The story of Fritz Hansen begins with a visionary Danish family of cabinetmakers, who produced some of the worlds most loved and iconic designs, through collaboration with ambitious designers such as Hans J Wegner, Poul Kjærholm, Arne Jacobsen and Kaare Klint. It all starts in 1872, as cabinetmaker Fritz Hansen (1847-1902) obtains a trade license in Copenhagen. The decisive year is 1885, where Fritz Hansen starts a furniture production company of his own, and two years later he has managed to establish a flourishing workshop in Christianshavn – a central and fashionable part of Copenhagen.
About ten years later, in 1896, the business expands significantly, as Fritz Hansen acquires a building ground in the small town of Allerød, north of Copenhagen. Two years later, he opens his own sawmill on the site and the following year, in 1899 his son, Christian E. (Edvard) Hansen (1874-1954), takes over.
Christian E. Hansen is clearly inspired by the growing functionalism and the German Bauhaus school, and explores the rationality and new aesthetics offered by the industrial production methods. He is one of the first to introduce steam bent wood (beech), in 1915. During the 1920s and into 1930s, he gradually transforms the company from a traditional cabinetmaker business, to an industrialized furniture manufacturer, and starts experiments with steel frames, inspired by Marcel Breuers and Ludwig Mies van der Rohes. In 1928, two of his three sons, Poul Fritz Hansen (1902-1987) and Søren Christian Hansen (1905-1977), enter the company and become co-owners, in 1933 (the third son enters the company at a later state). Poul F. Hansen is a chair-maker, and becomes head of the furniture department, while Søren C. Hansen has a business degree, and takes care of the administration and the showroom.
Fritz Hansen begins a collaboration with Danish architect and professor Kaare Klint and the young talent Arne Jacobsen, in 1934. In 1935, the company produces the Bellevue Chair™, for the Bellevue theatre, designed by Arne Jacobsen. In 1936, Fritz Hansen produces Church Chair™ by Kaare Klint and launches the first line of Danish furniture with steel frames. During this period, the company keeps on refining the technique to steam bending wood, and becomes one of the pioneers in this field – which eventually evolves into their specialty: Furniture created in laminated wood. As an adjusted variant of German functionalism, the purer lines and the lighter, more practical approach became the breakthrough style in Scandinavia.
In the 1940s, Fritz Hansen expands again, and sees potential, as many Danish walnut trees succumb due to some ice winters. They buy a great amount of the trees, and a new furniture series in walnut is introduced shortly after. The collaboration with cutting-edge furniture designers continues and the China Chair™, designed by the progressive architect Hans J. Wegner is introduced in 1944 and the Spokeback Sofa™, designed by Børge Mogensen is introduced in 1945. This strengthens Fritz Hansens profile well into the 1950s.
The 1950s is totally dominated by Arne Jacobsens design – the Ant™ Chair, designed by Arne Jacobsen for the canteen at Novo Nordisk, in 1952. It is the first of its kind, a stacking chair of pressure molded laminated wood, where the steel frame is removable. The Ant™ Chair was succeeded by the Series 7™, in 1955. The fruitful partnership between Arne Jacobsen and Fritz Hansen results in a long line of iconic designs, such as The Egg™ and The Swan™ (designed for SAS Royal Hotel in 1958), The Oxford™ Chair (designed for the professors at St. Catherine’s College in Oxford) and Series 3300™, all receive immense international attention and enjoy widespread fame.
Shortly after, in 1963, the factory in Allerød expands with three factory halls and two years later, the entire production is moved to renovated buildings in Allerød, including a showroom. In 1968, the company introduces the Superellipse™ table, designed by Piet Hein, which becomes one of Fritz Hansens most popular products. The collaboration with contemporary leading designers also included Henning Larsen, Ole Wanscher, Nanna Ditzel and Mogens Lassen.
In 1979, Fritz Hansen is acquired by Skandinavisk Holding (75 % of the shares) as a natural continuation of the company’s desire to expand internationally, and here ends 107 years of family ownership. Through substantial investments and reconstruction work, Skandinavisk Holding, succeeds in strengthening Fritz Hansen, and thus preparing the old company for the future. In 1982, Fritz Hansen purchases the minimalistic Kjærholm Collection, an outstanding line of furniture by Danish designer Poul Kjærholm, designed from 1951 to 1980, and produced by E. Kold Christensen. During the 1980s and the 1990s, Fritz Hansen collaborates with several international designers to boost the extensive collection of furniture, and recapturing the position as the leading furniture company, in Denmark.
In 1998, the company expands again with a new factory hall and in 2000, the company introduces the concept Republic of Fritz Hansen™. This marks a change in strategy, and the message is, Fritz Hansen models stand as representatives of quality and world-class design. In the new millennium, The Republic of Fritz Hansen™ invites a series of new designers to interpret the design philosophy of Fritz Hansen and the legacy from Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjærholm and Piet Hein, is carried on. Several of the many classic Fritz Hansen models are revitalized and relaunched.