About two weeks ago, the very first Saxonia Classica luxury tradeshow took place in Dresden, Germany. Unlike many “premium” tradeshows that feature gold plated silverware, Veuve Cliquot, and pianos made of mother of pearl, the Saxonia Classicawas focused on old-world craftsmanship and stylish living. Of course, only a few are so fortunate to drive a 1930′s Rolls Royce, but there are numerous others ways to live in style: furniture, horn glasses, bespoke shoes and mechanical watches are smaller luxuries that are more affordable.
On top of that, these goods are often crafted to vintage standards, and hence last for a decades or even a lifetime. At Saxonia Classica, virtually all of the exhibitors had a foundation in traditional crafts; and some of them paired this skill with innovation and creativity, which resulted in magnificent products.
The Fair Grounds
Of course, a trade show about classically-made goods demands a proper venue, and the historical Dresden Fair Grounds were simply perfect for it. While there was an emphasis on old cars and vehicles (including restoration), there were also garment makers, bespoke shoe makers, jewelers, watch makers, blacksmiths, carpenters, artists…the list goes on. Overall, the show featured more than 60 exhibitors, most of which are not really known outside of Germany.
One of my personal favorites was the shirt manufacturer Manufaktur Thierfelder. Owner and founder Doreen Thierfelder produces men’s shirts and women’s blouses in Germany. They combine skilled craftsmanship with creative details that are not so obvious that you would spot them immediately, yet they are very unique. For example, some shirt sleeves’s placket featured 4 buttons and was very long. She also presented new collar designs and interesting cuts, such as a shirt from the Chemise collection featured a collar with a matching tie and closing mechanism that enables the wearer to create three distinctly different looks in seconds.
Another interesting exhibitor was the swing-style inspired Vecona-Vintage label from Wiesbaden that offers clothing with 1920′s – 1940′s details. Their portfolio reaches from classic sponge bag / Stresemann trousers to maritime looks and classic vests and trousers, to robust jeans for tough blue collar workers. When worn, the ensembles look undoubtedly elegant because the garments are cut to allow the wearer to be comfortable. And since people’s bodies and shapes have changed over time – we are now taller and the laptop has made our backs rounder – vintage patterns are not just copied but much rather newly interpreted. When I saw the 8 person Vecona Vintage group effortlessly swing dancing on the parquet, I could see that this was not just flowery marketing speech but reality.
To my surprise, there were three bespoke shoemakers present at Saxonia Classica: Preiß Légère, Kay Gundlack and Vickermann & Stoya. While Preiß Légère (for non-German speakers, it’s pronounced “price lay-jehr”) from Dresden offers classic German bespoke shoes in timeless, unpretentious designs, Kay Gundlack combines traditional craftsmanship and quality with avant-garde design and exotic leathers. On the other hand, Vickermann & Stoya specializes in custom racing shoes and exotic leathers ranging from snake skin, elephant and fish skin to alligator and ostrich. Interestingly, all of them have clients around the globe who appreciate the special designs and innovative approach of these shoemakers.
Leather Goods & Interior Design
Of course, there were also a number of interesting leather goods, such as the leather jackets of Heinz Bauer, and Blickzurück (LookBack)– by Anett Spola.
She offers vintage glasses and jewelry, which have been professionally refurbished for modern day use. In regard to interior design, there were a number of different carpenters, artists and craftsman specializing in restoration present. One of these artists was Janett Noack, whose painted porcelain was stunning and ranged in subjects from classic Greek ornament decor to vivid erotica.
Salzmann Rifle Engraving
One of the rare crafts in existence today is engraving, and Ralph Salzmann is truly a master of the art form. Since 2011, he has been specializing in weapon and rifle engraving; he creates intricate patterns and hunting motives in addition to custom designs. Moreover, he uses exclusive (CITES certified) materials such as mammoth ivory and gold. In this video, you can see how he creates an eagle head.
Watches & Cars
Among the high-end watch makers present, Borgward Zeitmanufaktur from Efringen-Kirchen, Germany stood out because of their relation with the historic car brand Borgward. When Carl F. W. Borgward was just twelve years old, he created his first car that he made out of watch movement and a cigar box! As such, it does not surprise that he opened the Borgward car company in Bremen in 1939, which produced cars up until the 1960s. Ever since 2002, Mr. Jürgen Betz creates exclusive wristwatches which are inspired by the style and precision of Borward cars. Every chronograph is absolutely one of a kind and reveals intricate details.
Last but not least, I want to discuss the cars at the show, which were the reason that Saxonia Classica was created in the first place. Up until the late 1940s, the Saxony region of Germany remained a center of the automobile industry. After a decline behind the iron curtain, Saxony is producing once again fine automobiles such as Porsche, BMW or VW’s Phaeton. This is not just a coincidence, but the consequence of the numerous small companies in the area which were able to maintain and rebuild the community’s knowledge of car building.
Today, these companies not only supply high-end parts, but some of them are also actively involved in restoring and rebuilding beautiful vintage cars of bygone eras, such a Maybach, Bugatti or Horch.
Although many of you won’t have heard of Horch, their fully-restored 1930′s Sportcabriolet convertible was simply out of this world. If they would exist today, Rolls Royce and Bentley would have a serious competitor. The fascination with these cars was underlined by the sheer number specialized small businesses providing restoration, upholstery, paint, and even fine interior handwork such as seat lines. Their work was astonishing and inspiring at the same time.
One such craftsman is the initiator of the Saxonia Classica. Reinhardt Scholz works almost exclusively on Horch Sportcabriolets. The cars he presented at the show expressed one thing above all: passion for traditional, artisanal automobile culture, which has never again reached the climax of the 1930′s. Basically out of nowhere, he created a tradeshow that promotes the luxury of craftsmanship and its ability to unite different industries and people. Once you see what skill and labor actually goes into making a refined product, you really appreciate it far more! Thanks to him and the other exhibitors, many visitors had a chance to see and learn for themselves how some of Germany’s most skilled craftsmen create their masterpieces. Hopefully, the show will take place again next year!
Probably the most spectacular find at the show were the motor-carriages of Aaglander. Advertised as “Luxury of Slowness”, these modern day carriages are in fact very similar to their vintage counterparts from 1888. However, the engine and steering mechanism are right from 2012. Instead of horses, all you need now is a bit of diesel or electricity. One hundred and twenty years after Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler developed the first car, German engineers have once again redefined the meaning of the car, as this motor carriage is in fact street legal in Germany!
Aaglander perfectly exemplifies the show’s motives of luxury created from artisanal goods that respect traditions but pair seamlessly with modern day innovation.
The show itself was a balm against the cheap, throw-away attitudes that pervade many modern cultures today, and it once again elevates the unique skills and traditions of true craftsman to their rightful place – as meaningful, enduring contributors to society and art.
This superb report was conducted by Andreas Stötzner (you can see him on the motor carriage in the picture). If you would like to contribute to the Gentleman’s Gazette, please let us know.
Share your feedback with us on the Saxonia Classica. Would you like to see a similar show in the US?
The following video by Bernd Lehmann gives you a few more insights to the show: