BY ANNIE FITZSIMMONS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEFAN FUERTBAUER
Today about 25 Austrian companies hold the title of K.u.K. Hoflieferant
, or Purveyor to the Imperial and Royal Court. The best-known (and most budget-friendly) are the confectioners, such as Vienna’s Hotel Sacher with its famous Sachertorte
, but you can also shop royally sanctioned sources around the city for shoes, glassware, and clothing. And an additional few of Austria’s iconic brands are fit for royalty, sans official title. Historic production techniques, fused with cutting-edge designs, yield pieces destined to last several lifetimes. These products are heirlooms, not souvenirs. Here, a guide for a made-in-Austria shopping expedition – best fueled with Sacher torte.
Lobmeyr’s flagship in central Vienna, in a historic building with delightfully creaky floors, bursts with brilliant glassware
, chandeliers, and porcelain. The company, now with sixth-generation owners, served as official glassmaker for the imperial court. In 1966, its scene-stealing “Starburst” chandeliers, futuristic and spiky, were installed at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, a gift from the Austrian government in gratitude for American aid after World War II. Browse designer collections and heft the smooth, strong glass. A small third-floor sample collection houses nearly-200-year-old pieces. Kärntnerstrasse 26.
The architecture in this famous men’s clothing shop
on Graben is almost unchanged from 1913. A twisted green staircase leads from the ground floor to merchandise above: haphazardly stacked bolts of fabric – sourced primarily from Great Britain and Italy – and soft, carefully folded sweaters in every color. Plush pajama sets and loungewear hang proudly, and pocket squares rest on tables. Rumor has it that Empress Sisi got her riding clothes from Knize, but production focuses on men’s blazers, trousers, suits, shirts, and ties, although the shop will custom-make women’s clothes on request. Graben 13.
Rudolf Scheer & Söhne
Söhne, or “sons,” is no mere moniker – Markus Scheer trained with his grandfather for 20 years and is the seventh-generation owner of this esteemed Viennese shoe brand
. The shop produces only 300 pairs per year for men and women, applying the same finely tuned craftsmanship from two centuries ago. Investing in Scheer shoes makes for a good excuse to return to Vienna: It takes four visits and about six months to create the first pair. First, Markus (and only Markus) takes your measurements, then the shop makes a wooden last, and you select a color, type of leather, and style, such as loafers or heels. A sample shoe ready three months later allows the team to observe your gait and posture, and make changes. After you try the final pair for a few weeks, they adapt them as needed. Prices begin at $5,000, though subsequent pairs cost less with your measurements on file. Bräunerstrasse 4-6.
Founded in 1718, Augarten molds, glazes, and paints its porcelain
(or “white gold,” as it was known for centuries) by hand in Vienna. It was not an official royal purveyor, but Empress Maria Theresa owned the factory starting in 1744, and the entire royal family (including Empress Sisi) used the porcelain. Visit the factory to see the brand’s best-selling designs (the art deco Melon design by Josef Hoffmann and a delicate Viennese rose pattern stand out) and try the café in the Augarten park. Augarten’s modern collaborators include designer Madeline Weinrib, whose grandfather founded furniture hub ABC Carpet & Home in New York City. Ask to see the showroom with slightly less than perfect – and significantly discounted – pieces. Obere Augartenstrasse 1.
This family-owned, fourth-generation millinery
(not an official royal purveyor) uses traditional techniques but reinvents itself every season – Klaus Mühlbauer develops two new collections each year with other designers. “I know Mühlbauer hats well,” says New York-based, Austrian-born Virtuoso travel advisor Eva M. Ferrari. “Austrians love their hats and wear them daily.” More than 60 percent of these Austrian-made hats find their way to international destinations, such as Le Bon Marché in Paris and KaDeWe in Berlin. Visit one of two Mühlbauer stores in Vienna. Seilergasse 10 and Neubaugasse 34.
The elegant, modern public spaces at the 152-room Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna
include a chandeliered lobby lounge ready for long lunches and afternoon teas. For contrast, book a Hansen Suite with a masculine feel and marble bathrooms – some overlooking the leafy Ringstrasse.
Encompassing four historic palaces, the 202-room Ritz-Carlton, Vienna
, located on the Ringstrasse, welcomes visitors with large paintings of horses, honoring Vienna’s equine tradition. Among its highlights: the rooftop bar, which serves as an outdoor yoga space in warm weather, highly praised steak house Dstrikt, and a 59-foot indoor pool with underwater music.