The first shirt
The shirts from van Laack are treasured by top-ranking politicians and the top managers of DAX-listed companies just as much as by royal households. But van Laack doesn't advertise with names. Instead it is the media that reveals which famous people are wearing van Laack shirts – or they can be spotted on photos. With white shirts one might have to take a magnifying glass to the pictures to find the characteristic three-hole-button. The company was looking for a button that wouldn't fall off. And they found a method that ensured just that: the three yarn styles are wrapped in a nylon thread, the nylon thread is then heated until it merges with the yarn.
"The Art of Fine Shirt Making" is tradition and modernity at the same time. Heinrich van Laack founded the company in 1881 in Berlin. His idea, to offer the best shirt, still determines the company philosophy to this day. The gentlemen in high society were having their shirts made by tailors, and it was this discerning clientele that van Laack wanted from the very beginning. 130 years later tailors are no real competition for van Laack anymore because the craftsman cannot keep up with technology and material purchase of the shirt producer.
The success story of Berlin's van Laack ends in the Second World War. The factory in Prenzlauer Berg is bombed several times. The owner Alfons Schnoeckel, a distant relative of van Laack, has his factory taken away from him by the Soviets after the end of the war. He moves to Mönchengladbach where he meets Heinrich Hoffmann, who works in textiles production. Hoffmann buys the company and rebuilds it in his Mönchengladbach factories. Rolf Hoffmann, who fled after the war from Naumburg/Sachsen-Anhalt with his family to relatives in Mönchengladbach, began working in the van Laack family business during his school years. In 1970 he took over leadership of the company. His wife Erika, an art historian, invented the van Laack ladies collection in 1972. Rolf and Erika Hoffmann built up one of the most important collections of modern art worldwide. Today it is on view for the public in Berlin. Andy Warhol painted a portrait of the Hoffmanns in 1980 and designed their shirts for a fashion show in Manhattan.
In 1986, at the age of 50, Hoffmann sold the company to the Management Holding Delton AG for shareholdings; the sole shareholder is Stefan Quandt. A little later van Laack had to face competition in the shirt segment for the first time by fashion firms such as Boss and Joop. 16 years later, in 2002, Christian von Daniels acquired the company – and put it back on track for success. He made the brand younger and doubled sales. The son of a farmer in Ostwestfalen had already become an entrepreneur while studying business administration in Münster. With 5,000 deutschmarks of start-up capital he founded a company which sold made-to-measure shirts in Hongkong. Von Daniels GmbH in Frechen near Cologne became a licensee of Burberry and Daks. The contract with Burberry ran out in 2002, so the sale of van Laack came at just the right time. The company remained in Mönchengladbach, and when the new building for the company headquarters was built at the new football stadium in 2005 it confirmed the company's location long-term. Although the company completely re-invented itself, it relied on the know-how of the 150 staff it had taken over and their down-to-earth approach.
Even in the current financially difficult times, van Laack is prospering: the shirts, which cost between 100 and 200 euros, are very much in demand. Today van Laack doesn't have any direct competitors. Other manufacturers offer much smaller quantities or target a different clientele. Von Daniels does not want to become cheaper; it wants to offer more quality for the same price. It takes 100 minutes to make a van Laack shirt, twice as much as is usual in the sector. The well-made production is one thing; there is also the special cut and the highest-quality materials and yarns. Each new shirt is worn in the company to test it: it is also subjected to stains, washing and ironing. Christian von Daniels himself always wears one of his shirts. At home he "only" has around 20 to 30 shirts in the cupboard. He prefers to change to new models to present his dynamic company to the outside world too. Christian von Daniels himself describes himself as a self-taught man. He is the head of the firm and supported by a highly creative and motivated team. The new company headquarters by Cologne architects Kaspar Kraemer is transparency set in stone. Von Daniels works in a glass office on the ground floor, right next to the main entrance.
The shirts are produced in the company's own factories in Tunisia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Around 60 percent of all shirts are exported. For years now they have also been exported very successfully to the eager Russian consumers and increasingly to Asia. The brand is well-known internationally. Although the name sounds Dutch rather than German to many ears, the German origins are widely regarded as a sign of quality. And the company continues to thrive. As Christian von Daniels observes, as mobiles and computers constantly become cheaper and cheaper, all that remains for a man to emphasize his style and success is the shirt on his back.
Van Laack GmbH
Tel.: 02161 357 - 0
Fax: 02161 357 - 389