THE TEXTILE LEGACY
The Textile Fashion Center’s links to textiles and its rich history are clear for all to see. Borås has long been known as Sweden’s textile capital. Sweden’s first mechanical cotton weaving mill was established outside Borås in 1835 and it was the first of several major industries that together helped transform Borås into a textile and trading centre. Today textiles have returned home to the Textile Fashion Center, where the pulse of history beats strongly and hints at a rich past.
Simonsland becomes the home of the textile industry in Borås
The area where the Textile Fashion Center is today located is known as Simonsland. Initially Simonsland consisted only of a small croft and it is believed that it got its name from a man called Simon who used to live there. In the middle of the 1880s a facility for colour printing on cotton was established nearby in a former barn, and the area underwent gradual expansion. In 1873 Borås factory-owner C.J. Johnsson purchased both land and buildings in the area and started printing and dyeing by machine, after having previously printed and dyed fabric manually. The operation grew, his son took over and new buildings were constructed on both sides of the River Viskan. Large corporations such as Borås Wäfveri AB, Druvefors Väveri, Wiskastrands Fabriks AB and Norrby Spinneri AB were among the customers, as well as weaving mills in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Alingsås. At the outbreak of the First World War the factory was sold and in 1915 it was taken over by Norrby Nya, which in turn became part of Borås Wäfveri after a couple of years.
The Svenskt Konstsilke era in Simonsland
Borås Wäfveri AB was founded in 1870 by Axel Bergengren. His son and CEO, Axel Bergengren Junior, was also interested in the manufacture of artificial silk and in 1918 founded AB Svenskt Konstsilke as a subsidiary of Borås Wäfveri AB. With about 20 employees he started artificial silk production in the former factory premises in Simonsland, reinforced by the spinning mill in Vansbro which had previously experimented with artificial silk manufacture. The former textile dyeing premises served as the experimental workshop. The building closest to Skaraborg Road housed the processor facility where cellulose sheets were broken down in lye baths. The ground floor housed the spinning mill with its in-house-built machines made of wood and lead plates. The building also housed a stranding department, bleaching section and a sorting room and reel room. In 1925-26 Swiss company Société de la Visko Suisse became a fifty per cent owner. The new owners had better knowhow and equipment, which allowed the company to develop and expand. Production totalled 700 kg a day, but soon larger premises were needed so Svenskt Konstsilke constructed a modern factory which became the new viscose department. Its biggest customers before World War One were large weaving mills that focused on producing clothes and textiles, such as Borås Wäfveri, Dalhems Väveri and Rydboholmsbolaget.
Expanding demand for domestically produced clothing during the war meant that Svenskt Konstsilke expanded still further. Production peaked during the 1950s. Svenskt Konstsilke now had almost 800 employees and its factory building was both the tallest and longest in Borås. Production developed increasingly in the direction of technical applications but competition from the most renowned synthetic fibre, nylon, along with overseas competition, forced major price cuts and in 1967 the decision was taken to shut down production. The focus now shifted to adding value to purchased yarn through operations such as stranding, weaving and reeling. In 2007 Svenskt Konstsilke moved out from Simonsland, but the company still operates from premises on the fringes of downtown Borås.
A new district is growing in Simonsland where the Textile Fashion Center is located. Here in the old factory landscape, tomorrow’s textile research and fashion design are being born. In the upcoming years we will see the next phase in the area’s development. It will feature housing, hotels, more office space and premises for cultural and student-related activities.