“More than a sweater” for 140 years
Dale of Norway has had many owners, but its focus on local quality remains the same
Dale of Norway is a vertically integrated apparel company known for its beautiful Norwegian designs and technical outerwear. The company was established in 1879 by Peder Jebsen in the village of Dale. Its designs have represented Norwegian mountain living for over a century. It is the favored sweater or jacket for hiking, skiing, and après ski activities.
The Dale of Norway factory crafts premium knitwear of 100 percent pure wool, inspired by beautiful Norwegian patterns. Since 1956, the company has designed official sweaters for the Norwegian national ski team for every Olympic and World Championship event. It was the official sweater for the U.S. Olympic team at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. The International Olympic Committee selected Dale to design the official sweater for the Winter Olympics, with rarely granted permission to use the Olympic rings.
According to the Dale website, Jebsen chose to locate in Dale because of its access to natural hydro power, Norwegian wool, and its historic knitting traditions. The company hired skilled knitters and artisans, eventually becoming the largest employer in the area. Several generations have worked in the factory. Every part of the sweater is 100 percent Norwegian, from pewter clasps to woven braids to leather patches. The source of the wool is from “valley sheep,” which roam freely, making the wool eco- and animal friendly. The slogan is “more than a sweater.”
After some bumpy years, the company was bought by serial entrepreneur Hilde Midthjell in 2009. She started with a good idea and an old Fiat and founded the cosmetic company Dermanor in 1987. In 2004, she was awarded by Veuve Cliquot as the business woman of the year. In 2009, she sold the startup to Christian Ringnes for NOK 500 million.
That’s when Midthjell acquired Dale of Norway. She worked intensively with the turnaround, modernizing and expanding the company for 10 years. After having turned red figures into solid profit, she sold Dale to the French Rossignol last year with private equity fund Altor as the largest investor. According to Midthjell, “Dale of Norway will keep its brand name and Norwegian image. The new owner matches the brand name, traditions, and production focus with Dale and is the ideal partner for the future.”
Before she sold, Midthjell expected to double the revenue within three to five years by focusing on sales and marketing. Dale is larger abroad than in Norway. The response in America is overwhelming, and the brand is present at all popular ski resorts and is a typical high-end brand. Profits reached NOK 20 million before taxes in 2016, up from NOK 10 million from the year before.
According to the financial magazine Kapital, Midthjell is the first Norwegian woman to build a fortune of more than NOK 1 billion on her own. For her, making money has never been the driving force. She wants to use her head and creativity.
If you are on the west coast of Norway, you can visit the company and learn about the history of the factory and see how the iconic sweaters are made. Visit Bergen recommends booking in advance. You can go by train from Bergen or Voss and stop at Dale Station. From there it’s only a five-minute walk to the Dale factory.
Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo, Norway.
This article originally appeared in the November 16, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.