Burda musings

 

Burda patterns then

Burda patterns then

Katui_kiwi from The Curious Kiwi started an interesting discussion about Burda patterns here.

I left a comment on her blog but realized I needed a whole post to develop my views on the matter – so here it goes:

the first Burda magazine I ever bought (date unknown)

the first Burda magazine I ever bought (date unknown)

Perhaps a little bit of history, though. First of all, I am very thankful to Burda. As I said in a previous post I have no training in sewing whatsoever and I learnt to sew by using Burda and Knipmode patterns. I bought the magazine, without skipping an edition, for years. Till Burda changed its pattern policy and crammed 52 or so patterns into four pages. I was disappointed. The magazine which used to provide good service and helped people develop their skills in sewing was doing less. Why? I asked myself.

Burda patterns then

Burda patterns then

I do not share the secrets of power that be but I do not think that Burda’s main concern is to save printing costs. We are in a transition time from the printed matter to digital age and I believe Burda is preparing us for that. Patterns are already available for download but, if my line of reasoning is right, a break in printing patterns would be too abrupt. Not everyone in the world has an Internet connection to be able to download a pattern, and not everyone would be willing to start doing so all of a sudden. Above all it is perhaps cannier to instill the new method slowly. First make it difficult for people to draw patterns so that they will eventually look for another solution and will think of downloading patterns. Do the maths and you realize the profits: pay €6 for a magazine offering 52 patterns and soon one will have to pay €4 per pattern.

April '96

April ’96

Again this is one interpretation. Just one way of looking at things.

But Katui_kiwi and Burda made me think about a couple of things. According to the economic system we live in, what is the supreme, the main goal of a company nowadays? Is that to provide good service? Is that to produce something of value that will benefit a large majority of people? Some companies may cherish this goal but I am not sure the majority of them are primarily concerned with this line of thinking.

February and March '97

February and March ’97

What do we hear overall? Companies and governments, be they of left or right wing, they all share the same goal in one word: growth. A company’s main goal is: growth. How do you translate growth? Benefits. Earnings. Profit. Money. Money is on their worship altar. Service? That’s something we can make do with marketing.

April '97 and August '98

April ’97 and August ’98

Some years ago I was talking to a manager in a company I worked for and wanted to share ideas in how to improve a particular service to our customers. That improvement meant we had to do something extra to the customer. My manager cut me off immediately saying: “if customers are not prepared to pay more for a service we are not going to give them extras.” Plain. Period.

October and November '98

October and November ’98

Take the example of Google, for instance . They earned, in the UK alone, £3.2bn on sales worth whilst they paid only £6m in corporation tax. We need to be in crisis (crisis caused by whom?) for European governments to wake up to the fact that it is not only the middle man who has to pay his fair share of taxes, the big corporations – which make billions of profit – too.

Couture facile pour débutants (date unknown)

Couture facile pour débutants (date unknown)

Google is going to stop Google Reader. Did they ask their users about their advice? Very naïvely I wrote to Burda asking about their change of pattern policy. Did I get an answer back? Only an automatic e-mail reply saying they had received my request. But I never got an answer. It was naïve of me to think they bother about us, faithful readers and buyers of their magazine.

June and November 2004

June and November 2004

Take the example of RTW (“ready to wear”) companies. What is their aim? To produce poor quality clothes in the least expensive way. These clothes are not meant to last long so that people can keep buying clothes. As it is no longer possible to produce clothes cheaply in the developed countries, companies get rid of their original local industries leaving local people unemployed, go offshore where workers are paid unfair wages, work in difficult and dangerous conditions, so that companies can maximize their profits. What are the results of this greedy attitude? Dhaka, Bangladesh is but one example.

March and May 2005

March and May 2005

Sadly enough, Burda is not alone to blame. Burda is but one company in a system of fierce competition where all companies worldwide do the same: compete to see which one makes more profits, embellished into the more academic word ‘growth’. We never think about it but wouldn’t it be a good idea to work together instead of working – almost – against each other? We must outdo our neighbour. Service? People’s well-being? Sustainability? None of our concern.

September and November 2005

September and November 2005

The other day I read an article where the IMF (Institute of Monetary Fund) which is known for its austerity programs and calls to cut government spending, is concerned about the growing inequality between rich and poor: “0,5% of the population owns more than 35% of the wealth. (…) Movements like Occupy Wall Street, the Indignados or the Arab Spring were motivated by this tendency.”

