Our heritage

For more than 160 years, Devold has developed wool products with unbeatable comfort, quality and protection. We are international pioneers in development of innovative merino wool designed for outdoor enthusiasts, adventurers and professionals who work in demanding conditions.  The secret?
— Intense focusing on quality.

Innovation

The beginning og an industrial adventure

The year was 1853. The place the harsh west coast of Norway. Brimming with optimism the newly educated industrialist Ole Andreas Devold returned from Germany with state of the art mechanical knitting machines. Devold hoped to sell his products; wool underwear, mittens for the fishermen, and a traditional red beanie. But it was difficult to succeed among the local retailers. Accordingly, Devold traveled to the bigger city of Bergen, to sell his goods via the well-established wholesaler Sundt. Sundt sold the wool products back to the local merchants in Ålesund.

With Sundt on board it did not take long before Devold became well known as a brand of quality. After 15 years Devold had heaps of customers, and a few decades later Ole Andreas Devold owned one of the the largest textile factories in Norway.

Innovation again and again

Ole Andreas Devold soon realized that a combination of quality and innovation was important for any successful company. In the fortunate story of the wool company Devold innovation has been a recurring theme. In 1882, the knitting pioneer built Norway's first power station for electrical power at the Devold factory. Because one of the most important things for Devold’s production was access to water, Ole Andreas Devold built his own water ditch and a huge waterwheel. This probably made the Devold factory the first mechanically driven knitting business in Norway. With a waterwheel in place, another historical milestone was reached. Just four years after Thomas Edison invented the modern light bulb, Devold installed electrical light in his weaving mill. The 125 light bulbs were the first electric light on Sunnmøre, and could be seen from the surrounding mountains.

Ole Andreas Devold was also one of the first people in Norway to make use of the telephone. This happened when the company moved its production from Ålesund to Langevåg, at which time Ole Andreas could not find a telephone station in the area. So, in 1892, Devold made sure a 30-40 kilometer long telephone line was stretched around the fjord, Borgunfjorden, starting at the factory in Langevåg going all the way to the office in Ålesund. Many boat trips across the fjord were avoided, and efficiency increased considerably.

Devold Community

The successful establishment of the Devold factory in Langevåg made Norwegians who would probably have emigrated to America stay. Ole Andreas Devold did not only create jobs, he also took social responsibility. The knitting pioneer established hospitals, churches, kindergartens, grocery stores - and built 20 solid houses for his employees. From only being able to count inhabitants on one hand, a small community at the end of Sulafjellet in Langevåg started to grow. The farmers at Sunnmøre were also engaged. They enjoyed bringing the wool to Devold's store at Kongensgate in Ålesund. This was more profitable than treating the wool at home. The farmers were also more than happy to exchange the wool for readymade clothes, rather than money. 

Iconic products

It was a bustling life in Langevåg throughout the 20th century. The factory expanded and Devold made major investments. Boats came and went, fully loaded with wool. The export market was already an important source of income for Devold in the early 1900s. A steamboat purchased from Hardanger, called Torolf, traveled along the coast, "from the Swedish border to the Russian border", to meet the demand of Devold clothing. The original Blaatrøia (blue shirt) was extremely popular abroad, and was sent to the Faroe Islands, Iceland and South Africa. Rødlua (red beanie), a festive piece of head clothing, also regularly used on Sundays, was as well an important product similar to the bulky knit sweater known as Islender (Icelander).

Polar history

The companion of Nansen and Amundsen

Devold’s success occurred around the same time as the first major polar-expeditions in the late 1800s. When the polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen skied across Greenland in 1888, he did it with "Ullundertøi, Islandstrøier and Vadmelsjakker". Nansen, and others from the Fram expedition, could thank sturdy woolen clothes for surviving three dramatic years on the drifting ice in the Arctic Ocean.

In 1911, on the other side of the globe, polar explorer Roald Amundsen made sure Norwegian wool came in first to the South Pole. And, in 1925 the Norwegian adventurer flew over the North Pole in the airship "Norge 1" together with the American polar explorer Lincoln Ellsworth, conveniently dressed of course. When Ellsworth completed the first flight ever over the icy southern regions in 1933, he thanked Devold for the warm woolen clothes:

”I wish to express to you my appreciation of the excellent service you have rendered in furnishing supplies and equipment for my Expedition and to thank you for your generous consideration in connection with the charges for your products. We have found them to be of the very best quality.”  – Lincoln Ellsworth (letter to O.A. Devold Sonner A/S)

Proof of quality

For several generations, both at sea and on land, Devold has provided well-known polar explorers and hard-working fishermen with woolen products. But to farmers, fishermen, carpenters and everyone else working outdoors in Norway, a tribute such as Ellsworth's letter was unnecessary. These guys were already very aware of “the Devold quality”. Further south in Europe, however, such a document was proof of the Devold brand's sovereignty.

Modern Expeditions

Since the 1960s, thousands of Norwegian and foreign expeditions have used Devold. Wool has protected everything from sweaty foreheads to frozen toes, both in the North Pole and in the South Pole. In 1988, Stein P. Aasheim led the Greenland expedition where he would copy Nansen's equipment. It was natural for Aasheim to choose Devold as a supplier of socks, underwear and jerseys. Arne Næss Senior was wearing Devold in 1964 during the Himalayan expeditions. In 1994, Liv Arnesen walked over the South Pole by herself. In order to keep warm in extreme climate, she, the first woman to undertake this journey, used Aquaduct wool underwear (now called Expedition) from Devold.

After over 160 years of research and development within wool products, Devold can offer the best comfort, quality and protection available.

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