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Formex Highlights

Proud tradition of craftsmanship in tune with the times

A repeat exhibitor at Formex, Klässbols Linen Mill of Värmland represents a shining example of the fair’s special interest in traditional crafts within a contemporary industrial and commercial context. 

Next year, in 2020, Klässbols will celebrate its 100-year anniversary under the leadership of the fourth generation of weavers from the Johansson family. Several family members still work in different positions at the company. Klässbols is preparing its anniversary celebration by thoughtfully developing and refreshing its collections and brand, in collaboration with designer Lena Bergström in the role of creative director.

Klässbols’ story begins with HjalmarJohansson, the son of a farmer in western Värmland, who set off for Borås in the 1910s to train as a weaver. In 1920, he came back to Klässbol where he began weaving sheets in flax that he sold for a few pennies to the peasants in the village.

Grandpa died young, so my father had to take over back in 1928 when he was just 17 years old, says grandson Dick Johansson, communications manager at Klässbols, whose son Andreas, currently the CEO and the fourth generation of the family in management. We’re five brothers who all became football and hockey players — and weavers. We have two sisters, too, but they have other jobs. That’s the way it was back then.

The beginning of the 1980s marked a turning point for Klässbols. Up until then the mill had produced fabrics using grandfather Johansson’s designs, which were based on traditional older decors. Everything changed in 1981, when Dick Johansson met the influential designer Astrid Sampe, one of the biggest names in Swedish modernist design. Sampe not only introduced her own design and a modern sense of style to the mill’s products, but opened up her famous address book of Swedish and international contacts. Thanks to Astrid Sampe, Klässbols came in contact with Sweden’s royal national board of public buildings and got the opportunity to deliver linen to all of Sweden’s embassies around the world, something the mill does even to this day. Other official clients — including the Royal Court and the Nobel Foundation — followed suit, and today Nobel laureates and royalty alike eat on tablecloths and with napkins from Klässbols. Textiles for official functions represent yet another significant area of Klässbols’ production.

Formex Highlights

As a representative of the Swedish industrial arts and crafts tradition, Klässbols was an obvious choice for designers Carina Seth-Andersson and Matti Klenell when they hand-picked producers for the interior of the new National Museum in Stockholm, for which Klässbols has produced upholstery fabrics and draperies designed by Jonas Lindvall for the museum café. Collaboration with the renowned, versatile designer Lena Bergström got off to a somewhat shaky start, according to Bergström, in the early 1990s.

At that time interior designer Maja Cronsjö, whom I collaborated with, saw some of my work from my days at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design,” says Bergström. “She thought it might be something interesting for Klässbols’ future collection. Weaves in a mix of flax and wool, combined with rubber. I showed them to Dick — I think he was terrified. A little later, however, I designed fabric-by-the-meter curtains for a good friend’s company that Klässbol was contract manufacturer for. It went very well, and eventually Klässbols took over the product. Over time we began to work closer and closer together.

In recent years, Bergström has collaborated with Klässbols Linen Mill and various production units on a complete revamping of the color collection for existing
patterns.

In the past, things have been quite haphazard. But now we’re beginning to see the big picture with the classic and the modern,” says Bergström. “In our work with color we’ve adopted an almost scientific approach. We methodically set up warps with white, unbleached and black flax, wefts in different color areas — blue, pink, grayscale and so on. Both the old and the new colors are combined with different weaves. We then made a selection that we thought was relevant. It was a time-consuming process. It was important to create a color spectrum that
would be classic, broad and at the same time suit our times. Quite simply, we have created a woven color library. This work alone took two and a half years.

Klässbols is fantastic as a client,” adds Bergström. “It’s really not often you get to hear things that Dick Johansson and his colleagues say — We trust you, Lena, and it can take all the time it needs.

Together with Lena Bergström, Klässbols is also in the process of broadening its range under the theme “Klässbols in all rooms,” for example with its BADA collection — towels with a simple graphic design and a bathrobe with a highly absorbent weave. The upholstery fabric Norrland as a fabric by the meter for beds and pillows and the “Memory” collection by Ulrika Elofsson are other examples of new product areas.

“It’s also amazing that Klässbols not only invested in new state-of-the-art looms but managed to retain the old ones, some of them antique, which provides more options,” says Bergström.

“With the old looms, we can weave fabrics that are not entirely machine-perfect with all the finishes, but have a more artisanal feel,” says Dick Johansson. “We’re pleased that there is demand for such quality today.”

For Klässbols, Formex has been a key marketplace for a long time.

We’ve been coming here for many years,” says Johansson. “This is where we meet our sales reps. We don’t go out on the road. We have the privilege to be the order receivers, not sellers. Formex is a marvelous place for us. This is where we meet new customers, not only from Sweden but from other countries like Japan. The fair has changed and not as much direct on-site business takes place as before, but it has not made it less important. This is where we get the chance to present ourselves to the market — our new products and colors, everything we have to offer.