February and March 2006

February and March 2006

Where are we heading to?

I am currently reading an interesting book (Geluk & wijsheid voor beginners: inleiding in de kunst van het filosoferen by Jos Kessels). The author comments about analyses made by the American philosopher Marcuse (1898-1979). These analyses were made some time ago but still apply to our society today. Marcuse says that our society is the richest and the most technically advanced in the whole of history.

September 2006

September 2006

These technical advances give us the opportunity to accomplish and lead a free and satisfactory human existence. For everyone. An existence without coercion, an existence where you are free to pursue, to give meaning and to develop your life. Live yourself your happiness in your own way. An existence without stultifying or unhealthy labour, without exploitation or oppression, without poverty or shortages. (…) That’s all technically possible. (…)

January, June and September 2007

January, June and September 2007

But what do we see? Instead of an enlargement of individual freedom it seems our prosperity results in a reduction of individual freedom. This is evident from the simple example that nobody has time nowadays. Everyone is in a hurry, most eagerly working under tension. Why is that? In the end people strive not to have time to themselves to do what they like. They seek primarily to have money. People find it so important that they have almost no other time. And that means hurry, stress and above all production, the compulsion to perform. There is work to be done, there must be results. And there money should come from.”

March and June 2008

March and June 2008

And I might add… we must keep busy to make sure the 0.5% of the population stay on the top and accumulate more wealth.

May and July 2009

May and July 2009

Of course things are not so simple. But to examine the question thoroughly you would need to write a book and this is only meant to be a post.

August and October 2009

August and October 2009

One last thing, I said above we can look at things through different perspectives. Many of us believe it has become more difficult to draw a pattern out of the 4-page-printed patterns Burda releases. But we can see this change in a positive way as well: printing less pattern pages means less environmental nuisances as less trees are cut down. In the long run when patterns will only be available through download and there may be no more magazines printed, the environmental impact will be even less.

Burda patterns then

Burda patterns then

And there Katui-Kiwi’s advice on how to deal with Burda’s patterns comes in very handy. If it is to save on printing costs and to be sustainable, I’ll be there to support it.

Burda patterns now

Burda patterns now

A positive side as well: do we need to have 52 patterns at our disposal every month? Is it not greedy of us to want to buy 52 patterns? How much patterns do we really use out of one magazine?

Burda patterns now

Burda patterns now

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I no longer buy Burda magazines. Meanwhile, I prefer to support sustainable and independent designers like Deer & Doe for example and to develop my sewing skills by drafting my own patterns.

What about you? What are your views on the subject?

12 thoughts on “Burda musings

  1. wow I have only purchased the “new” version of the magazine but can see how crazy that transition must have felt. As for Burda corp., I’m not sure they plan to go solely digital. Portuguese Burda only started being released in 2007, after the .com boom and the gloom and doom predictions for the print industry. In Brazil, Burda is distributed, but has to compete with the local pattern magazines, with Burda having a handful of copies on the shelf and the other BIG magazines having 10-15 depending on the magazine stand location. Subscriptions are not really a thing here and neither is heavy use of printers. Maybe in the next 50 years, but until then, hopefully Burda will keep working to make the magazine patterns fashionable, multi-sized with plus, and keep the cost lower for consumers. PS I just discovered Deer and Doe’s website this month. Awesome! sewingforme.wordpress.com

    • Thanks for stopping by! I do believe we can approach a question under different perspectives and that we can see “positive” and “negative” aspects in many things. Thanks for your input and for bringing up another perspective – that’s what discussions are meant for🙂.

  2. Thanks for taking me down memory lane with the Burda covers. I haven’t been collecting as long as you, and I’m still a subscriber. I hope you are not right and it is just a paper saving/weight thing. Less pattern sheets would change the weight and that’s a good thing for transport and postage, so that’s good for the environment. I do not like printing and sticking!

    • Thanks for stopping by! The printing/digital discussion in the publishing world is a whole topic in itself for sure. In the US it seems that digital books are outstripping sales of paperback sales (http://www.techhive.com/article/218039/amazon_kindle.html). But that does not mean that printing will disappear. Think of the fax machine, for example. In many countries it was replaced by e-mail whereas it is still very much used in Japan (due to the language characters apparently).

  3. This is a great discussion. I certainly hope that Burda are not heading the digital pattern way, I am pretty annoyed at how the BurdaStyle website have a single price for any pattern no matter how complex. Actually I’m pretty annoyed at what’s happened to BurdaStyle.com in general if I am honest but, like your discussion, it needs a whole blog post for itself but I think my energy is better spent sewing instead😉

    It’s a shame when companies do not listen to their consumers. I equate your feelings about the tracing sheets with how I felt about 3 years ago when I cancelled my subscription annoyed at the “lazy drafting” and lack of pattern variety. So I “voted with my wallet” as they say, cancelled my subscription, now I only buy individual issues then thay have enough content that interests me.

    Perhaps Burda should release less patterns each month or perhaps only release a magazine every 2 months or once per quarter so that they can concentrate on both the pattern drafting/styling and also spread out the pattern sheets back to the good old days?

    • Thanks for stopping by! I agree with you, this discussion can go on and on. Like you, lack of pattern variety was also one of the reasons why I stopped bying Burda. But hey, I do not want to sound all negative and grumpy about the magazine🙂. I have a closet full of them! This new policy has actually spurred my “independence” and I am heading other directions. I have decided to be more selective, use or adapt old patterns and develop my sewing skills by drafting them myself – thanks to Burda!

  4. Interesante posición! Aunque me temo que ni Burda ni ninguna otra revista está pensando realmente en el impacto medioambiental al eliminar sus patrones en papel… creo que solamente intentan eliminar costes para sobrevivir como cualquier otra empresa…. recuerdo que en España hace un o dos años era impensable tener que comprar una bolsa para ir al supermercado… ahora si tenemos que pagar por ellas, cuando todo este revuelo comenzó, la excusa era también el impacto medioambiental del plástico… sin embargo, seguimos consumiendo plástico igual que antes.
    Se trata de jugar al despiste para “enmascarar” la forma de que las empresas tengan más ganancias con menos coste, simplemente…
    Si Burda dejara alguna vez de vender los patrones incluídos en la revista en papel, seguramente perdería a una fiel lectora consumista desde hace más de treinta años… yo.

    • Gracias por tu comentario Rosy! Tu análisis es totalmente justa – se nos hacen pagar por una bolsa de plástico, pero los envases utilizadas por las empresas siguen empleando… plástico. La ecología tiene límites, probablemente! Es a nosotros estar más selectivos y exigentes. Los recursos de la tierra no son ilimitadas y debemos pensar qué tipo de ambiente se transmitirá a nuestros niños!

  5. Interessante post. Ik was een echte Burda-fan vroeger maar de laatste jaren kan Burda mij maar matig meer bekoren,,, Wat betreft het digitaal gaan, ik haat zelf patronen afprinten en dan aan elkaar plakken… Geef mij maar het over-/doortekenen. Zelf patronen moeten afdrukken, is een reden om geen patronen te kopen bij Burda.
    Zoals iedereen ondertussen weet, de enige manier waarop we de wereld kunnen veranderen, is door ons koop- en consumptiegedrag aan te passen. Ik spendeer liever 15€ of meer aan een patroon van een onafhankelijk label waar vragen binnen de 3 dagen beantwoord worden, de patronen en de uitleg met veel zorg en toewijding worden ontwikkeld, dan een groot bedrijf te steunen dat service een vervelende bijzaak vindt. Dit geld zowel voor naaipatronen, RTW-kledij, meubels (Ikea?) tot zelfs de keuze van boodschappen doen; om de hoek bij de kruidenier die misschien minder keuze heeft dan de grote supermarkt 15 km verder maar waar ze wel de mensen bij naam aanspreken en oprecht geïnteresseerd zijn in hun klanten… Een mens zou zo uren kunnen doorgaan over de vele voordelen van kleinschalig en lokaal produceren en consumeren…

    • Dank je voor je reactie. Ik ben het helemaal met je eens: het systeem van overconsumptie waarin we leven heeft grenzen en absoluut ongewenste gevolgen: uitputting van natuurlijke hulpbronnen, overmatige productie van CO2, verplaatsing van de productie van goederen, verarming van de lokale bevolking, verhoogde stress, depressies, … Je hebt je vinger op de wonde gelegd. Het is aan ons, consumenten, om alert, waakzaam en veeleisend te zijn. De globalisering is er nu eenmaal, maar ik hoop dat er meer en meer stemmen opgaan die nee zeggen tegen dit onmenselijk systeem waarvan uiteindelijk slechts een minderheid profiteert.

  6. Just a quick question – I sometimes pick up old Burda magazines second hand. Do you know when they changed to four pages for the pattern layout?
    Great post and thank you for your thoughts🙂

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