Bad news. I had been looking forward to a weekend away in the Allgäu. It was supposed to be our annual paragliding club „Grillfliegen“ – Barbecue Fly-In. We meet up, go flying and then have a drink and barbecue in the landing field. After that it’s just a short walk to the campsite. After a few very busy working weeks (and sometimes weekends) it is hard to think of anything better to recharge the batteries.My friend, Alan, and I have been corresponding this week as the excitement has built. Alan already had half-packed his car ready to whizz off on Friday and maybe catch the last lift up the Breitenberg for a gentle evening flight. But it was not to be. The low pressure system which has caused floods and storms for the past fortnight still hasn’t moved, so the weekend has been cancelled.
At least I can put the unexpected weekend at home to good use. Mow the lawn, catch up on recycling and perhaps buy a new suit. Not quite as pleasant as floating above a lush alpine meadow in gentle June thermals. Still, I need a new suit. I have been on a bit of health/fitness trip since December* and my suits have become a little baggy, so time to get one that fits again. For most people around here, there is only one place to and buy a new suit – Metzingen, the home of Hugo Boss. It’s just a half-hour drive away and they have a huge outlet store there where you can really pick up some bargains.
Germany doesn’t have so many „out of town“ shopping centres like in the UK. If you want to shop, you go to the city centre, just like I did when I was a kid in Leeds. There are one or two exceptions around but they tend to keep the shopping in the cities and out of the suburbs. Metzingen is different. When I first moved to Stuttgart, Metzingen was a small-ish town with a fairly basic Hugo Boss factory store. Everyone in Stuttgart knew about it but otherwise it wasn’t so well known. You could get a bona fide Boss suit for less than 200 Euros. But now it’s gone the way of many outlet centres and expanded beyond recognition. Metzingen is now a shopping town full of designer brands – not just Boss anymore but really any brand you can think of. The place now attracts all sorts of international visitors (especially Chinese, but also French and Swiss) so I will have to get there early on Saturday if I want to get a parking spot.
About a year ago the Swiss „unpegged“ the Franc from the Euro. This effectively meant that Switzerland suddenly became 20% more expensive. Or, if you are Swiss, then Germany became 20% cheaper. The Swiss border is only 90 minutes from this area, so busses full of Swiss shoppers arrive every weekend. Another reason for me to get there early.
It’s amazing how succesful Metzingen has become on the back of the Hugo Boss factory. The Hugo Boss Company was founded in the 1920s, but quickly went bankrupt. It only really got going a few years later when Hugo himself joined the Nazi party and started supplying the SS with uniforms. Profits were later maximised as he made use of slave labourers captured during the war. After the war, Hugo Boss was banned from working and fined 100,000 DM. His son-in-law took over. The company’s shameful history didn’t seem to hurt too much as it became a global brand and was bought in the 1990s by an Italian company. Today when you walk among all the Chinese, Italian, Swiss, French and German visitors at the Boss store, it is strange to think that 70 years ago POWs were making SS uniforms on the same spot. More recently Boss has tried to deal with its past – contributing to a fund which paid some compensation to ex-slave labourers living in the US.
I also found out that the Hollywood Actor, Danny Glover, had boycotted Hugo Boss. That seemed fair enough – after all you can understand someone who doesn’t want to buy clothes from a company founded on supplying some of the most notorious war criminals in history. But he was actually boycotting the company because they were thinking of closing down a manufacturing plant in Ohio. Not quite so morally repugnant, you might think, but Danny wasn’t happy. It’s progress of a sort, I suppose.
*I made my mind up to try and get fitter again back in December when I was unable to keep up with my friends, Rick & Graham, as we walked up Blencathra in the Lake District.