Like so many inter-generational family businesses, the fourth-generation owner of Mühlbauer hat makers, Klaus Mühlbauer, really didn’t expect to be a part of the family business growing up.
“I was always interested in fashion,” he explains, “but I don’t think I’d have become a hatter if this hadn’t been a family business. After I finished school, I started an apprenticeship in our hat-making workshop for something to do – and because my parents liked the idea. Within two or three months, I’d fallen in love with the process. There aren’t many professions today where you can start a piece of work in the morning, finish it by the evening and go home knowing that you’d made something beautiful with your own hands.”
Even so, it wasn’t till the year 2000 that Klaus took the reins, joining his family’s Viennese hat-making institution as managing director, following several years pursuing fashion and textile design elsewhere: “My father decided to retire and asked my brothers and sisters whether they had any interest in taking on the company. I was the only sibling with any interest.”
Under Klaus’s guiding hand, Mühlbauer has enjoyed some considerable success in the 21 years since. The brand has an international reputation as a contemporary couture hatter, and loyal celebrity clients including Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and Madonna – to name just a few. It’s this cult following that has ensured Klaus’s 25-strong workshop of craftspeople have made it through the Coronavirus pandemic largely unscathed.
“So many business-people come to visit and ask me, ‘are you crazy running a workshop in the centre of Vienna?’ I always tell them this is my greatest asset. Here, I have total control over the quality of my product, and I can create anything I want with my own hands, or the hands of my team. At Mühlbauer, we can answer the customer’s every wish – and that’s why so many of our clients stay with us through the years. Their loyalty gives me confidence that we’re on the right path.”
Speaking of right paths, as a born-and-raised Viennese native, Klaus’s knowledge of his home city is as impressive as his commitment to his family’s long-standing business. He kindly took some time out to take us through a few of his favourite hot-spots, from low-key konditorei cafés to fine dining spots and craft stores. Read on for Klaus’s guide to Austria’s picturesque capital city.
‘Good Day Vienna’