When Peter Plotnicki, a professional designer and men’s tailor, first held the old worker shirt in the flee market he was immediately fascinated. The inserts under the arms, the intricate label and the lack of lateral seams. He knows instantly that the Workmans shirt from 1911 is a very special piece, a piece that will alter the course of his life.
As Peter and his wife Gitta start researching the origin of the garment they come up on a textile industry one and a half century old in the Swabian Jura.
They found that the garment was produced by one of the last hosiery companies called ”Merz b. Schwanen”. The company was founded by Balthazar Merz in 1911 and employed more than 2000 workers at its peak but had closed three years prior to Peter and Gitta finding it due to lack of orders.
Wanting to find out more about the industry Peter travels to the Swabian Alps to meet Rudolf Loder, one of the last textile manufacturers. Loder surprises Peter with a room full of authentic circular knitting machines from the 1920s to 60s – completely intact.
“Gitta's and Peter’s idea to revive these machines in order to fabricate new, but traditionally made circular knitwear, amazed me” said Loder. Together the three started working to revive the old production industry.
While Rudolf Loder restores the machines, Peter and Gitta establishes their headquarters in Berlin and start working on the first collection.
Restoring the machines and finding skilled craftsmen to operate them take a whole year and the process is raising interest in the Swabian Alps, especially with Balthasar Merz´ descendants who even offer Plotnicki their old brand name ”Merz b. Schwanen”
“I was thrilled. Suddenly, we held more than a century of company history in our hands. We couldn’t have wished for better support and a more effective motivation”, Plotnicki said.
In January 2011, right on time for the company anniversary, “Merz b. Schwanen” presents its first new collection at “Bread and Butter” in Berlin.
Gitta & Peter Plotnicki say: ”We are continuing the story of ”Merz b. Schwanen”, with modern designs and new fabric blends – always developing new styles, created with respect to the rich heritage of the brand.”