“As a company and brand, we have never allowed ourselves to be led by trends but have always gone our way and followed our convictions,” says Christian Wittig, describing the recipe for success of the German mountain and hiking boot manufacturer Hanwag. “Because true pioneers dare to break new ground and don’t follow others,” adds the Marketing Director of the more than 100-year-old company, which has recently attracted attention again with impressive innovations and is about to conquer the fashion world after being established in mountaineering for a long time.
Three models in particular are currently the focus of the company based in Vierkirchen, Bavaria, Germany: the Rotpunkt LL, which is already available in a limited edition, as well as the Alaska XC and the Rotpunkt Low, which will be presented at ISPO Munich 2023 (booth A2.302). While the Alaska is a classy, timeless boot for trekking adventures, the 80s classic Rotpunkt now shines as a mountain and leisure boot with a retro spirit and high-quality details. “Rotpunkt” is the German word for redpoint climbing, which means to free-climb a route from the ground to the top while lead climbing.
“The Rotpunkt is a hiking boot that has always been in our showroom and has attracted a lot of attention,” reports Christian Wittig. “We’ve had the idea of bringing it back as part of a limited edition for some time–it has now finally worked out, and we are proud of it. The feedback has been tremendous, and the Rotpunkt has become a real talking piece, especially because it has such great historical relevance in the climbing scene.” At the beginning of the 1980s, Hanwag was one of the first manufacturers to launch purpose-built climbing shoes on the market, with great success. Mountaineering pioneers such as Sepp Gschwendtner, one of the first redpoint climbers, conquered new routes with the original Rotpunkt model.
“Regarding the Alaska XC, we are talking about a classic and timeless design that can still work in the same way in 10, 15, or 25 years,” Christian Wittig points out. Models such as Rotpunkt and Alaska not only attract attention in the outdoor community but also impress fashionistas, who are increasingly looking for sustainable and high-quality footwear instead of cheaply produced and expensively sold sneakers. Hence, it’s no wonder they are falling for the high-quality, tried-and-tested fit and technical innovation of Hanwag’s handcrafted models–as they did recently during Paris Fashion Week 2023.
“After numerous conversations with stakeholders and people who visited us in our production facility in Vierkirchen and our showroom at Paris Fashion Week, we realized that genuine values such as quality, reliability, functionality, and durability are in demand,” confirms Christian Wittig. Especially brands with a rich and verifiable history, such as Hanwag, are sought-after. “We are not an artificial construct; we have been successful on the market and in the mountains and outdoors for over 100 years,” says the marketing specialist. Thus, Hanwag can score points in the fashion world with its handcrafted approach. The company also likes to invite people to its production facilities for detailed tours, because its way of doing business and making shoes becomes visible there: “And that’s reality, not just in a marketing campaign,” emphasizes Wittig. “This has generated a lot of enthusiasm in the fashion community, especially because we deal with it openly and transparently.”
Hanwag fuels the interest of fashion freaks with exciting collaborations. With the Rotpunkt, for example, they teamed with the trendy Japanese eye_C Magazine, and at ISPO Munich 2023, Hanwag models will be on display at the booth (EW.520M) of the lifestyle platform Highsnobiety.
“Hanwag is the embodiment of heritage leather shoemaking, which frankly, in today’s consumer footwear landscape, cannot be said about many brands manufacturing,” says Ark Abbott from the hip mixed-media trend platform Unownedspaces. “Handmade, high-quality shoe brands are a totally rare commodity. Rarer still are the brands that are also backed by 100 years of manufacturing history and design dedication. This epitomizes ‘special’ to me. The rock-solid foundations, and stunning attention to detail and form, when paired with contemporary direction, scream of potential, in terms of both design and success. It’s really very exciting.”
Despite its forays into the fashion world, the company remains true to its roots. “We will remain 100% the same as we are and will not change,” promises Hanwag marketing man Christian Wittig. “Anything else would be wrong because we are consistently going our own way. Otherwise, we would lose credibility also in the fashion sector. It is precisely here that authentic brands with values and history are consciously sought after.”
Hanwag gets input for its innovations from all over the world. “We have great partners and a large network that extends far beyond the borders of the outdoor and mountain sports industry,” reports Wittig. “One of our strengths is that we travel a lot and also look at what other industries are doing. Even if you are an established, old shoe manufacturer, you must never stop listening, exploring, and exposing yourself to new ideas.”
In this way, the company is constantly learning. Despite all innovations, however, one characteristic feature of the company’s products always remains equally important: durability. This is because it also contributes to one of the company’s most important values, which is sustainability. “One of the most sustainable actions is to build a product that lasts a very long time, that can be repaired and that doesn’t follow fast-moving trends but is still relevant in terms of design years from now,” says Wittig.
This concept of longevity begins with the partnerships that Hanwag enters into: “We have been sourcing a large proportion of our leather from the Heinen tannery in Wegberg, Germany, for over 60 years,” reports Wittig. “Some of our most iconic products are more than 25 years old. Today, our stories and values are in tune with the times.”
The present, and a look into the past, also show what the future holds for Hanwag. When asked about the future direction of the brand, Christian Wittig first looks back: “When Hans Wagner started making the first mountain boots over 100 years ago, it was a huge investment and a kind of life insurance for customers at the time.” Money was scarce for most people back then, so the boots had to be of the highest quality, resoleable, and repairable. And, above all, they had to work well on the mountain. After all, there was no mountain rescue service to rescue you from the face by helicopter. “You could always rely on Hanwag shoes,” says Wittig. “We are pleased to see that these values, which we have consistently lived by since 1921, are once again gaining in importance, and we are working to translate these values into the future. We will always try to be one step ahead with our quality standards, our unique fit, and the performance of our shoes.”
Jumping on the retro bandwagon is not on the agenda though. “In the future, we may be inspired by the colors of old models for one or two products, but there are no plans for a retro collection,” Wittig assures. “We would rather revive our classics, which have always had massive relevance and recognition in the outdoor and mountain community, with some new details.”
The focus is always on sustainability. For example, Hanwag supports customers with information on product care to extend the lifespan of their shoes even further. The company is also proud of its 100% production in Europe and locally sourced materials, which shortens the transportation routes. The company now resoles 20,000 shoes a year. “That’s sustainability in action!” says Wittig contentedly.
With its sustainable economic development, Hanwag is on the path to healthy growth. The Bavarians draw on a rich heritage to create forward-oriented products while remaining down-to-earth and close to nature. The best prerequisites for successful sales in the outdoor and fashion world!