What began as a clothing company with just six sewing machines and worked hard to overcome bankruptcy and survive during WWII evolved over the decades into a global luxury brand, Hugo Boss.
Hugo Ferdinand Boss opened a clothing company in 1923 in Metzingen, Germany and a factory the following year, initially with two partners. Due to the changing economic, social and political landscape of Germany, he was bankrupt. In 1931, he reached an understanding with his creditors, who left him with six sewing machines to restart business. That year, Hugo Boss joined The Nazi Party, German Labour Front, National Air Raid Protection League and National Socialist People’s Welfare which helped the company to become the Reichszeugmeisterei-licensed supplier of uniforms for National Socialist Motor Corps, Sturmabteilung, Schutzstaffel and Hitler Youth. Hugo Boss also made uniforms for the postal service and the police.
By WWII, making uniforms for the German armed forces became its sole purpose and Hugo Boss reportedly employed forced labourers and fifty French prisoners of war between October 1940– April 1941. Although he was simply a pragmatic businessman who needed all the work he could get in tough times, he was viewed as an activist and champion of Nazism because he made uniforms for the National Socialist German Workers Party. In 1946, he was fined 100,000 DM. However, he appealed the conviction and was later classified just as a “follower” of the Nazi party.
Following his death in 1948, his son-in-law Eugen Holy took over the reins of the company and turned it around. In 1950, he received the first order for men’s suits and by the Sixties the company was producing readymade suits, mostly using machines for the tailoring that was traditionally done by hand. In 1969, Eugen Holy stepped down and handed the reins to his sons Jochen and Uwe, who changed the company name to Boss. To strengthen the image and reach, the brand sponsored Formula One drivers and later added golf and tennis to its marketing plan. In 1954, Boss fragrance was launched and the growth trajectory enabled the company to get listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. In 1995, the company launched its footwear line.
There was significant reorganisation. In 1991, Marzotto textile group bought the company and began operating three different brands: Boss, Hugo and Baldessarini. In 2011, a company release stated that the brand wished to “express its profound regret to those who suffered harm or hardship at the factory run by Hugo Ferdinand Boss under National Socialist rule”. In 2005, Marzotto sold its brands to Valentino Fashion Group, which was subsequently sold to Permira private equity group. In March 2015, Permira announced plans to sell the remaining twelve per cent. Since the exit of Permira, ninety one per cent shares floated on Börse Frankfurt, seven per cent was owned by the Marzotto family and two per cent was held by the company.
The company headquarters is still in Metzingen, Germany. In 2019, CEO Mark Langer expressed that he wished to grow Hugo Boss by playing up the strength of its bespoke tailoring, investing its digital operations, eliminating diffusion lines to focus only on Hugo and Boss, and restructuring the brand under a central creative team led by Chief Brand Officer Ingo Wilts. The brand also inked collaborations with prolific people like singer Liam Payne and actor Chris Hemsworth to serve as short-term brand ambassadors.
To be the most desirable premium fashion and lifestyle brand.
To continuously increase the desirability of its premium brands, not just in the conventional retail industry and in its stores and outlets, but also in its online business.