Innovator - the jeans of furniture

January 3, 2024

Innovator - the jeans of furniture

This is the story of two design students who started with a 1966 internship at Dux–Bra Bohag, and then went on to revolutionize the furniture industry with innovative and accessible designs, ultimately achieving worldwide acclaim through their brand Innovator.

In 1966, four design students - Janne Ahlin, Jan Dranger, Martin Eiserman, and Johan Huldt - were invited to the furniture manufacturer Dux–Bra Bohag in Trelleborg. The principal of Konstfack, University of Arts, Crafts, and Design, had arranged an internship to help the students learn more about materials and manufacturing techniques in the furniture industry. The event was very generous, allowing the four students to test their creative ideas on a full scale. One result was a line of simple cardboard furniture called "Well," which was both lightweight, affordable, and surprisingly stable. The armchair in the series cost 50 sek and came with a one-year lifespan guarantee.

In 1969, two students from the DUX internship, Jan Dranger (1941–2016), and Johan Huldt (1942–2016), founded the studio Innovator – which came to be the first "lifestyle concept" in the Swedish furniture industry. Dranger and Huldt created a playful, youthful marketing concept for interior design, directed down to the smallest detail. Their furniture became a tremendous international success, and the Innovator concept inspired many other furniture companies worldwide. The brand's strength lies in holistic thinking, accessibility, clear messages, the right price, and efficient distribution.

Dranger and Huldt's main business idea was to offer affordable, simple furniture for their generation, who did not want to invest much in furniture. The designers described their mission as being "the jeans of furniture." The Innovator products were made of steel tubes and cotton fabrics in bright monochrome colors, designed to be material-efficient, mass-produced, and distributed in flat packages. The marketing concept was innovative, with an unconventional appeal that attracted a youthful consumer base. Dranger and Huldt joined with Lars-Gunnar Österlund in founding the company Möbelmontage to handle production and logistics.

Innovator's first signature armchair, Stuns, was sold in large numbers through Swedish Coop, and the successor Rapid was sold through IKEA. However, the international breakthrough came when the British design guru Terence Conran in 1973 incorporated Innovator's products into the Habitat range. By the end of the 1970s, Innovator was established on all continents with license manufacturing in several countries– a fundamental success story.

Jan Dranger and Johan Huldt both passed away in 2016 and today, the Innovator concept is owned by a Japanese company.

Designer of the month
Arne Jacobsen

Arne Jacobsen is one of the most known Scandinavian architects and furniture designers of the 20th century with pieces such as the Ant, the Swan and the Egg, as well as buildings such as the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen and the Saint Catherine’s College in Oxford.

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