Gerd Otto, CEO Haflinger
“What makes a good slipper and what stringent quality requirements does the Haflinger brand have on its product range?” These are some of the questions we asked in an interview with Haflinger CEO- Gerd Otto, who enlightens us on the intricacies of becoming the top slipper brand in the modern world.
For almost 120 years, your family has been engaged in the processing of natural materials and since the 1950s in shoe production.
How did the brand name Haflinger come about and what kind of lifestyle does the Haflinger brand want to convey?
The Haflinger brand name came about at a family reunion on the island of Juist. Haflinger is a breed of horses originating from Austria, and for us the Haflinger horse is a symbol representing warmth and surefootedness. Haflingers are more than just workhorses; because of their gentle nature they are also loved by children. The logo depicting a stylized horse's head peering back over his shoulder symbolizes an invitation to come and join us. This and all the positive qualities of this horse breed reflect the attitude to life for which the Haflinger brand stands.
What makes the Haflinger slippers so distinctive?
Having a unique identifiable style is the most important characteristic, and we have been able to develop such a style, that we maintain to date. We only offer quality products that meet our high standards and inevitably, also meet the high expectations of our customers. In order to do so, we deal intensively with each individual product; we carry out research around the product, develop it in a progressive process, and then implement regular improvements until we are completely satisfied with it.
At home, you want to be well dressed. Which is why colors and design play a major role in slippers.
How strong is the need for visual innovation of your products, and how do you satisfy the trend needs of slipper friends?
Appearance is always a key consideration when we choose something. This is not only true for slippers, but also for almost everything else in life. In addition to all the other attributes that a good slipper needs to have, the final look is crucial. Therefore, the design is very important to us and we always try to be one or two steps ahead of the competition, so that we can stand out ahead of the other brands in the industry.
Can you say that slippers are a trending product?
Slippers fit better than ever in this fast-moving time. When you arrive home, you want to kick back, relax and just be yourself. The simple act of changing out of your outdoor shoes and into house slippers symbolizes this transitional phase of winding down, away from the stresses of the outside world: It marks the moment in which you enter your private space and get comfortable.
That's why they are also a trend-setting product, and we're always trying to keep up with the fashion trends, picking up developments and helping shape them. We visit fairs and have our own staff scout for materials and colors. Especially in the modern, networked world, the people who wear our slippers are much more sensitive to changes in trends. However, this does not mean that you can compromise with the key features of a slipper.
What are these features? What characterizes a ‘good’ slipper?
A good slipper is adapted to the natural shape of the foot and has an optimal footbed. This means that the shoe provides comfort and support, without trapping the foot. We developed our footbed in collaboration with students of the Hochschule für Orthobionic in Göttingen. Ultimately, we must always remember that our entire posture is influenced by the feet in a positive as well as a negative sense.
Similarly, the use of natural materials defines a good slipper in my opinion. We always give priority to biodegradable materials so as to conserve the environment, as much as is possible and meaningful. At the same time, achieving a balance between ecological thinking and quality, durability and usefulness must be mastered. Because these points should not be lost sight of. For example, a non-slip sole is crucial in good footwear, so you have to opt for conventional rubber. But you can then make sure that an eco-friendly glue is used for the bonding process.
In other words, the use of natural materials does not only play a significant role for Haflinger based on the company's history, but also currently?
Yes, the whole topic of sustainability was already central to us, long before the word became popular and we continue to cultivate this idea to this day. This is also reflected in the fact that we source almost all materials up to the used sewing thread from Germany or at least from Europe and that our production takes place in Germany and Poland. The principle here is: as close to nature and sustainable as possible.
What would you consider as undeniable? Classics? from the house of Haflinger, which should not be missing from any shoe retailer in the range and why?
The entire Grizzly series to must be counted here. These are slippers that enjoy international popularity due to their solid soles and great footbed and are especially seen and worn as hybrids abroad; hybrids are used not only in the house, but also as an outdoor shoe. I have already met people in the airport with grizzlies on their feet.
So can one say that in the Haflinger product range, there is an ideal shoe for anyone and everyone, no matter how unique they are?
Basically. Our shoe and slipper product range covers all age groups, from the youngest child to seniors. Our success in providing designs that appeal to the most diverse groups of individuals can be seen from the fact that we have many celebrities as our customers, cutting across a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and from a variety of disciplines—from sports to the royal family, from Japan to the USA.