From whetstones to weaving
The company's founder, Josef Anton Hefel, started out by producing and selling whetstones. Whetstone production was the oldest industry in Schwarzach, dating back to the 17th century, and was once a flourishing activity there.
An old chronicle from the parish of Schwarzach noted that these whetstones for scythes and knives were exported from Schwarzach to Saxony, France, the Netherlands, Persia, North & South America and Japan.
From the mid-19th century a flourishing textile industry began to develop in Vorarlberg, the most westerly part of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Josef Anton Hefel invested the capital he had earned from producing whetstones in a new industrial sector - the textile industry - and founded his embroidery company in 1907, adding the bobbin lace factory in 1911. As a result the textile company HEFEL & Co. was established in the province of Vorarlberg, located between Lake Constance and the Arlberg mountains. In those days Vorarlberg was the textile capital of the K. u. K. Danube monarchy under Emperor Franz Josef I and the beautiful Empress Elisabeth, known as Sisi.
In 1913 young Johann Hefel entered the Hefel & Co textile company which had been founded by his uncle in 1907. Young Johann's exceptional flair for textiles and entrepreneurial talent soon became apparent. As the nephew and successor of Josef Anton Hefel, he embodied the energy of the founder and of the second generation of the HEFEL family. With courage, determination and a pioneering spirit the young entrepreneur confronted the difficult times during the First World War and the years of poverty and unrest which followed. In 1924 Johann took on all responsibilities of the Hefel textile factories as their sole owner.
His uncompromising determination to produce only to the highest quality standards and his passionate interest in new technologies led in 1936 to the construction of one of Europe's most modern weaving factories. With the help of the most advanced weaving machines and the expertise he had developed in-house he soon produced the finest ticking (down-proof fabric for comforters and pillows) of his time. It is thanks to his enquiring mind and ongoing search for new, innovative and luxurious fabrics and products that the firm is still the leading innovator in the bedding market today.
Over the course of 100 years HEFEL BED AND SLEEP and the premium label JOHANN HEFEL Luxury Sleep have evolved from the humble comforter of bygone times.