Craft is a product of sweat and pain, of snow and rain, of falling and rising, and the euphoria experienced when pushing endurance limits. For four decades, the name of our game has been the provision of optimal performance through functional sportswear. For almost as long we have been an integral part of the professional world of sports. Our expertise in designing sport-specific garments for optimal function comes largely from a long and fruitful collaboration with elite athletes across the globe.
A pilot who gets into trouble and must eject from his plane at a high altitude quickly ends up with a new set of problems. The temperature outside of the cockpit is about minus fifty degrees and the pilot's underwear is often drenched in sweat. In an instant, his or her clothes form an icy armor.
The bodies of athletes – whether pro or amateur – quickly begin to cool when the clothes in contact with the skin become wet with sweat. Their performance drops at pace with the cooling of their body, disturbing the fluid balance even more. If the problem could be solved, the efforts would be even more worthwhile.
These were just a few of the problems that made Anders Bengtsson go out on a new exercise session in the spring of 1973 – just outside his home in Borås, Sweden. Next to his skin was new underwear made of a material just released from a factory in Halmstad. After a few kilometers, his body began to react as it should. The sweat started to roll.
As usual, after the session he weighed his underwear, measured the moisture content of the garment with a moisture gauge and compared it to previous results. There was no doubt. He seemed to have found the perfect garment to have next to the skin – a garment that handles moisture from the skin’s pores and transports it onwards with as little absorption into the fibers as possible. He just took one step closer to solving the problem.
The secret behind the discovery Anders Bengtsson made after one of his strenuous exercise sessions is that the material – polyester – does not become wet on the outside and only absorbs a minimal amount of moisture in the fibers. Add to that a knitting technique that greatly helps to transport moisture and keep the skin fresh. The most effective stitch ratio proved to be three stitches outward and two stitches inward.
In addition to underwear, garments for the next layer (so-called absorption garments) were developed. These work to transport moisture further out from the body. The third and outermost layer was made of an insulating garment to protect against weather and wind without trapping moisture from the inside. These three layers were the start of the idea that Craft then used and developed into today’s modern function garment.
From 1974 to 1976, the new garments were manufactured and marketed within the Eiser Group. In 1976, a man named Sten-Sture Johansson made his entrance into the company as the new product manager. One of his first tasks was to collaborate with others in the marketing department in order to find a fitting name and to develop the new brand. The name ‘Craft of Sweden’ was brought up in the marketing group’s discussions and the group soon agreed that this was the one. ‘Craft’ has several meanings, including craftsmanship, and rights to the name were acquired by the Eiser Group. The package was now complete.
On the first day of October in 1977, Craft of Sweden became its own limited liability company within the Eiser Group. The wind was in Craft’s sails right from the start. The products sold well from the stores and in order to meet demand, production capacity quickly became more of an issue than marketing. To profile the function garments even further, skiing (both alpine and cross-country) was chosen as the representative segment.
The second place in the giant slalom was a disappointment. “I am not satisfied, but I won’t toss the medal into the ocean,” Ingemar Stenmark said after the 1982 alpine world championship race in Schladming, Austria. A couple of days later everything was back to normal when Stenmark won his third consecutive championships slalom gold. Ingemar, who was a spokesman for Craft, had won the gold wearing Craft’s revolutionizing underwear.
The Swedish winning machine, whose stunning record includes numerous Olympic and world championship gold medals as well as 86 world cup victories, will always have a place in the hearts of the Swedish people. When Craft created a life-size image of Stenmark on cardboard and put it on display in the sport shops, the customers couldn't stay away. It was almost as if they wanted to ask for an autograph.
Meanwhile, Craft expanded its assortment. In addition to the physiological underwear, Craft had long sold a sock with patented felt sole that eliminated moisture problems in shoes. The problem was that the product was "too good". It lasted and kept its function year after year, which meant that customer need for new socks from Craft was limited.
Craft also returned to outerwear, such as jackets, in the first few years of the 80s. With the exception of competition attire, Craft supplied all garments to the Swedish Olympic team during the 1984 Olympic winter games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
When Gunde Svan’s sweaty body and runny nose worked its way through a fifty-kilometer race, Swedes sat in front of the TV with their own watch to catch intermediate times between the trees. The competitors fizzled out in the last uphill slopes and skier Svan became Gunde to the entire Swedish population. Craft’s sales certainly were not hurt by Gunde Svan appearing in full-page ads dressed only in Craft underwear with the heading “My dad likes these too”.
