-how needed for the works or was it a conscious idea to only hire craftspeople from the region and economically bind them to Grasegger?
F.G. / We as Grasegger have committed to our guiding principle early – it’s something we came up with together with our staff and it says: We are a house from the region, for the region. And that also means that we do everything that can be done with our partners from the region A strong region is essential for creating local purchasing power and making sure a region stays attractive. If crafts businesses were to leave, we’d have no more apprenticeship posts and the young people would not be able to find work here. And it’s also the craft that attracts tourists to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. As a result, it is very important to have regional partners that you can contact when you’re planning a project. We wanted a typical Werdenfelser house, so of course it made sense to contact the regional carpenters who know what they’re doing.
L.L. / What is the regional retail sector in Garmisch-Partenkirchen like?
F.G. / Well of course there are certain things you cannot buy locally. But there are very, very good businesses that are extremely appreciated in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. And it is practical to have someone local to talk to as well. Consequently many regional businesses still work together a lot.
L.L. / The Label ‘2964Garmisch’ is made under Grasegger’s roof since 2006, its name is made up of the altitude of Zugspitze and the label’s hometown. In how far is the line different from the conventional collections?
F.G. / The altitude is not quite correct anymore because Zugspitze was newly measured a few years back and now it’s 2 metres lower. We have decided to keep the name anyway. Grasegger stands for very traditional costume but the market for it has its limitations. With the label we wanted to show that modern traditional costume does not have to equal kitsch. The idea of ‘2964Garmisch’ was that of fashion inspired by traditional costume that is still interesting for the retailers that sell traditional costume. My father and two of this friends from the industry who were all out skiing together on Zugspitze realised this idea. The big difference is the influence fashion has on ‘2964Garmisch’, particularly when it comes to cuts and colours. In this area we have more freedom of interpretation and the result is a more fashionable product than those in a traditional costume collection where you immediately see that it can only come from the mountains. After all it’s also a way of expressing one’s origins.
L.L. / Can one buy the collection in other shops, too?
F.G. / Yes, we here certainly have the biggest choice, but the manufacture serves about 200 retailers that are mostly located in the alpine region.
L.L. / Your label incorporates current trends. Would you say the Grasegger family is very fashion-conscious?
F.G. / Well we don’t chase after every trend but the style our collections have is our style, too. Despite the fact that we are very down-to-earth, we also like to be inspired by other influences. That’s something very exciting. And in our private lives and our home you’ll also see influences from our shop. We are very much interested in what’s happening in the world. So of course we’re confronted with other influences in terms of cuts and materials. This results in new ideas that are then translated into the collection. The collections are presented twice a year, in between we sometimes have a flash-programme to try and freshen up the stock. Classics are always here, the shares in the classic collection are very high, in the fashionable collection not so much. But both lines are very easy to combine.
L.L. / Last year you had the 2964-clothing photographed together with the Zugspitz mountain railways’ museum train. How did this exciting fusion come about?
F.G. / We photograph for our catalogues four times a year in order to show what we sell and how it fits into everyday life. We don’t just want to show clothing; we also want to show that the region of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is well worth a visit at any time. At Christmas that topic is even more important and we cooperated with Zugspitz mountain railways on that occasion. A company that knows it’s attractive for tourists but that won’t sell itself for any price. We have pretty similar approached in this respect and that’s why we were able to exchange ideas very well. That led to the idea of showing the train in a different context. The motifs are – again – a mixture of tradition and modern influences. The museum train’s technology is still ‘state-of-the-art’ but it has traditional elements, too.
L.L. / Were the models in the shooting also from the region?
F.G. / All models are locals. We’re from Garmisch-Partenkirchen and we know the people. A model also has to fulfil certain requirements because the pieces we showed were unique. Which is why these unique pieces need to fit. When we photograph, we want honest results. So of course the models also need to have some sort of relationship with traditional costume. Only then will the pictures reach their desired effect. We wanted to show that not only fashion models can wear our clothing but everyone. And we also wanted to tell stories with our photos – we have mountain guides, sculptors and our own staff in the pictures.
L.L. / With more than 100 members of staff you are one of Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s biggest employers. How do you manage to make your future team, i.e. the young people, enthusiastic about traditional costume and selling it?
F.G. / For us it is very important to have a long-term relationship with our staff. What certainly is positive is that the topic of traditional costume is very exciting for young people, too. And via the interest in the topic the interest in the company and the profession comes up. And that helps us attract people. We offer many internships and present ourselves as an attractive employer. Many employees come from different professions and they still offer our customers the best service. What’s most important is that the employees stand behind what happens in the business and that they share the same values. And that’s something one can pick up in a non-traditional way, too. Of course we also need well-trained specialised staff and that is something we usually do by training apprentices that can then continue to refine their skills here.
L.L / It is also possible to have traditional clothing made to measure at Grasegger. Does that mean your sales staff needs to learn how to sew?
