We have had the pleasure of interviewing Andreas Müller, CEO of MÜHLE.
MÜHLE is an industry leading manufacturer of a large variety of wet shaving products. Most notably, MÜHLE produces world-renowned shaving brushes which have been one of their specialties since it was founded in 1945.
As Mr. Müller is a top expert on shaving brushes, this interview provided some fascinating insights into the details and process of shaving brush design and manufacturing.
Questions and Answers
Q1. What are the primary properties/traits considered when evaluating the quality of a shaving brush (brush bristles)?
A. Consumer demands vary. Some prefer a very dense shaving brush with “backbone” that provides more of a massaging effect. Others prefer rather soft shaving brushes. This seems to be a matter of taste. Of course, a shaving brush should be tied well, not shed hair and it needs a well-worked handle.
Q2. How do such properties differ between the high-quality fibers vs. the more economical fibers (e.g. Pure badger hair vs silvertip badger hair)?
A. Silvertip badger hair has a very unique color.
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Typically the tips of the hair are very light, the middle part is dark and get lighter on the lower ends.
The basic badger qualities are rather darker.
Consequently, we imitated that on our synthetic fibers accordingly in order to fulfill consumer expectations.
Also, Silvertip badger has very fine tips which are typically not being trimmed in the manufacturing process.
The hair of basic badger hair qualities may not have pointy tips and therefore does not feel as soft.
Synthetic fibers always need to have pointy tips otherwise the brush feels prickly.
Q3. Is there a theoretical perfect shaving brush that would have all the optimal properties for every person and need, or does the perfect shaving brush differ from person to person based on specific needs? In other words, do variables such as skin type (oily skin vs sensitive skin vs dry skin) or type of lather used (shaving cream vs shaving soap) determine what brush type is optimal? How so?
A. A certain clientele prefers large brushes, other small ones. Some like very stiff brushes made of boar bristles, some like very soft and flabby badger brushes.
These preferences are very individual and do not really relate to the skin or the lather type.
In my opinion, a decent shaving brush is of compact size, has a good degree of backbone, yet is very soft on the hair tips and can be rinsed easily.
Q4. Why do you offer brushes with different collar diameters? What should a person consider to determine the correct collar diameter for their shaving needs?
A. Traditionally shaving brushes have different sizes, hair lengths, and diameters.
By far the majority of the clientele prefers our 21mm bundles. It´s a medium size shaving brush. I always recommend this collar diameter.
Q5. When designing a synthetic fiber shaving brush, what are you attempting to accomplish? Are you simply trying to replicate the properties of natural hair brushes? Or are you attempting to obtain a specific set of properties that fulfill a certain need or niche within the shaving brush market (e.g. Silvertip Fibre, Black Fibre, Bristle)?
A. We did not try to imitate the badger hair but started by asking ourselves what the ideal shaving brush would be like.
We wanted some good backbone for a massaging effect, a fiber that effectively generates a dense lather.
At the same time, we wanted really soft tips for a gentle feeling on the skin.
And obviously, we aimed a durable, long lasting product, resistant to soap and shaving cream residues.
So the major goal was developing a product that performs really well and is easy to use. At the same time, we wanted to provide a product suitable for vegans.
Q6. How do your synthetic brushes compare to the natural badger hair brushes? What are the pros and cons of the two?
A. Natural badger hair can retain water very well.
On in the other hand, it needs to be rinsed thoroughly right after use.
Even very little soap residues can cause the fine hair to break and the brush will shed hair.
Also, it must not be stowed in containers when it´s wet.
Synthetic fiber is much more resistant and long lasting.
No matter if you rinse your brush well, if you let it dry, or net, it definitely won´t shed.
Thus our synthetic brushes are definitely more convenient to use and perform outstandingly well at the same time.
Q7. What is the primary material used within your synthetic brushes?
A. It´s a Polymer with very specific properties.
Q8. What is the costliest element of the shaving brush (the handle, the bristles, the production process)?
A. It really depends on the brush.
The costliest element of silvertip badger brush with a simple resin handle is obviously the brush bundle.
Yet within the MÜHLE range, you will find a lot of handles made of rare wood and other precious materials combined with chrome plated brass.
In those cases, the handle is the costliest element.
Thus most of our shaving brush handles feature a threaded neck which allows you to replace the brush bundle.
Q9. You offer a wide array of handles in various shapes, colors, and materials. Is the difference between these handles purely aesthetics or is there more to consider in selecting a handle?
A. Often the differences are aesthetic.
A very high design quality is part of the MÜHLE DNA.
So we are trying to give customers options, offering a wide range reaching from classic styles to very progressive designs.
Some differences are haptic.
Also, the weight matters to people.
Q10. Do synthetic handles perform better or worse in comparison to natural materials in terms of longevity (e.g. breakage, resistance to moisture)?
A. Not necessarily – if the materials are not naturally water resistant and durable we usually process them in order to gain such properties.
Some materials such as bog oak and natural horn need a bit of care but can be used for many many years.
Q11. How have you seen the wet shaving industry change over the last 5 years and what are your thoughts on how it will evolve going forward?
A. We have recently seen growing volumes and larger potential in our industry.
This relates to the beard trend and the growing focus on how to grow, trim or shave your beard.
Also, the revival of the DE safety razor shave, the growing numbers of Barber Shops and the importance of male grooming, in general, has boosted the business.
We see that classic wet shaving has gained much importance and demand.
Brief Bio: Andreas Müller
Andreas Müller was born in 1976 in Schlema in the Erzgebirge and grew up in neighboring Hundshübel.
After graduating from high school, he studied Protestant theology in Leipzig and Heidelberg. Internships and studies abroad led him to Canada and England. After completing his studies, he joined his parents’ company in 2006 and, together with his brother Christian Müller, drove forward its growth and internationalization. Since then, the MÜHLE brand has developed into one of the world’s leading suppliers of high-quality accessories for wet shaving. MÜHLE products are distributed in more than 50 countries.
Müller’s commitment to the company’s location in the Erzgebirge is reflected in its continuous further development. An exemplary vertical range of manufacture with a high percentage of manual work is realized in the building ensemble with modern industrial architecture, which now covers more than 3000 square meters.
Andreas Müller is a founding member and advisory board member of the Verband Deutscher Manufakturen (Association of German Manufacturers) and is committed to the preservation and promotion of traditional crafts.
Responsible for brand and product development, Müller brings his affinity for design to the conception of new products and marketing.
The orientation in the company’s design is expressed in its cooperation with internationally renowned designers and its commitment to the German Design Council.
MÜHLE products were awarded the German Design Award, the Red Dot Design Award and the “Manufactured Product of the Year” prize.
As a member of the Saxony Environmental Alliance, the company is committed to sustainable and resource-conserving management. With its own photovoltaic system, the shortest possible procurement routes, highly efficient building and production technology and a high proportion of recycling, MÜHLE wants to live up to its responsibility for the environment.
The entrepreneurial commitment of the Müller family was honored with the 2015 Medium-Sized Business Award and “Top 5 Saxony Entrepreneur of the Year”.