Hugo Boss

Born: Metzingen, Germany 1885
Died: Metzingen, Germany, 1948

Designer Biography Hugo Boss

The youngest of five siblings, Hugo Ferdinand Boss’s parents owned a lingerie and linen shop in Metzingen. With only one of his siblings surviving infancy, Boss was chosen as the heir to the family business.

Boss started an apprenticeship as a merchant before enlisting in the army in World War One.

In 1924 Boss opened a clothing factory with financial backing from two other manufacturers. Originally employing around 30 workers, the business produced handmade garments. The company’s first major commission was for Rudolf Born, a textiles distributor who was supplying clothing for the National Socialist Party. During the 1930s, Boss advertised his business as a ‘supplier of Party equipment since 1924’.

Due to Germany’s economic difficulties, in 1931 Boss was forced to file for bankruptcy. However, he reached an agreement with his creditors leaving him some machines to restart his business. The same year Boss became a member of the Nazi Party and a sponsoring member of the Schutzstaffel.

The company’s sales started to increase dramatically from 1932. With the country’s restriction on clothing manufacturing, Boss established his business in manufacturing uniform and work wear, the only products that restrictions were lifted on ensuring the businesses production could carry on.

In 1938 the company received a large commission for army uniforms. With the company’s revenue increasing, the business made uniforms for the German Armed forces and the Waffen SS until 1945.

From the increase of business since the 30s, Boss constantly experienced recruitment difficulties. During the Second World War production intensified due to supplying the German forces. With the staffing problems, Boss had to employ 140 forced labourers and 40 French prisoners of war.

When the war ended, Boss was forced to undergo de-nazification  whereby he was pronounced guilty and fined. The reasons for his sentence included his membership of the National Socialist Party, his fiscal involvement with National Socialism and his friendships with leaders within the Party.

In 1948 Hugo Boss died. His son-in-law Eugen Holy took over the business.

Holy started to increase manufacturing in the late 40s. By 1950 the company had 128 employees, which number continued to rise as the business obtained its first orders for men’s suits.

In 1960 the off-the-peg suit for men started production and by the end of the decade Holy’s sons Jocehn and Uwe took over the company.

During the 1970s the BOSS brand started to develop. Focussing on high quality male clothes, the brand registered in 1977. During the 70s the company started to develop an international presence, sponsoring motor sports and Formula One racing.

In 1984 the business obtained a fragrance licence. The following year the business was listed on the German Stock Exchange. In 1985 the company started golf sponsorship with Bernhard Langer becoming the first professional golfer to wear Hugo Boss. In the same year the company also started sponsoring tennis. In 1989 the company added an eyewear range to the portfolio.

In 1993 the company added two more brands, HUGO and BALDESSARINI. Two years later the business signed a shoe wear license.

However, shoes weren’t integrated into the company until 2004.

With watch collections and golf wear added to the portfolio towards the end of the 90s.1998  marked the launch of the first women’s collection. Next year a casual line, BOSS Orange was added.

In the following years more brands were launched as well as children’s, home ware and beauty lines.  Hugo Boss has recently acknowledged and apologised for the company’s maltreatment of forced labour workers during World War Two.

The Hugo Boss style is known to be sophisticated and chic. Recognized for the excellent tailoring and beautiful fabrics used for their suits, the business creates garments that are modern classics. With a variety of brands, the company offers a versatile choice of contemporary elegant garments.

In 2005, Marzotto separated its fashion brands into the Valentino Fashion Group, which was later sold to the Permira private equity group. After the exit of Permira, 91% of the shares were floated on the Börse Frankfurt, with 2% still held by the company, and 7% owned by the Marzotto family. Hugo Boss AG has an extensive global presence with over 6,102 points of sale in 124 countries, including its own shops, mono-brand shops, and franchisee-owned shops.

In 2009, BOSS Hugo Boss accounted for 68% of total sales, with Boss Orange at 17%, BOSS Selection at 3%, Boss Green at 3%, and HUGO at 9%. Jason Wu was appointed as the artistic director of Boss Womenswear in June 2013.

In 2017, Hugo Boss experienced a 7 percent increase in sales during the final quarter of the year. Hugo Boss has two core brands, Boss and Hugo, and produces its products in various locations worldwide, utilising both machines and traditional hand-tailoring techniques for its made-to-measure program.

The company also holds licensing agreements with several companies for branded products, including mobile phones, sports equipment, children’s clothing, fragrances, skincare, watches, and eyewear. Hugo Boss made headlines due to controversies involving Russell Brand’s speech at the GQ awards, disputes over wages and plant closures, a tragic incident at one of its stores, trademark disputes, and issues related to cotton sourcing from Xinjiang.

In 2020, Hugo Boss introduced its first vegan men’s suit, created using only non-animal materials, dyes, and chemicals.

Hugo Boss Biography

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Written by Saxony Dudbridge

Saxony Dudbridge was one of the first contributors to the Catwalk Yourself project, Saxony studies International Fashion Marketing and she is responsible for our great History and Designers Biographies sections.

2 thoughts on “Hugo Boss

    • Thank you for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed learning about the Boss’s background and share a love for double-breasted suits. Your support means a lot. Feel free to keep the conversation going if you have more questions or thoughts.

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