Design, quality, innovation
In 1907 Friedrich Hahne and Christian Wilkening founded a chair-making factory in Eimbeckhausen near Hanover. The name of the two founders was later used to create the company name of Wilk-hahn. High-quality, solid beech chairs were made from wood from nearby forests. The manufacturing plant did not differ greatly from the other 100 or so small and medium-sized chair manufacturers in the area.
In 1940 Fritz Hahne and Adolf Wilkening took over their fathers' chair factory. Business ran well, but the two were not satisfied with just that. They looked for new design paths and took up contact with Walter Heyn, the director of Deutsche Werkstätten, and with designers such as Georg Leowald and Herbert Hirche whose work was influenced by the Bauhaus movement and the Werkbund. At that time no one sensed that their fascination with experimentation would later pay off. The secret of the advance from a craft business to a company with international operations was simple: success through design.
In the 1950s the company succeeded in retaining excellent designers such as Herbert Hirche, Georg Leowald, Roland Rainer, Jupp Ernst and Helmut Lohmeier. Wilkhahn became a pioneer of German industrial design, experimented with new materials and evolved its own distinct design language. This resulted in purist furniture, the form of which was developed in strict adherence to function. Some of them were to go down in design history.
The 1980s at Wilkhahn were marked by international expansion. Sales offices and subsidiaries were established, foreign trading and licence partners were retained to work for Wilkhahn. Currently, business outside Germany accounts for 50% of total sales. This development confirms not only our marketing and sales policy but also our design approach.
The Federal Award for Design Leadership was presented to Fritz Hahne. This award by the German Design Council is intended to honour those who have rendered great service with regard to the role of design in Germany. The Chairman of the Jury, Dr. h. c. Dieter Rams, remarked: "Fritz Hahne's special achievement lies in the fact that he continually showed that good product design, top quality, social responsibility and ecological awareness can also be realized in an economically successful company."