During the 1989 cross-country skiing world championships in Lahti, Finland, Gunde Svan won three gold medals wearing Craft garments. This period and part of the ‘90s were marked by success for Craft as well. In 1993, Craft’s turnover increased to SEK 240 million and it seemed as if development would continue on forever.
At this time Craft was a vital and successful brand. Product development continued and there was more than one competitor interested in taking over the Craft brand and its strong products. When Sten-Sture Johansson realized that he could not run the company on his own, the next pivotal person in Craft history entered the picture.
Torsten Jansson came from the west coast of Sweden. He had long been successful in the product area profile clothes and under the brand New Wave. In 1996, Torsten took over Craft and renamed the company ‘Craft of Scandinavia’. Three years later he appointed a new managing director who together with a new team of designers, buyers and marketing employees began to reconstruct the company.
A number of athletes who could help build the new brand were identified, and the main focus was on gaining attention in the sport shop world. The three sports selected were cross-country skiing, running and biking. All three symbolize endurance and condition and require highly functional clothes. The idea was to go beyond functional underwear and develop sport-specific outerwear.
During the World Cup season of 2000, the Swedish cross-country ski team geared up in new competition attire designed and produced by Craft. One of the skiers was the new Swedish star Per Elofsson. In 2001, Elofsson became the man to beat when he won two gold medals at the world championships in Lahti, Finland. He finished off the year by winning the legendary 50 km at Holmenkollen, Norway, as well as the overall world cup series.
While the elite skiers began to display Craft to the world via the media, exercise enthusiasts established a new relationship with Craft when the company became one of the main sponsors in the world’s largest skiing competition – Vasaloppet. These two factors – elite skiers’ use of Craft and sponsorship of Vasaloppet – gave Craft renewed credibility and clarity. The company stood for something, focused on function and became accepted by the most demanding users.
She had skipped the sprint relay the day before because of an unyielding cold. The individual sprint at the 2005 cross-country skiing world championships at Oberstdorf, Germany, were only 12 hours away and the stubborn infection was still there. The doctor of the Swedish national team dug deep and came up with a radical solution: 12-year-old whiskey and garlic.
The doctor’s choice proved brilliant when Emelie Öhrstig, after a night of gargling whiskey spiked with garlic, won the qualification race, the quarter final, the semi final and finally the final to be Sweden’s first female cross-country skiing world champion since 1987. Emelie’s victory was especially emotional for us, since she has been a Craft skier almost her entire career.
As our athletes proved themselves among the cream of the crop, the Baltic states, China, France, Greece, Russia, the United Kingdom and several other countries were included in the Craft family. Backed by new sales offices, an expanded distribution and a new comprehensive communication platform, Craft’s sales boomed and turnover rose over 20 percent on average each year in the beginning of the new century. The reconstruction of the company that had begun nearly a decade earlier eventually paid off in great dividends.
For the winter season 2008/2009 Craft added Alpine to its family of core sports. A perfect prelude for the launch was Jens Byggmark’s back-to-back World Cup slalom victories at Kitzbühel, Austria, on January 27 and 28, 2007. Jens, who was racing down Kitzbühel’s famous Ganslern course wearing Craft underwear, collaborates with Craft in developing first-class alpine racing wear.
During this period Craft intensifies its presence in professional cycling. Through close collaboration with Team CSC, with riders like Carlos Sastre, the Schleck brothers and the world's best ITT cyclist Fabian Cancellara, Craft develops world-class cycling garments. When Sastre and Andy Schleck win the Tour de France in 2008 and 2010 respectively, they do so wearing clothes from Craft.
Craft follows Team CSC when the team changes its name to Team Saxo Bank. The company then proceeds with, successively, teams Leopard Trek, RadioShack Nissan Trek and RadioShack Leopard Trek.
The partnership with top athletes in the four core sports continues. In this way, the company keeps a high degree of innovation in the products, develops new garments and continues to strength the brand, cemented in functionality.
The world has changed a great deal since Craft was born in the ‘70s. The Craft brand has also gone through many stages over the years. The concept, however, is still the same – to produce functional clothes for optimal performance. A good idea that will withstand the test of time.