‘History is made up of stories’ as we company historians like to say. During our work at MANN+HUMMEL, we have come across many interesting stories, telling of extraordinary people, remarkable successes and unexpected events. This is my last blog post and, naturally, I’ve kept one of the nicest stories until last; namely that of Pamina Mann Moden.
It was a perfectly normal day in the archives: we were sifting through the vast number of photos in the basement at Ludwigsburg, when we stumbled upon a series of old pictures. My initial flick through the photos stopped me in my tracks. The black and white photos showed fashion shows being held in the production halls at MANN+HUMMEL and also images of photo shoots. This journey through time to the fashion world of the 1950s was most unexpected – this was, after all a filter manufacturer. And the sheer number of photos was astounding! Clearly this was not merely some footnote in the history of MANN+HUMMEL; there had to be something more significant going on here. We searched for a link between fashion and filters, and, of course, we found it back in the realms of history.
The decision to produce women’s fashion, like all decisions made by Adolf Mann and Dr Erich Hummel, was well thought out. It could even be seen as a rather logical step for the two Managing Directors – ultimately their business was based on sewing and knitting machines. In 1938, they took over the well-established textile company Bleyle. During the war, business declined and employees were drafted into the military so, to keep the company running, Adolf Mann and Dr Erich Hummel moved into the filter business. Then, in 1948, they sold the textile division of MANN+HUMMEL back to the Bleyle family. But they did remain faithful to textile production, founding ‘Pamina Mann Moden’ which specialised in women’s high-end outerwear.
Jersey and knitted fabrics were initially produced in unused rooms at the filter works and in a neighbouring military prison that stood empty. MANN+HUMMEL later purchased a plot of allotment land where they then built a new textile mill. Business was good and the collection was even popular overseas. During its heyday, up to 600 employees worked at Pamina Mann Moden. The production hall was also on occasion quickly converted into a catwalk, with the employees as models!
However, in the 1960s, times became tough for the German textile industry, which led to more and more companies moving production abroad. Adolf Mann and Dr Erich Hummel recognised that a small manufacturer like Pamina Mann Moden could not compete with the prices offered in low-wage countries and, in 1971, sold their textile division to Emella, a Schiesser group company. This signalled the end of Pamina Mann Moden. However, the two entrepreneurs acted to ensure that none of their employees was left without work. Those who were not able to continue working for Emella at the textile mill were given a job at the filter plant.
History is something to celebrate!
The old textile mill has not been forgotten, however: some employees can remember when MANN+HUMMEL still produced its own fashion collection. Pamina Mann Moden is part of the company’s history, a piece in the puzzle and part of the bigger picture which continued to grow and became ever more colourful during our time at MANN+HUMMEL.
As a historian, I am glad to see that not only does MANN+HUMMEL cherish its roots and its founders but also that it will be celebrating its history and the company’s 75th anniversary in its branches throughout the world. The anniversary year of 2016 is now also a piece of history but hopefully one that will live long in the memory.