The world breakthrough of the concept of Scandinavian Design – modern, blond, functional, elegant – came in the 1950s. During the 50s and 60s designers like Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjaerholm and Tapio Wirkkala ruled the world. Mostly driven by two Nordic nations – Denmark and Finland. Later, during the 70s and 80s the Scandinavian Design concept was sustained mostly on its merits from the previous decades. But in the 90s Scandinavian Design came back with a second splash so strong it created a wave that is still rolling around the world 20 years later. This time initiated in Sweden.
Alternative brands were started with the ambition to be second to none in the world of design. In Stockholm, Thomas and Michael Asplund founded Asplund, Christian Springfeldt founded CBI and Stefan Ytterborn set up the shop Klara. And in Malmö, a young former pop singer and DJ by the name of David Carlson founded David design. Amongst them were designers like Thomas Sandell, Björn Dahlström and Claesson Koivisto Rune.
For the Salone del Mobile in Milan 1998, David design was headlining a handful of Swedish contemporary lifestyle brands in the exhibition ’Living in Sweden’, co-produced by Wallpaper magazine. The venue was Giorgio Armani’s old showroom at Via Borgonuovo, in the heart of Milan’s fashion district. The event became that year’s talk of the town and, after it had been written up in leading Milan daily La Republica, it came close to riot when trying to control the mass of people that clogged up the street outside the gates. For those who were there, the event is not just legendary – it represents a milestone in the history of Scandinavian Design.
Around this time David Carlson posted a statement:
”The millennium is closing in. The next one calls for new furniture with higher demands both for living and working. Quality in design, function and durability is paramount. The keywords are smart, understated, conscious, humane, comfortable and modern.”
Now, years later (and well into the ‘next millennium’), David design remains true to that vision. Today David design is a well-established international brand with followers that look for iconic, functional and sustainable furniture and accessories. The work of some of the world’s leading designers are included in the collection – Claesson Koivisto Rune, Luca Nichetto, Nendo, Inga Sempé and Richard Hutten. David design is still based in Sweden. The main focus today is the contract market, including hospitality. But like Scandinavian Design has always promised, it sits equally well at home.
We at David design may find ourselves in a much more established company and concept today. But our roots are still very much alternative.
Håkan Nilsson, CEO
When I started David design back in 1988 the design scene in Sweden and internationally was quite different from today. This was in the heydays of the 80s extravaganza and the smart and more minimalistic design of the 90s was yet to come. My aim was to collaborate with talented young designers and promote a new and fresh version of Scandinavian design. (Side note: I’m very proud to see that some of the designers that made their first commercial products ever for David design, like Claesson Koivisto Rune and Monica Förster, are now very successful and sought-after worldwide.)
In collaboration with Asplund and CBI, among other Swedish upcoming brands, we created an umbrella organisation for export in the early 90s. One of the most fun moment must be the ‘Living in Sweden’ event that we made in Milan 1998. I still vividly remember those queues stretching hundreds of metres in several directions.
Side by side with the in-house design collections we ran some early versions of lifestyle design stores in Malmö, Stockholm and Tokyo where our customers could get inspired by the best international design, have an espresso from our coffee bar, buy the latest dance floor grooves on CD as well as clothes from upcoming alternative fashion brands. This may sound like your everyday shopping experience, but this was before the boom of lifestyle stores like Corso Como, Colette, Merci and Spazio Rossana Orlandi.
I left David design ten years ago, but the brand will always be close to my heart.
David Carlson, Founder