Shout-out to Burda!

05/25/2011 01:00 pm ET

This post is a public thank-you letter to all the Burda folks, starting with Steffi Czerny and Hubert Burda himself. (I received the Aenne Burda Award at Burda's DLD conference yesterday. Today I'm already back training in Star City, as of 3.30 am this morning, but the brief trip to Munich was worth it. Aside from the award, it was great to see in the flesh man of the friends I have been seeing only online for the last few months.)

Memories vary on our very first meeting, but I remember going to visit Burda in their office on Arabellastrasse in Munich in the late 80s/early 90s. Dr. Burda - who has the twinkle of a family doctor rather than the mien of a research professor - took over the family business and joined the German establishment, but not totally... he doesn't need to please anyone - banks or bosses - and so Burda is a special institution. It is one of the first (and still few) German firms of size that really feels comfortable with the internet and with the chaos of creativity. Yet it's not high-falutin'. Hubert's mother Aenne Burda turned a small publishing house into the leading seller of do-it-yourself fashion to the aspiring women of a war-battered nation.

Hubert Burda expanded the firm in a different direction with the news magazine Focus, but did not ignore its roots. One of the company's latest new ventures is BurdaStyle, an online pattern/design community (whose founder Nora Abousteit I unfortunately did not see in Munich).

Aside from my direct connections with Burda over the years, I ran into them in a Russian context a few years ago (which I mentioned onstage yesterday). I was at a friend's (rented) dacha outside Moscow a few years ago, poking around the library which evidently belonged to the owner. In the second-floor library were shelves and shelves of Lenin and Marx, all neatly bound but clearly unread.

On the ground floor, the selection was more prosaic, and I leafed through some kind of Soviet encyclopedia, checking out interesting topics. Suddenly a sheet of artist's tissue paper fell out: On it was traced one of those cinch-waisted, full-bosomed fluffy dresses so popular in the Fifties. Although Aenne Burda did not open formally in Russia until the late 80s, I'm convinced this was a pattern traced by some young Soviet dreamer dressed in dreary work clothes, copied from a decadent Burda fashion magazine surreptitiously slipped across the border. Perhaps that woman's daughter now runs a boutique in Moscow, or perhaps she's a member of BurdaStyle. Who knows?

Thanks, Burda! I'm honored to join a crowd of awardees including Marissa Mayer, Caterina Fake and Martha Stewart!