Craft / September 2017

Falke: A Tight Knit Affair

The Rake takes a look at the history of Falke, the 122-year-old producer of fine socks and knitwear.

Falke lends its expertise in knitwear to this louche trench coat. Photograph by James Munro.

Founded in the late 19th century, German hosiery specialist Falke started out producing just a couple of dozen pairs of socks each day. In the many years since, it has steadily grown a global footprint (pardon the pun), with sales today in the vicinity of a quarter-billion Euros per annum, 3,200 staff, and a range that now includes not only socks, but innovative knits and award-winning sportswear. Amazingly, Falke has done it all while remaining under control of the founding family, whose fourth generation now manages the company.

An ex-roofer who’d made ends meet knitting socks during the bitterly cold German winters, founder Franz Falke-Rohen established his eponymous firm in the town of Schmallenberg in 1895. By the time of his death in 1928, the enterprising, entrepreneurial Franz had grown the business from a small ‘cottage’ operation to a thriving knitting and wool-spinning mill with more than 800 employees.

His son Franz Junior oversaw the further expansion of the business, purchasing the Salomon Stern knitwear factory in 1939 and branching out into woolen garments. The century-old factory had been owned by a Jewish family whose patriarch, Artur Stern, Franz was close friends with at school — by purchasing the property, he narrowly averted it being confiscated by the Nazis, and ensured the Sterns (whose family maintain a relationship with the Falkes) received fair payment.

Again passing down from father to son, Franz Junior’s heirs Paul and Franz-Otto Falke took over the company after their father died, and set about building the brand’s customer base beyond Germany’s borders in the broader European market. Falke means hawk in German, hence the adoption of that feathered creature as the firm’s logo, which was first used on legwear in 1946, and became the company’s registered trademark in 1950. In 1958, the brothers purchased a hosiery factory and took the Falke legwear range outside exclusively heavy, knitted woollen socks, into finer men’s hosiery of the type the brand is now renowned for.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.