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INSPIRATION - STILTIPS
The history of Oscar Jacobson actually takes us back to 1622, when Sweden's King Gustaf II Adolf issued an ultimatum to the pedlars trading in and around the district of Sjuhäradsbygden in the south-west of the country. "If you do not establish a town for your trading activities so that we can levy taxes on the goods, thus ensuring that the state receives a share of the income, then you will no longer be able to sell your goods at all." The pedlars yielded to Gustaf II's demand and established the town of Boeråås - "the pedlars' town by the ridges". Thus the city of Borås was founded and it has been a centre for trade, and particularly textiles, for hundreds of years since.
In 1881, 259 years later, Johan Oscar Jacobson was born, the third child of Hilda Sofia and Anders Jacobson. During his childhood, Oscar had the opportunity to witness and learn a great deal about running a business and being an entrepreneur. His father ran a kind of travelling salesman business for many years in partnership with his brother, under the name "A&W Jacobson". They sold coat fabrics, silk materials and other textiles on journeys to Småland and Öland.
Oscar thought long and hard about the matter of clothes for men, particularly work clothes, and began making functional garments for workers in and around Borås. It turned out to be a smart move, and in 1903 - the year Oscar Jacobson was established - Oscar Jacobson and his aunt's husband, Johan Anders Söderberg, registered his business with Borås Handelsregister. The firm would pursue trading activities in the sale and manufacture of sewn articles. "Sewn articles" included overalls, work trousers and basic shirts, while "manufacture" referred to cotton and wool fabrics. Just a few years later in 1906, sales totalled 160,000 kronor, an impressive sum considering that a dozen shirts cost 11.50 kronor. That same year, Johan Anders retired and his place was taken by Oscar's brother Carl. Now it was Oscar and his brother who were responsible for building on the company's success.
In 1908, the Jacobson brothers launched the then revolutionary idea of selling ready-to-wear men's clothing in set sizes (well, it varied a little depending on who had made them, but they usually found something that fitted the customer). This was a completely new concept, since until then all clothes had always been made to the customer's measurements. And it meant that a suit was less expensive (a suit made from semi-worsted wool cost 22 kronor).
The venture proved a success for the brothers. In 1917, Oscar collected his first US-made car, a black Ford Model T. And they had their own premises with some 20 seamstresses.
In the 1920s, the production process changed from each seamstress making a whole suit, to each seamstress specialising in her particular area. This resulted in a considerable improvement in quality and fit. Business flourished during the decades that followed, with the exception of the 1940s, when World War II cast its shadow over Sweden.
The next major shift came in 1949. It was then that Oscar Jacobson took a boat over to the US to gain some inspiration from the land of opportunity. Oscar took notes like a man possessed. What he saw there must have been revolutionary for a textile trader from Borås. One of the many novelties he encountered was the first nylon shirt (which, fortunately, was no great success). From the 1950s onwards, Oscar Jacobson demonstrated considerable craftsmanship manifested in tailoring and sewing, but also within fashion. In 1958, Oscar's son Anders Jacobson took over the company. Anders had a strong interest in clothes and was quick to introduce foreign influences. Oscar Jacobson began working with more exclusive materials such as lambswool and cashmere.
During the 1960s, the focus was on a slimmer silhouette, according to the fashion from Britain, and this formed the basis of an effective partnership with the UK market (for example with the textile mill Reid & Taylor).
Oscar knew that quality, in work, fabrics, cut and fit, always pays off. But he wasn't just a relentless entrepreneur, bold and curious about new ideas; he was also a man with impeccable style.