A runaway success
Sports brand thoni mara from the Erzgebirge mountains is filling a gap in the market with running clothing made in Germany.
Christian Schwab has completed two or three marathons every year since he discovered a passion for running. And as managing director of a small textile manufacturing company in the Saxon town of Thum, he owes the survival of his business to that same passion. Schwab has been gradually building up the thoni mara brand since 2007 and it now enjoys an excellent reputation among long distance runners. “Once you try our running gear, you won’t want to wear anything else,” says the 44-year-old with a hint of pride.
Sporty “knitwear” from Thum
It all began in 1998 when Schwab’s father – himself a textile manufacturer – bought a former hosiery factory in Thum in order to boost his production capacity. The factory was mainly involved in contract manufacturing of active wear for major sports brands when qualified textile designer Christian Schwab began to experiment with prototypes for running jerseys. He had 12 Italian circular knitting machines at his disposal, on which he produced the first pieces of his collection. The fact that Schwab’s clothing is knitted rather than woven, unlike most competing products, proved to be a huge advantage in practice. “Our customers find our clothing very comfortable to wear and are impressed with its wicking ability,” explains Schwab, pointing to the current collection in the catalogue. The range of running shirts was soon expanded to include trousers, pullovers, windbreakers and fleece jackets. Own brand products now account for 50% of production and the share continues to increase. Looking back, Schwab says that the 35-strong firm would probably have folded without the thoni mara brand because at the time of launch the commercial viability of contract manufacturing was under threat.
Running a lap of Germany
Christian Schwab is confident about the future of his brand. thoni mara has already gained a strong reputation among runners without the need for big advertising campaigns and is sold by many retailers across Germany. Schwab is especially pleased that large numbers of end customers have consciously decided to buy products made in Germany. “That’s something our customers look for in addition to quality,” he says. This courageous entrepreneurial commitment to his native region has earned him several accolades: in 2010, thoni mara made it to the final round of the ISPO BRANDNEW awards, and in the same year Christian Schwab received a “Querdenker” innovative thinker award.
What’s more, the runners in the 2014 Lauf-KulTour charity relay all wore thoni mara clothing. Twelve runners from TU Chemnitz ran the entire length of Germany’s border in 16 days to raise money for a good cause.