Aenne Burda, founder of Burda-Moden, influenced generations of Czech women

Aenne Burda, photo: CTK

Aenne Burda, the founder of the Burda-Moden fashion publishing group and one of Germany's most successful businesswomen, died on Thursday aged 96. During communist times, Burda magazine was one of only very few sources of inspiration for Czech women. Copies of the magazine were circulated readily among Czech women who made their own clothes based on the magazine's patterns, which were markedly different from those available in Czechoslovakia at the time.

Aenne Burda,  photo: CTK
Burda was a household name in Czechoslovakia and to posses a copy of the magazine was really "something". People either brought the magazines back from trips to West Germany or had them sent by relatives. Only a few copies were officially imported to Czechoslovakia and there were always long queues outside the shops when by chance a particular shop was allotted a few copies.

The editor in chief of the Czech edition of Burda, Eva Coufalova, had a chance to meet Mrs Aenne Burda and described her as a charismatic and very charming lady who radiated energy. She describes the importance of Burda for Czech women before 1989.

"In Germany, Burda was a phenomenon but I dare say it was an even greater phenomenon in this country. Because it was so hard to get and because it gave Czech women a unique chance to dress the way they wanted. Everyone knew Burda, even the women who did not sew themselves. I believe at that time it was Burda that set the fashion trends here, regardless of the official trends available in the shops."

In 1987 - at the height of perestroika - Burda launched a Russian version in the Soviet Union. At that time the West German foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, told Aenne Burda she had achieved more than three ambassadors before her, becoming the first Western publisher on the Soviet market. Czech women were not as lucky - the copies which circulated here were in German. But Eva Coufalova says that changed shortly after the fall of communism.

Aenne Burda,  photo: CTK
"Our readers welcomed the Czech version of Burda in 1992 and they could read the whole issue in Czech including the manuals. Every issue included an editorial by Mrs Burda and these editorials were very popular with Czech readers and they often sent us very personal letters for Mrs Burda thanking her for the Czech version of Burda."

Radio Prague talked to a few women in the streets of Prague on Friday morning and some said they never stopped making their own clothes according to Burda, despite the fact that there is a wide choice of women's clothes in all price categories on the market now. The editor in chief of Burda Praha, Eva Coufalova has an explanation for that.

"Burda turned sewing from a bare necessity into a hobby for Czech women. It is a very creative leisure time activity. It's great to receive letters from young girls saying they were taught to sew by their mothers who learned from Burda. We even have men readers who send us photos of their outfits and take part in our competitions. Burda has had an enormous influence on Czechs, also thanks to Mrs Burda who always emphasised the importance of creativity."