F.G. / No, they do not need to know how to sew. During their training however, they do learn a lot about fabrics and processing possibilities. When it’s about custom-made clothing though, one needs more detailed knowledge of how to create the cuts. These tasks are taken over by 3-4 members of staff.
L.L. / Do you fulfil each and every wish in your manufacture or are there limits?
F.G. / We position ourselves e.g. via ads in magazines and most of the customers know what to expect and what we stand for. Consequently, it hardly ever happens that we find ourselves unable to comply to anyone’s wishes. Some requests however we can and do not want to fulfil, like lederhosen for 100 euros, that’s not something we do. Grasegger stands for quality and in such a case that would not be given. It would not conform with our values.
L.L. / Mr. Grasegger, you are an expert in the field. What does your personal favourite traditional costume look like?
F.G. / That would depend very much on the season. In summer it’s short lederhosen and a nice shirt – the so-called ‘Pfoad’ – that’s only buttoned up to mid-chest. And with it a traditional cardigan. In winter I like wearing nice and soft loden, often combined with fashionable shoes. Those are my everyday items. On holidays I also like to wear my very traditional costume. That’s my favourite traditional costume because you can see where it comes from and that sort of return to the roots is nice. For us it is great that traditional costume is making a comeback. It’s comfortable, it’s beautiful and very individual. We have the impression that in an increasingly globalised world people like to show off their roots.
L.L. / Some fans of traditional costume are of the conviction that lederhosen are the most beautiful after a few years and with visible signs of use. What’s your take on this?
F.G. / Well, newly bought lederhosen have their appeal, of course. But on the other hand lederhosen need to be worn and they become more beautiful every time they’re worn. They change character and tell stories – then they’re perfect. There is only one thing that can really destroy lederhosen: acids. A glass of prosecco and lemon juice are fatal. They eat into the leader and destroy the dye. Aside from that they are very easy to care for, only make sure they’re dry when you put them in the closet. And direct sunlight should also be avoided since it can dry out the leather. Few things are as uncomplicated as lederhosen. And should something happen anyway, we will happily take care of it, after all we do have years and years of experience.
L.L. / In summer 2015 you equipped the ensemble of ‘Opern auf Bayrisch’ with traditional costume. And you’ve also had the Appenzeller Musikanten play at your Christmas party. What can we look forward to in the future?
F.G. / We are committed to promoting sports and culture because these are the factors that keep a place alive. And it also expresses what is important for us – which is why we support these areas. We are looking for projects that go well with us – like ‘Opern auf Bayrisch’ (= operas in Bavarian). At the time the event and our business both turned 30 so that had to be celebrated. The actors in the opera in Bavarian have been acting in our clothing ever since, some of it was even made just for the occasion. In return, they played a concert here in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, especially for our anniversary. As far as the Appenzeller are concerned the exchange was most important and so was dealing with a similar yet different cultural area. At the moment we have no concrete plans. There are two other projects we are focusing on at the moment: one is putting the next construction phase into practise. We want to completely renovate our ground floor. In December 2016 it will be reopened. The other is my father’s great passion for the Werdenfelser mountain sheep and he now has fulfilled his dream of getting his own herd. So that’s something we’re busy with and in November our magazine will also be about sheep and wool in the Werdenfelser area. Aside from that we’d like to produce a small but quaint product line that is exclusively made from Werdenfelser sheep wool. From living accessories all the way to hats – a lot is going to be created this year.
L.L. / You yourself said that fabrics are your shop’s soul and you even have your own collection of old compression dies. What colour concepts and patterns will be popular this coming season?
F.G. / Traditional costume is an expression of personality so I’d say anything you like is allowed. However, this year there is a lot of jacquard fabric and patterns from our grandparents’ time. A sort of retro-look that is very modern in its realisation. A lot of non-colours are combined with flashy colours, which result in a very fine finish. The trend goes once more in the direction of colours, not too noisy ones though. Bordeaux-red, berry tones, blue tones with a matte finish and a certain calm. The colours are often combined with old, undyed linen. So I’d say the trend goes back to our grandparents’ time and we use the colours and patterns from those times. Of course cuts and fits are modern nonetheless.
L.L. / Your customers like going to Grasegger’s because of the comfortable atmosphere. Where do you like to relax?
F.G. / In the mountains, wherever they are. When I don’t have a lot of time I stay in the region. In winter I love skiing and when I have three weeks to myself I’ll go to the Rocky Mountains.
Loden trousers or lederhosen? Lederhosen.
What I learned from the previous generation is…to always remain down-to-earth.
When I was a child I wanted to be...first garbage man and then pope.
Dirndl is something…I really, really like.
Since 2014 Franz Grasegger has been managing the traditional shop Grasegger at the heart of Garmisch-Partenkirchen with his father. His parents founded the business in 1984. Ever since then ‘Grasegger’ has been a symbol for authentic and honest traditional costume and traditional-inspired fashion. In their own manufacture in Farchant traditional costume collections for men are made by hand – in the past 15 years they have gained popularity all over the world.