When launched in 1969 Fabian was Sweden’s – maybe even the worlds – ever first fitting made of plastic. It was a huge success and sold over 4 million copies.
According to the birth certificate, Håkan Fransson is Fabian’s proud father. At the time of inception Håkan Fransson worked as an in house designer at Fagerhult. With a safe hand and fluent lines he imprinted Fagerhult’s visual expression during the late sixties.
“I’ve always have had a soft spot for curved, chubby lines”, Håkan admits, while walking down memory lane.
“But I really do think that Fabian’s wild success was a spot-on combination of innovative material and design complimented by a very affordable price. Hey, it only took 11 seconds in assembly – that’s lean production!”
Innovation at its best
Young Fabian had been endowed with a range of fantastic properties, donated by his three fairy godfathers – former development manager Bernt-Olof Berntsson, engineer Jörgen Johansson and the late Elis Svensson, head of Fagerhult’s prototype workshop.
“At the time, Fagerhult was still a large supplier of domestic lighting and the marketing department called for a new wall mounted bedside luminaire with a competitive price tag”, as Jörgen Johansson – still a member of Fagerhult’s development team – recalls.
“Actually, our aim was to force the price all the way to the basement, and in order to do this we had to reinvent ourselves. Our eyes turned towards polypropylene that was quite new to the lighting industry.”
“No one really knew what it was really capable of. But as it turned out”, Bernt-Olof Berntsson continues, “we had a local supplier of this brand new material.”
The supplier’s main products were thermoses with a housing of injection-moulded plastics that came in two different sizes. The housings could easily withstand the warmth from the hot beverages– but could it take the heat from a bulb? Trial and error was the only way forward.
“We slaughtered two thermoses, one of each size, and from the two housings Elis created the first prototype”, Bernt-Olof remembers.
Several prototypes later the development team had created a seamless, screwless design that could easily be implemented in the production system. Due to the absence of screws, assembly could easy be done with the help of a special fixture. The procedure was clocked at 11 seconds flat.
Still, Fabian required heavy investments.
“I specifically remember one meeting when the supplier pointed out that this would require some new, expensive injection tools. But Bertil Svensson, Fagerhult’s founder and managing director, was in good spirits. ‘We are planning to sell 10 000 units of this fantastic luminaire. Just go ahead!’, he said encouraging. No one could have guessed that Fabian actually would sell 4 million copies!”, Jörgen Johansson laughs.
Fabian was off to a flying start as Swedish department store chain EPA placed an initial order for 5.000. The introduction price was set to 19.95 SEK, equivalent to 18.80 € today.
Fabian was cleverly marketed as an all-round luminaire that did not just belong in the bedroom, but in the living room and the study too. “You’ll need at least five Fabian at home!”, the ads stated. The fact that Fabian was offered in a wide range of colours following the latest interior design trends contributed to its persistent success.
Soon, Fagerhult became known as the frontrunner within plastics. This resulted in several iconic luminaires as Cobra and Lucifer, the later designed by the “it” team in plastics – A & E Design, Hans Ehrich and Tom Ahlström, who also created the classic Jordan dish brush.
Fabian was taken out of production in the middle of the nineties and the arena has changed from domestic lighting to public lighting for Fabian’s second incarnation. It has also been the subject of a slight face lift and is now produced as a pendant; the proportions are a little bigger and the plastic housing has been replaced by sheet metal or opaque glass. The opaque shade has a contemporary twist sympathetic to the most varied of interiors. And there’s still one Fabian for every room. Let it add some extra sparkle over café tables, desks and counters, in windows, bars and hotels.
The new Fabian has the same colourful spirit as the old one as the sheet metal housing can be coated in any shade you fancy.
“There are 26 standard colours to choose from. We also offer an exclusive version in opaque glass”, says product manager Peter Björkman who has made sure that Fabian is just as up to date now, as it was then.
“Fabian comes with a super-efficient and dimmable, long life, high quality LED-module. It is truly a child of its time!”