The third generation
David Stefanus Janson
Per Thure and his son David Janson take the master saddler tradition further by growing the manufacturing of saddles and harnesses while expanding the family business into making more and more beds. With the emergence of the automobile, Janson predicts the changes to come within transportation and in 1917 decides to concentrate wholeheartedly on the beds. On midsummer’s eve, the first Hästens logo is drawn by Janson’s artistic cousin Paul Janson.
A horse is incorporated into the company name as a tribute to the master saddler heritage and has since become a defining symbol of Hästens identity. The same year a shortage of superior materials suddenly occurs. Genuine horse-tail hair, which had always been the main padding material in a bed, is difficult to find in the quality and quantities needed to meet the demand for superior handmade beds. In order to obtain the quality required, the horsehair needs to be carefully selected, washed, boiled, spun, scorched and thoroughly cleaned to bring out the right filling properties. Janson and his father solve the challenges by starting their own mill for horsehair processing; thus ensuring Hästens’ quality remained high.
David Janson recalls: “My father was an old-fashioned craftsman—the words quality and craftsmanship were almost sacred. This attitude was imprinted in the minds of not only myself but also those who worked for the company. We will make the kind of product that earns your respect. That is the guideline we have always adhered to.
“At the time, conditions for a master saddler were far from perfect and the future promised no improvement. Quite the contrary, in fact. But we wondered how to expand the narrow framework within which we worked, whether to change from small-scale craftsmanship to a modest small industry. Back then, it was my father, some craftsmen and I.
“To progress, we had to break through the restricting limits posed by pure craftsmanship, and turn to more industrial methods. This led us to think about complementing our operations with a horsehair spinning mill.
“Maybe we had what some describe as ‘that little spark’ within us, as we started our horsehair spinning mill. The year for our expansion was 1917, and I was 25 years old at the time. Naturally, it was a frantic time to begin a venture such as this, with the World War, the lack of raw materials and the immense difficulty obtaining suitable machinery. The circumstances didn’t get any better when my father became ill not long afterwards. The situation looked miserable, but people from Västmanland, our region of
Sweden, are known for being tough and stubborn. It was probably sheer pride that kept us from giving up!”
Three years after deciding to concentrate exclusively on beds, and having started its own horsehair spinning mill, Hästens bought 20 tons of horsehair to meet production demands. The master saddlers were obsessed with quality in the pursuit of creating the best possible products, the Spirit of Excellence driving them to see beyond existing conditions and set their own standards. They travelled the world to source the finest materials, including to Egypt where the highest-quality horsehair is found. From that moment onwards, horsetail hair from resplendent Arabian horses was transported to Köping and washed and rinsed in the fresh, clean river that runs by the factory.
Soon the hamlet of Hed became too small for the expanding family business and in 1924 Janson considered moving the company to Stockholm. There were more customers in the capital and Hästens sales were already brisk at the Nordiska Kompaniet department store in the city centre. A factory site was sought in Sundbyberg, close to Stockholm, but a blossoming romance soon changed the plans and took Hästens to the town of Köping instead. It was a Köping native, Astrid, who had captured David Janson’s heart and the following year the couple’s first child, Solveig was born. The town has served as Hästens’ headquarters ever since.
In 1926, the company started making duvets and pillows using the finest down and feathers available to complement its bed-making business.
In the 1930s the family detected a significant change in the sleeping culture. Where many people had previously made up a sofa for the night to serve as their bed, many were increasingly furnishing separate bedrooms and investing in proper beds. On January 13, 1935, the Hästens logo was registered as a trademark in Sweden. The trademark remains in force to this day.
Having outgrown its premises in the mid-1940s, Hästens began planning for further expansion. Not only did Janson want to expand, he wanted to create a new dream factory. Towards the end of the decade he came into contact with Ralph Erskine; at that time a little-known architect. Erskine’s style appealed to Janson, who commissioned him to design the new factory. The outcome was a building that looked nothing like conventional factory buildings. Initially referred to as ‘The Tivoli’, the unique design, with elegant lines and airy arched forms, gained iconic status among architects in Sweden.
As a promise of quality and durability, Janson introduced a 25-year warranty on all beds. The intention was to produce beds that were equally (or more) comfortable after 25 years as on their first night.
When Hästens celebrated its centenary as bed manufacturer in 1952, King Gustav VI Adolf appointed it as Royal Purveyor, visiting the factory in Köping the following year in a formal acknowledgement of the company’s high-quality products. The same year, the Swedish America Line purchased Hästens beds for its M/S Gripsholm cruise liner. The reputation of Hästens superior quality began to spread.