Spirit of Don Cano
Recollections of my memories, leading up to the Don Cano relaunch
In 1979 Jan Davidsson a tailor with a background from London’s Savile Row teams up with Karl Magnússon of the Bláfeldur, a small clothing manufacturer in Reykjavik: as a result of Jan’s collaboration with Karl DON CANO came to be, some weeks afterwards the fashionable outdoor clothing that bears the name hits the streets. In only two years DON CANO becomes Iceland’s no. 1 household brand. By the mid eighties everyone, Iceland’s president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir included, owns something or other from the brand.
Fast growth, Increased cost, adverse trade agreements and high interest loans, Jan and Karl fell short of managing the situation. DON CANO was forced in to bankruptcy 1988. Jan satisfies his tailoring call and in 1989 he goes on to create 66N outdoor for which he receives the DV award. And in 2012 Jan receives the ISPO award for best outdoor jacket. In 1996 Jan founded the Cintamani company. in 2008 with his daughter Andrea they create the J.DAVIDSSON COLLECTION.
DON CANO, could just not be passed on to oblivion! And during the last four years jan has been designing and sewing the next generation of DON CANO garments. In September 2018 DON CANO collaborates with the University of Iceland staging a catwalk of the new collection. Ólafur Stefánsson gives a monolog about the jacket he fell in love with as a young boy. The house was filled with enthusiastic fans of the brand. RUV the state radio and TV public service network filmed the event.
In 2019 DON CANO Makes a pledge and vowed to make their products in fabrics that cause no harm to mother nature. And equally pledges that their garments will be cut and sewn by people that takes pride and owns respect of their work.
In 2019 DON CANO starts in Kazakhstan. A joint venture between the Tskhe Family and their company Clotwell. DON CANO Kazakhstan Ltd is established. And supreme DON CANO creations are now being stitched up by CLOTWELL’s skillful staff state of the art factory in Talgar City. leaving no harmful footprints in its pursuit.
Once Upon a time
Limmared A village in Southwest Sweden. Men operating cloth-spreading on cutting tables, women happily sewing away on the Union Special machines, a mysterious smell of oil mixed with cotton twill, heaps off work in progress. This scene becomes Jan’s childhood playground, he wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Jan’s call to learn tailoring was perhaps planted here. Jan’s father Gunnar (1909-1985) had an inkling towards making cloth and finds work as a cutter at “Fristads” newly established clothing plant. Though no education, Gunnar A natural innovator becomes the company’s manager. Greta, Jans beloved mother and his sister Gerd are both seamstresses at FRISTADS.
Perfecting tailoring skills at Savile Row
In Sweden, Holger Olsson taught Jan the craft of tailoring. Holger a master of the craft had completed his appretorship in Berlin before the second world war.
After his Apprenticeship years with Holger and just turned eighteen. And in order to perfect his skills Jan set off for London’s Savile Row the Mecca of tailoring. Making jackets and suits for The Duke Of Windsor, Laurence Olivier and others.
Later Jan Studies clothing engineering and technology in Sweden. Excelling in the knowledge of cloth manufacturing Jan became an adviser to the European clothing industry. Many well known companies were his clients
Brief account of Events
Touch Down on Runway 06/24, Reykjavik Airport, 5th of January 1970. love at first sight. The task: to survey and help make improvements to Iceland’s clothing industry.
In the spring of 1979 Karl Magnusson met up with Jan managed to convince him to help in reorganize Karls clothing factory Bláfeldur. A month later the DON CANO collection hit the streets in Reykjavik. Jan’s first advise to Karl was to close his factory. But Karl would just not give in.
The clothing industry had seen its best days. Businessmen figured that cloth production in Iceland belonged to the past. Jans former clients had all given up. China had emerged as the place where to produce clothes. And the world retailing chains had begun calling the shots.
Closing his ears to the forebodings
At A dinner with Karl’s family on a Saturday night, Jan and Karl agreed. And early Sunday morning they were already in the factory discussing and planing the start. Only a few month later Don Cano products were rolling out from the new assembly line.
Jan says; his love for making clothes kept all his better judgment out of sight. The DON CANO creations literally flew effortlessly out of his hands.
“Ella, my wife at that time, came up with the name DON CANO. God knows how it came to be or where it came from.”
A Brand That Touched The Nation
Everyone thought it was the coolest brand on this side of the equator. Jan’s then wife Ella came up with the name. It lifted our spirit to the seventh heaven and like the Phoenix Bird, we shook off our old ashes and flew away.
Jan moved to Iceland with family. His father Gunnar came too. Gunnar, the best manager the world had known, Gunnar helped Lilja-Ros making the factory run smoothly. Even though DON CANO had the best sewing operators god knows, the factory could still not turn out the fashionable collections fast enough.
Everyone loved it! Teenage kids slept in it. Only in a couple of years Don Cano became Iceland’s no 1 household brand. Everyone owned something or other from the brand.
Nanna Leifsdottir the youngest Icelandic Olympian and her mates in the Icelandic national team wore Don Cano at the 1984 Sarajevo games. Vigdís, Iceland’s beloved and first women president of the world was a fan too.
Sales mushroomed beyond believe; soon Don Cano agreements rolled out in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, Switzerland, Japan Hitting markets and stores like, Harrods and Lillywhites in London, Steen & Strøm in Oslo etc.
DON CANO Disappears for thirty odd years
To cope with the increased cost of production and the adverse trade agreements Jan and Karl tried to rationalize and optimize output. Dizzy and careless by success, encouraged by fat bankers they took on high interest loans. DON CANO was forced in to bankruptcy 1988. After the collapse of DON CANO Jan was engaged by Sjóklæðagerðin to create an OutDoor concept for the company. Creating The 66N Outdoor. In 1995 Jan received the DV award for the creation of 66N 1996 Jan founded Cintamani. In 1997 Björn Ólafsson and his team used the Cintamani clothing in Icelands first assent of Mt. Everest. in 2002 Jan returned to 66N heading its creative direction until 2012. In 2011 66N received the ISPO award for the Snæfell Jacket. In 2012 66N was nominated for the Eldborg Jacket.
DON CANO just refused to be passed on to an obscure memory. Abiding its time, only to come it is now coming back stronger than it ever was. !
A mysterious pendulum stroke: DON CANO docks with ClotWell. ClotWell ltd owned by the Tskhe family establishes DON CANO ltd in Kazakhstan. DON CANO sets up international HQ’s, production and R&D in Kazakhstan.
The Pendulum Stroke
Mr. Yevgeny Tskhe of The Clotwell company of Kazakstan contacts Mr. Heikki Matilla asking him to advice and help them to reorganize their operation.
In the beginning of 2018 Heikki contacts Jan. Heikki a PHD in value added processes in the clothing industry, Professor at the University of Boras Sweden.
Heikki searching through his files aiming to find a fitting compliment to his own expertise in production management and administration. Behold, Jan Davidsson reverberates from the time half a century ago when he had collaborated with Jan, setting up engineered production lines for M&S suppliers.
DON CANO set up Studio at Fiskislod
2018 DON CANO STUDIOS buys premises at Fiskislod 45 for its head HQ.
Special thanks to
Tskhe Family and Clotwell Ltd for their the excellent R&D base. Heikki Matilla his vision made the DC-CW partnership a reality. Halldor Eyolfsson for his steadfast support. Larissa for always being there.