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Rencontre avec : Inger Marie Jensen Hansen

Last September, Danish furniture publisher Carl Hansen & Søn opened its first Parisian boutique. Meeting with Inger Marie Jensen Hansen, responsible for the brand's accessories, boutiques and websites.

In 2017, after retiring from his post as Chief Medical Officer of the Rheumatic Diseases Department and Director of Research at Odense University Hospital, Inger Marie Jensen Hansen, wife of Knud Erik Hansen - the current manager of Carl Hansen & Søn - joined the company. Today, she is responsible for the accessory lines, all flagship stores and online stores. On the occasion of the opening of the first Parisian boutique of Carl Hansen & Søn, Inger Marie Jensen Hansen confided in the editorial staff of Muuuz.

Muuuz: Can you tell us the story of Carl Hansen & Søn?
Inger Marie Jensen Hansen: For over 112 years we have specialized in the handcrafted manufacture of exceptional furniture that brings visionary design concepts to life. Our history dates back to 1908, when Danish cabinetmaker Carl Hansen opened a small furniture workshop on the Danish island of Funen. Since then, the company's success has been based on two fundamental ideas: an uncompromising commitment to the best craftsmanship and alliances with talented designers who are constantly reinventing and refining the concept of modern design. In 1934, Carl's son Holger Hansen took over the company. At just 23 years old, Holger is proving to be the right person, in the right place, at the right time. His training in cabinetmaking, combined with his ambition and courage linked to his young age, allows him to develop the company by increasing productivity and by participating in international fairs. In 1962, after successfully running his father's business for nearly three decades, Holger died suddenly of a heart attack. Holger's sons, Knud Erik and Jørgen Gerner, are only 11 and 16 respectively - too young to succeed him. Holger's wife, Ella Hansen, makes the courageous decision to take over the family business until her young sons reach adulthood - a bold move for an uneducated woman in 1962. The eldest son, Jørgen Gerner, joined the company in 1973 and succeeded his mother as managing director in 1988. The youngest son, Knud Erik Hansen, took over in 2002 and today the small carpentry shop created in Odense more than a century has grown into an international design company.

What progress has been made since the creation of the company? Today, what is his approach?
Since Knud Erik Hansen, the grandson of Carl Hansen, became the third generation at the helm of the family business in 2002, Carl Hansen & Søn has significantly expanded its international presence. Today the furniture we manufacture is available all over the world and we have flagship stores and showrooms in New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, Osaka, Paris, London (Belgravia and Clerkenwell), Milan, Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen and Gelsted, as well as sales subsidiaries in Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Japan and Hong Kong. In the years to come, we plan to open more in more cities. Yet despite all these changes, our century-old commitment to producing classic furniture of international stature has not changed. Our head office is now in the town of Gelsted on the Danish island of Funen, and we also manufacture our furniture at our neighboring production sites to ensure the highest possible quality. We use a combination of traditional techniques and new technologies to create a modern and timeless design. From the start of manufacturing until our furniture takes its place in a new interior space, we are guided by dedication to honest, sustainable practices that respect the legacy of our founder and designers.

What is the process of developing your furniture?
Since 2002, Carl Hansen & Søn CEO Knud Erik Hansen has preserved her design heritage, strategized for new talent and struck the perfect balance between craftsmanship and technology. In practice, this means that Carl Hansen & Søn has automated the hard work that previously exhausted cabinet makers, while also ensuring that craftsmanship plays a key role in the production of design classics. Once the computerized machines have cut out the various elements of the furniture and ensured a uniform quality for further processing, the cabinetmakers take over to assemble, polish, oil, pad, weave and give each piece that particular finish that only a skilled craftsman can bring. Carl Hansen & Søn continue to respect the traditions of craftsmanship and draw on the knowledge and experience acquired over generations. Experienced cabinet makers and upholsterers continue to ply their respective trades, while master weavers employ a wide range of techniques in the production of seats and backs. The close collaboration between the new designer and the manufacturer results in a culture where the challenges of craftsmanship continue to drive the development of new designs.

Since the creation of the company, what is the relationship between Carl Hansen & Søn and the various designers with whom it collaborates?
Holger Hansen, son of Carl Hansen, had an eye on Hans J. Wegner in the 1940s, when Wegner was still a young and little-known Danish cabinetmaker. In 1949, after finishing his designs for new chairs, Wegner cycled from Copenhagen to Odense - a full day's ride - where the Hansen family's furniture business was located. Once there, Wegner moves into the Hansen family's villa, and sleeps in the bedroom of the youngest son, Knud Erik. From the start, Wegner's designs are unique and unprecedented. In his first three weeks, Wegner designed four chairs - CH22, CH23, CH24 and CH25. Wegner uses modern elements such as steam arched backs, organic shapes, light woods, and woven seating in intricate constructions that result in simple and elegant objects. Wegner's first collection for Carl Hansen & Søn was unveiled in 1950 and was an immediate success. Despite initial mixed reactions from customers, the Wishbone chair went on to be dubbed "Denmark's National Chair", demonstrating the visionary nature of Wegner's design. Interest in the first collection was not limited to Denmark, and in 1952 Holger Hansen established a network of authorized distributors in the United States. With this commercial success, Holger Hansen - who bet on the young architect - can breathe a sigh of relief. Today, Carl Hansen & Søn continues to work closely with the Hans J. Wegner Design Studio, as the world's leading manufacturer of Wegner furniture. Besides Wegner, Carl Hansen & Søn also collaborates with famous designers and architects such as Kaare Klint, Børge Mogensen, Ole Wanscher, Nanna Ditzel and many more.

How do you choose the designers for new collaborations? What are your latest collaborations?
Over the years, Carl Hansen & Søn has focused on preserving Danish design classics while continuing to expand its collection to represent influential new designers. Our goal: to bring together the cream of the most iconic modern furniture designs under one roof. We also partner with contemporary designers who uphold the core tenets of Danish modernity - simplicity, functionality and craftsmanship - while breathing new life into modern spaces. These collaborations are rooted in a common respect for thoughtful design and production, and in perspectives that bring new dimensions to our catalog. Our partnership with Danish designer Rikke Frost, with whom we launched the Sideways sofa in September 2020, embodies these values.

And how do you find and choose parts in the archives?
We research the archives in close collaboration with those close to the creators. Of course, we also take into account the demand and our collection, so that the new product makes sense.

Can you tell us about the accessories line?
The Carl Hansen & Søn line of accessories enriches our existing product line with unique and inspiring items from Denmark and around the world. All Carl Hansen & Søn accessories share a quality design, from hand-woven covers and bold glass vases, to intricate hand-sewn table runners and expertly crafted mirrors. Each room is carefully chosen to bring beauty, charm and warmth to the interiors.

Why did you choose to set up your flagship store in Paris? What are the challenges and objectives of this new place?
Paris is a hotbed of design. The classic lines of our collection correspond well to Parisian taste. Also, as France is an emerging market for us, with clients demanding high-end quality and craftsmanship, we felt it was time to invest in a point of sale, in accordance with our strategy of international expansion in major cities around the world, in order to make Carl Hansen & Søn known to a wider audience. With a flagship store, we can be in direct contact with our customers, which allows us to offer them an even better shopping experience and to better understand the market.

To learn more, visit Carl Hansen & Søn's website.

Visuals: © Carl Hansen & Søn

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