I would like to to think there are parts of the Northern Hemisphere where nature's seasonal costume change still runs like clockwork. Someone please confirm such a place exists. It was only a few days ago, in the shadows of Easter, snowflakes were falling in the bitter wind and any new buds in their right mind were rescheduling their annual appearance. Those of us on the British Isles have earned our right to drop our carry on calm and wage weather war like prima donnas. Alternatively we can redirect our Vitamin D-deficient selves and embrace La Primavera with the accoutrements of any obsessive compulsive worth their salt. It may be April, and it may still be cold outside, but there is no reason why we can’t start to get excited about a thorough Spring clean for mind, body and home. Whether I’m number crunching audits or vacuum packing cashmere I cannot deny the satisfaction of cleaning, organising and boxing my chaotic life of Winter’s past.
On my last annual Advent trip to Munich, I discovered an emporium that has enjoyed cult-like status across Germany. Founded in 1988, Manufactum celebrates high quality household goods made with traditional manufacturing methods with a concern for design and the environment. A William Sonoma meets Labour and Wait retail paradise – for my American and British followers respectively - Manufactum’s functional aesthetic for all aspects of the home, garden and wardrobe presents an enticing installation. I confess the two hours that I spent browsing the racks and shelves that were stocked in surplus fashion was not enough time to acquaint myself with classic brands such as Armor Lux, Atoma, Ballistol, Burgol, Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth, Kaweco Sport, and Louis Poulsen to only name a few. As obsessive as Manufactum’s mission is for the handmade and a glorious affirmation that the good things in life still exist, I explored every corner and surface obsessively from brooms, buckets, enamelware and toiletries at one end, to the shiny array of technical pens, pencils, drawing instruments and paper supplies - fit for any event or fix for fellow stationery addicts – that was located on a mezzanine and attended by a leather apron-clad assistant who was knowledgeable of product, provenance and purpose.
This very knowledge is sourced from Manufactum’s weighty catalogue. A four hundred-page publication that fights for coffee table space as it too has gained a following from everyday purists. I was lucky enough to ask for the very last copy in store so I could continue my browsing as this handmade mecca was closing for the evening. All one thousand five hundred products that meet Manufactum’s standards are listed; each with their own description that goes into extensive factual detail, balancing on the line of irony when it comes to describing a toilet brush – of high quality no less. As traditional as the product it describes, the catalogue has even received a German language award from Verein Deutsche Sprache, a language preservation society, in honour of the informative, conventional copy that had me in awe, page after page.
Manufactum is resolutely anti-imitation and this is reflected in its pricing, which may be perceived as expensive. This is justified by the short lifespan of lesser quality products that Manufactum describes as falling into the ‘special offer’ fad. Discount offers may be scarce in this beautifully curated retail space, but special products are in abundance and are built to last - encouraging a ‘special relationship’ that consumers once had with everyday commodity.
I restrained my purchases to a folding bone, wooden utensils and technical pens. I use restrained because Manufactum does the lifestyle sell like no other – once you enter the front door do not be surprised if you find yourself lusting over a €3200 copper bath. I like showers. At least I thought I did.
With nine locations in Germany that include their food market arm Brot & Butter and a growing online presence serving Austria, Switzerland as well as the UK, seek no further than Manufactum for functional, timeless wares - visit the online catalogue here.