As Mark Langer walks into the room for our interview, looking every inch a gentleman, the first thing I note is the suit he is wearing. I am, naturally, curious about the sartorial preference of the CEO of Hugo Boss — more so because, unlike the celebrity brand makers who front many luxury fashion houses, Langer has been more of a corporate spokesman for the fashion house since becoming its head almost four years ago.
While he is well versed in fashion — having spent 18 years with Hugo Boss, starting as director of finance and accounting and rising through the ranks to become chief financial officer, before his appointment as CEO in 2016 — Langer is an “operations” man, with a background in mechanical engineering and economics. He even did a stint at management consultancy firm McKinsey & Co.
That could be why he was handpicked to steer the Metzingen, Germany-based fashion house through some rather challenging times. He took over from long-time chief executive Claus-Dietrich Lahrs in the aftermath of what has been described as a global “expansion binge” that saw, among others, the brand’s retail presence increase to over 1,000 stores worldwide and the introduction of womenswear.
That aggressive growth came to a halt following the exit of Hugo Boss’ then private equity owner, Permira, and an overall dip in sales that was primarily linked to the slowdown — which has yet to bottom out — in the US and China markets.
The man who greets me at a quiet salon in The Middle House in Shanghai looks relaxed and composed, even though we are just hours away from the first pre-fall collection runway show for BOSS — the major event that has brought us to the Pearl of the Orient. Langer is clearly accustomed to the punishing schedule typical for someone of his position.
He is dressed in an immaculate white shirt and slim, navy tie paired with a navy blazer and trousers from the BOSS travel line. In this case, the suit does not make the man; rather, it reflects his character — business-like but without the stuffiness — and emphasises his lanky frame while denoting a man on the go. The subtle “M.L.” stitched on his shirt shows a touch of stylish individuality.
“It’s very lightweight and doesn’t wrinkle,” Langer says expressively of his attire, breaking into a smile. “It’s one of my favourites and is part of the first collection we put out under the travel line, a limited edition piece that is made in Germany.”
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