Interview with Mühle CEO Andreas Müller about wet shaving, the synthetic bristle “Fibre” and the brand Mühle.
January 31, 2016
Mr. Müller, do you notice that wet shaving is increasingly in fashion?
Oh, yes! Definitely. Mühle profits a lot from the latest trend towards wet shaving.
We read a study by Gillette, stating that 40% of German men do wet shaving.
Yes, it always used to be quite equable; wet shaving was always a bit behind or on a par. By now, wet shaving is a bit ahead. I am also putting that down to the quality blade systems put on the market by Gillette and Wilkinson. But traditional wet shaving with shaving brush and safety razor is winning more supporters, too.
You can also see that from the fact that there are more and more barbershops in Germany. Culture is changing: Questions of style, making time for oneself, and how to take care of one’s appearance, these things are becoming more and more relevant.
Do you notice any cultural differences? Is the American, for example, more likely to be a supporter of wet shaving than the German?
Yes, there are certain cultural differences. But I would say, that the trend towards wet shaving is global. There are things, that are working globally at the moment and these are handmade burgers, craft beer and barbershops (we all have to lough loudly).
In Germany, people believed in progress a lot during the 60s and 70s and opted for the technology of electric razors. During the late 80s and early 90s, the shaving brush had a very hard time in Germany. In countries like the UK, France and Italy, the shaving brush was continuously of major importance.
When preparing the appointment, we accidentally addressed you as Mr. Mühle. Where does the name Mühle originally derive from?
Marketing (laughs). By mistake, people address me as Mr. Mühle a lot. Our grandfather, who founded Mühle, (note: Mühle is run by the brothers Andreas and Christian Müller), came back from the war and wanted to create a brand with a logo similar to the family’s surname. Müller (note: miller in English) seems to have been too simple for him, so he chose Mühle (note: mill in English) and the logo of a windmill. Our granddad just thought it up like that (smiles).
„Synthetic fibre has considerable advantages“
Mühle has developed a shaving brush with synthetic fibres. What led up to this?
Synthetic fibre has considerable advantages. We wanted to rethink the shaving brush, even though that sounds a bit overestimating. We did not only want to imitate badger bristle. We asked ourselves, “How would the perfect shaving brush look like?” Until then the perfect shaving brush was made out of badger bristle, tightly knotted and thus more stiff. Badger bristle „folds apart“, when it is wet. Thus, silvertip shaving brushes using a lot of material were considered as superb.
The disadvantage was that a tightly knotted badger bristle brush does not dry properly and is very difficult to clean. If you do not wash it out carefully, the alkaline soap/foam residues will lead to the bristles falling out sooner or later. If you had a good shaving brush, some time or other you would have had problems with it.
And „Fibre“ is better at this?
Exactly. When developing „Black Fibre“ and „Silvertip Fibre“, we wanted the synthetic fibre to solve this problem; nevertheless, we wanted these brushes to be very soft at the tip, not in need of much care in order you can put the brush into your toilet bag, even if it is still wet. Most men do not want to clean their shaving brushes very carefully in the morning. I, personally, do not use badger bristle brushes anymore; “Fibre” has way more advantages.
When we visited the workshop just now, we discussed which one is better…
For some, badger, being a natural product, has a certain aura or eroticism. If you explain the advantages to them, people choose the fibre brush, even though the badger bristle brush is well established, of course. Behind this, there is also the idea to minimalize suffering. Even though badgers are not endangered, Fibre is a vegan alternative.
Mühle offers both handles for blades from producers like Gillette or Wilkinson, and at the same time also traditional safety razors…
… our main product are shaving brushes. Safety razors became part of our selection later on and are now important to us, especially in the growth markets, where we are more well-known due to our safety razors than to our shaving brushes. Over the years, Gillette became established as a blade producer and we offer handles out of various materials for these blades.
Being Swabians (people from a wealthy region in Germany who are famous for their thrifty lifestyle), we had to come to the conclusion that financially and when it comes to handling them everything speaks in favour of safety razors… (we all have to laugh again)
Yes, indeed. Financially, purchasing one becomes profitable quickly. Even though you have to change safety razor blades more often than for example blades from Gillette, it becomes worthwhile very, very quickly.
What does a man have to pay attention to when using a safety razor?
He should soap his beard well, so that it becomes really soft and so that nothing plucks and the blade does not get caught on one of the hairs of his beard. Using a safety razor you have to be a bit more careful and shave prudently. For me, for example, it depends on my form on the day; sometimes a few tiny red spots of blood appear, but the next day everything is wonderful, in spite of using the same blade.
Former generations made a good job of it, too, without looking cut up all the time; they shaved very well. In general, safety razors deliver very satisfactory results after some habituation.
We heard you opened a shop in the Far East…
Yes, in China we now have three shops. Germany is our main market, but we also sell a lot abroad. Especially in Russia, the UK, the US; but Japan, too, is becoming increasingly important. Incidentally, our market share in Norway is very high; this surely is also down to our distribution partner there. But it is a nice thought, that out of three Norwegians meeting up, at least one owns a Mühle product.
Mr. Müller, we thank you for the exciting interview.
It’s my pleasure.
The interview was done by Joe Shave and Christian Frosch. Christine Fröhlich contributed valueable support to the company visit in the Ore Mountains and to the editing of the interview.