For half a century, the Austrian brand Löffler has made a name for itself in the sports goods sector. Over this period, the company has achieved numerous milestones and evolved into a driver of innovation. On the occasion of our 50th corporate anniversary, we take a look back at the history of the Löffler brand.
From six sewing machines, where clothing was made from disassembled blankets, to an internationally successful sports textile manufacturer, the Löffler brand has a history that is more than just moving. A history that began long before our official founding date in 1973: as early as 1946, our namesake Elfriede Löffler founded the sewing shop that, in an inn in Ried im Innkreis, laid the foundation for the later Löffler company.
Erwine Ast’s daughter, a former employee in the early years, recalls: “After the war, there was no fabric available. Therefore, old Wehrmacht blankets were taken apart and used to sew men’s shirts, which due to the shortage were sold immediately. During the day, there was no electricity or it was needed for other things, so the women mainly sat at the already electric sewing machines at night.”
The Early Years: From Hosiery Manufacturer to Sports Specialist
The young company quickly became successful, as fabrics and textiles were scarce after World War II. Soon the sewing shop outgrew the rented premises and established its own branch in Ried im Innkreis. By the end of the 1960s, the company grew to up to 400 employees. However, increasing competition from the Far East and unfortunate investments led to the company being on the verge of bankruptcy in 1973. The ski producer Fischer, also based in Ried, took over the economically struggling Löffler GmbH.
This challenging phase in the company’s history became the birth hour of today’s success – the Löffler brand was born. They remained loyal to the location in Ried im Innkreis, and in the early years within the sports-focused Fischer family, everything revolved around evolving from a hosiery manufacturer to a producer of sports textiles. Step by step, the focus shifted to functional sportswear. Initially, ski pullovers and caps were produced, followed by cross-country skiing suits, and eventually a tennis collection – Löffler established itself in the sports world and eventually became a pioneer of innovation.
From 1976, the development of transtex® marks a milestone. It’s a skin-tight textile that transports sweat away from the body, keeping the skin dry: “We immediately recognized that transtex® is our unique selling point and had it registered as a brand right away,” recalls the then Managing Director Rudi Jungwirth, who is the driving force behind the development and came up with the name: “trans is the abbreviation for transport and tex for textile, quite simple,” he says.
When Peter Habeler, along with Reinhold Messner, stands on the summit of Mount Everest in May 1978, the extreme alpinist is wearing one of the very first products made from transtex®.
The innovations are well-received. The new strategy also reflects positively in business development: a positive annual result is achieved for the first time in 1981/82. Since then, Löffler has been consistently profitable. This is also possible because the business field is expanded: the 1980s see the introduction of hiking and cycling collections for the first time, and Löffler is also a close development partner with Gore and the then-new Gore-Tex material. To this day, the areas of Bike, Nordic, Running, Outdoor, and Underwear form the focus of Löffler’s range.
At the same time, the Löffler brand also causes a stir in elite sports: The debut on the international sports stage was made as early as 1978 at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Lahti, where the Russian cross-country national team won several medals wearing suits and caps from Ried. A year later, Löffler becomes the official outfitter of the Austrian Ski Federation (ÖSV) – a partnership that continues to this day. Generations of red-white-red trail, jump, and slope legends achieve their successes in underwear, sweaters, or racing suits with the Löffler logo. The Nordic winter athletes start it off, and from 2003, Austria’s alpine team also wears our products from Ried im Innkreis. Hermann Maier also becomes a brand ambassador through an individual contract.
For several years, Löffler, along with the ÖSV, DSV, and Swiss Ski, outfits the most successful ski teams in the world. Marcel Hirscher, Anna Veith, and many other top stars win in Löffler clothing. In Nordic sports, it is particularly the successes of biathlete Magdalena Neuner that make Löffler known worldwide. As a partner of the ÖOC (Austrian Olympic Committee), Löffler is also present at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
The initiatives concerning climate and environmental protection are intensive. Here too, Löffler is a pioneer in the industry. “Löffler committed to sustainability very early on. Back then, the term sustainability didn’t even exist. Moreover, no one really wanted to hear about it, especially not our dealers,” says Reinhard Hetzeneder, a former member of the management. Already at the beginning of the 1990s, the company documented: “The goal must be to responsibly manage the manufacture, use, and disposal of textiles.“
In 2008, Löffler achieves another textile milestone with the development of hotBOND®. In this patented technology, highly elastic materials are not sewn together with a thread, but are welded using ultrasound. This results in extremely flat connections that move with every motion, do not press, do not chafe, and do not tear – qualities that are particularly convincing in the Bike, Running, and Outdoor collections. In 2017, the further development hotBOND® reflective is launched. Here, reflective dots are incorporated into the welded connections, improving visibility in the dark – features that were honoured by the state of Upper Austria with the Innovation Award 2018.
The 2000s and 2010s are marked not only by technological advancement, but also by further establishing Löffler as a global sports brand. The revenue steadily grows during this time, first surpassing the 25 million and later the 30 million Euro mark. Yet, Löffler remains loyal to its location in Ried im Innkreis and its domestic production. To handle the increasing capacities, a subsidiary is founded in the small Bulgarian town of Tryavna in 2012/13. Today, we employ around 200 staff in Ried and nearly 100 in Tryavna.
Symbolic of all these developments is the brand relaunch in 2015, from which among other things, the current claim “Made For Better” emerges. It encapsulates everything modern Löffler stands for: with innovative high-tech clothing, Löffler turns its customers into better, fair-trading consumers through production in Europe.
From six sewing machines in a rented inn hall to an internationally successful sports textile manufacturer, Löffler reflects on a very moving history. The aim is to continue this success story in the coming years, focusing on regionalism, responsibility, and sustainability.
The Ried location is now supplied with district heating, 100% sourced from a large regional geothermal project. A photovoltaic system on the roof of the production hall provides about a quarter of the annual electricity demand. And unavoidable CO2 emissions are offset by supporting a wind power project in Bulgaria. Thanks to these and other measures, Löffler is certified as a climate-neutral company. Our detailed sustainability report is further testimony to this commitment.
Responsibility, quality, innovation, and the aspiration to continuously improve – this is what the name Löffler stands for even after 50 successful years of company history. With these core values, Löffler also faces the economic, social, and ecological challenges of the future. “Our products should help customers become better athletically. But they should also make the world a bit better,” says the current Managing Director Mag. Otto Leodolter – an exciting, beautiful, and big goal for the next 50 years too.
In the 1980s, Löffler was one of the market leaders in sports socks. A best-seller was the so-called “Guarantee socks”, which came with a one-year wear guarantee. If the socks were claimed within a year, a new pair was provided without any fuss. The claim rate was less than one percent.
Traditional attire was also part of Löffler’s range for a time. However, Löffler’s traditional jackets were categorized under “Trying out”. After “pedalling” through for four to five years, this experiment was discontinued in the early 1980s and the product portfolio was focused on endurance sports.
In 1992, Löffler fans got married in Löffler cycling clothing and naturally went on their honeymoon in Löffler cycling dresses.
According to a report in the Kronen Zeitung from 2011, Löffler balaclavas are also popular among bank robbers – filed under the category “Things nobody would think of in product management”.
“What does the Christ Child wear underneath?” – “Ho, ho, ho… transtex, and nothing else.” With this advertising slogan, Löffler gained supra-regional fame in the 2000s.
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