A brief history of The Cale Schiang Partnership
The company was formed in October 1987 following a visit to the stand of Danish producer Getama A/S at the Danish Furniture Fair earlier that year by its founder and owner Matthew Rhodes.
Matthew with a background selling high quality Danish design in the UK and an admirer of the furniture of Danish designer Hans J. Wegner, sucessfully reached an agreement with Getama to market their Wegner designs exclusively in the UK.
It was at the Danish Fair two years later in 1989 that Getama introduced Matthew to the designer and his daughter Marianne Wegner Sørensen when Wegner’s 75th birthday was marked with a special exhibition of his chairs in Denmark’s Bella Centre.
There were at this time several companies* producing Wegner furniture all of whom had seen export sales virtually disappear in many countries following the oil crises of 1973 and tentative discussions began with the Wegner studio on relaunching the production of the most prominent of these PP Møbler aps and Carl Hansen & Son back into the UK market.
1989 also marked the beginning of the friendship between Danish producer Børge Schiang whose collection of furniture by Professor Jørgen Gammelgaard was rapidly gaining a reputation amongst the Danish design community for its clean functional lines and Matthew agreed to distribute the Schiang collection together with the lighting designs of Jørgen Gammelgaard by Pandul A/S alongside that from.
Early the following year the Company opened its first permanent showroom on London’s Portobello Road where it was to remain for the following twelve years.
Showroom, 355 Portobello Road, London.
The early 1990’s saw considerable growth in sales and Matthew was approached by Marianne Wegner to work with her coordinating the import and installation of her father’s designs in a major new building in Cambridge by the Danish architect Henning Larsen – The Møller Centre built within the grounds of Churchill College Cambridge.
The Centre with bedrooms, meeting rooms, dining room and common spaces all furnished with Wegner furniture was opened by Her Majesty Queen Ingrid of Denmark in 1992.
Matthew’s involvement in managing the British side of the project was to prove instrumental in cementing his relationship with the Wegner family and also for the wider marketing of Wegner design as agreement was reached to represent both PP Møbler and Carl Hansen & Son exclusively in the UK.
The Company first launched the collection in the UK the following year, at the annual Spectrum Exhibition held at the Royal College of Art promoting all of Hans J. Wegner’s and Professor Jørgen Gammelgaard’s designs.
1994 marked Hans J. Wegner’s 80th birthday and presented ourselves with the first opportunity to show a wide representation of Wegner’s work to the post 1973 generation of young architects and designers.
Matthew on behalf of the producers and Wegner Studio presented a proposal to the organisers of Sit 94 (an annual exhibition held in the Business Design Centre Islington to celebrate “The Chair”) for an exhibition of Wegner chairs to mark the designers 80th birthday. When offered 200 square metres of space it was agreed that if possible eighty chairs would be on display together with full size reproductions of the designers original working drawings.
As well as being a hugely successful exhibition in London the exhibition went on later in the year to be exhibited in Halifax at the Den Clough Crossley gallery where it attracted unprecedented number of visitors.
Sit 94 was also to have profound effect on the relationship between the Wegner Studio run on behalf of her father by Marianne Wegner and the producer Carl Hansen and Son. The studio had had little contact with the firm since the widow of Holger Hansen who died in 1962 handed over the running of the Company to her eldest son Jørgen Gerner Hansen in 1988.
Sit 94 was to prove a watershed in renewing the relationship between producer and designer providing an opportunity for Marianne Wegner and Jørgen Gerner Hansen to talk further concerning the possibility of Carl Hansen producing Wegner’s 1963 Three Legged Shell Chair – a conversation which saw Carl Hansen successfully launch the chair as CH07 some four years later.
1995 – 2000
In 1995 the annual Spectrum Exhibition was held for the last time at the Royal College of Art before moving to Kensington’s Commonwealth Institute. The exhibition saw the saw the publication of the www.danish-design.com website.
Architect John Pawson who Matthew had met in the mid 1980’s was to prove a valuable contact in promoting the Wegner’s furniture in this Country. Pawson together with his then partner Claudio Silvestrin had used the Wishbone Chair from Carl Hansen & Son in one of his early projects.
Wakaba Restaurant Pawson and Silvestrin 1987
The shared appreciation between architect and salesman of Wegner’s brand of organic functionalism while against the fashion at the time has over the years borne fruit with many published Pawson interiors introducing the collection to a new generation of architects and interior designers.
Amongst these was the First Class lounges for Cathay Pacific at Chek Lap Kok Airport Hong Kong by John Pawson Architects completed in 1998. Pawson, incorporated a Sushi Bar to seat some 80 persons into the scheme and was looking for a suitable stool to use in the space and asked Matthew Rhodes if he could help.
On approaching the Wegner Studio, Marianne Wegner proposed a classic, functional Wegner design. The stool though simple in appearance was a cleverly constructed with four wooden legs held in place by a stainless steel ring on which to rest the feet, topped by a luxuriously padded leather seat. The stool was proto typed by the Company most suited to the task Getama A/S who produced the first production run of 80 stools for the Pawson Project.
Stools CH56 and CH58 subsequently produced by Carl Hansen for Bulthaup to sell alongside their kitchens.
It was again the connection with John Pawson whose work with the German Kitchen Company Bulthaup prompted Carl Hansen and Son to put the Cathay Pacific Stool into production for the kitchen maker. In two heights, as models CH56 and CH58.
The Wegner stools were not the last successful introductions by Carl Hansen to come out of the working relationship between the Cale Schiang Partnership and John Pawson Architects.
In 2000 the Company relocated to St Albans Hertforshire opening the Schiang Shop. The shop promoted a wider range of Scandinavian designs to the general public in parallel to our architectural and interiors contract division.
Schiang. 58 Holywell Hill St Albans
In 2005 Pawson was commissioned to design the hotel foyer, reception and meeting areas of the Hotel Puerta America in Madrid. The main reception space was to be used for conferences and banquets seating up to 900 covers. Pawson suggested the comfortable PP 58 chair from PP Møbler. However as the space required a chair that stacked the use of the three legged version PP58/3 in such a large numbers was a concern to ourselves and the Wegner Studio over using a chair with only three legs.
Chair PP58/3 first proposed for the Hotel Puerta America.
On this occasion the long relationship between salesman and the Wegner Design Studio provided the solution. As early as 1994 Marianne Wegner had suggested an early design by her father, a little stacking chair designed but never produced by Fritz Hansen, for a large project we were working on with Getama in Central London.
The original Fritz Hansen stacking chair designated xx15 first proposed by ourselves for a project in 1994
It was clear that this four legged stacking chair may provide a solution for the large banquet hall and it was presented to John Pawson’s design team. Following a favourable reaction it was proposed that the new large industrial factory Carl Hansen had moved to in 1998 was the most cost effective of the Wegner producers for the project and Marrianne introduced the design to the new CEO of Carl Hansen Knud Erik Hansen.
Sadly, the chair code named at that time as XX15, although proto typed and presented to the Hotel by the architects was not chosen for the project as a metal framed chair was seen as more suitable for the environment.
However, the work between ourselves and the Wegner Studio on this project was to see XX15 go into production as Knud Erik Hansen was so impressed with the design and prospect of an order for 900 chairs he decided to add it to the Carl Hansen collection as CH20 – known today as the”Elbow Chair”.
The CH20, Elbow Chair. Whitechapel Gallery, Shoreditch, London.
After years of successful growth working with ourselves and following the introduction of the CH 20 Elbow Chair in 2005 Carl Hansen decided to work directly in the UK. We of remain a supplier and distributor of their furniture and our focus remains on promoting Hans Wegner design together with the brands we represent directly.
We relocated for a third time to our present showrooms in Tewin Hertfordshire in 2011 where we have some 40 – 50 Wegner designs on permanent display and offer a personal service by appointment to other furniture dealers and retailers as well sharing our expertise with members of the general public who have a particular interest in Wegner design.
Some of the extensive range of Wegner and Mathsson designs on display in our Tewin Showroom.
Hans J. Wegner died in 2007 aged 93. However, in 2014 to mark the centenary of his birth we were pleased to reach agreement with the premier UK retailer The John Lewis Partnership to market an exclusive collection of original Wegner pieces made by the oldest company producing Wegner furniture and with whom we have worked successfully for almost 30 years Getama A/S.
Hans J. Wegner’s Venus Chair produced for The John Lewis Partnership by Getama A/S advertised on the London underground. May 2014.