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Posters painted by Otto Nielsen
Posters painted by Otto Nielsen

Aviation

SAS vintage items - hot stuff for collectors

Linen napkins and champagne glasses. Brochures, menus, folding knives, ashtrays and party games. Plastic tableware, china, curtains. These are just some of the SAS objects that have been designed by top Scandinavian talents over the years.

Mikael ÖqvistSomeone who knows everything there is to know about SAS design is Mikael Öqvist, a major collector of the airline’s memorabilia and other collectable items. His father, Tage Öqvist, worked as a flight navigator for the airline, and the younger Öqvist describes himself as a SAS brat who grew up in Bromma, home to Stockholm’s main airport before the jet age, and a popular spot for many SAS employees’ families. It was only as an adult, though, that Öqvist began collecting SAS memorabilia. His collection started with a model aircraft that he bought from an old friend whose father had also worked in aviation.

“It was a travel agent display model, the kind that we used to play with every day as kids at home,” says Öqvist. “It was a cutaway DC-6B, so you could see exactly what it looked like inside.”

This triggered his interest in collecting, which has since embraced every possible area to become a collection of some 3,000 SAS objects, including everything from model aircraft to entire sets of china.

SAS was founded in 1946, just after the end of World War II. There was an economic boom in Sweden at the time, and many famous designers were commissioned by the new airline. This meant that things from SAS were very attractive, and right from the start passengers not only took home their complimentary gifts, they also took home glasses from Orrefors, stainless steel cutlery and plastic plates by Sigvard Bernadotte. Over the years, SAS items have become hot collectibles. Everything associated with the airline was of top-class design – even in economy class – and if flew on SAS and got a shoe bag or a wash kit, you saved them. This means there is a huge variety of collectibles on the market today.

“I’m also fascinated by how handsome all their marketing was,” Öqvist says.

Everything was thought through in terms of graphic design: posters, brochures, timetables, menus – everything was colorful and on fantastically high-quality paper.”

Danish illustrator Otto Nielsen is one of Öqvist’s favorites, and he’s managed to track down signed Nielsen’s sketches and the finished artwork for SAS ad campaigns.

A quick look on eBay shows that Nielsen posters from the 1950s and 60s are among the highest priced of the hundreds of SAS objects listed for sale.

Stig Lindberg, one of Sweden’s most famous designers, also worked for SAS. He was active in many areas, including as a ceramic designer, glass designer, textile designer, industrial designer painter, and illustrator. It was one of Lindberg’s beautiful fabrics, a green-based pattern called Melodi, that was used to make curtains for the first SAS long-haul aircraft.

Melodi is one of the patterns that Swedish fabrics company Ljungbergs Textil chose to include in a retro collection a couple of years ago.

Food was another area where significant efforts were made, as remains the case today. Öqvist explains that long-haul flights over the North Pole to Los Angeles and Tokyo took up to 32 hours. This meant there was plenty of time to eat. Star chef Tore Wretman composed special menus and SAS even printed a small cookbook containing the 12 best jet line recipes by himself and Pernilla Tunberger, a notable food writer and cookbook author. The foreword included the hope that the re­cipes would bring back happy memories of earlier flights and that passengers would perhaps want to try to reproduce the same dishes at home.

Lindberg designed luxury tableware with gold-plated edges that was manufactured by Gustavsberg for the premiere flight over the North Pole in 1957. The plates were matched with Samba glassware designed by Vicke Lindstrand for Kosta in 1944, with a bubble in the base of the glass.

Stig Lindberg’s tableware designed for SAS’s first flight over the North Pole in 1957.

“These glasses with the bubble may well have been chosen to symbolize the North Pole ice you were flying over,” Öqvist says.

The first jet aircraft, the SE-210 Caravelle, arrived in 1959. It was twice as fast as the earlier propeller aircraft. In connection with this, SAS organized a competition together with the Arts and Crafts Associations in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Nordic designers were invited to design a new range of cutlery.

The winner was Swedish silversmith Sigurd Persson. The cutlery was called Jetline and the jury was so impressed that Persson was also commissioned to design plastic tableware as well.

The next set of SAS tableware arrived almost 10 years later, in 1968, when pro­cedures for serving food onboard were changed. Bernadotte was commissioned to design a serving tray that was half the size of the previous tray, with fewer tableware elements but with more functionality. His design brief also included the requirement “not to make them too attractive looking,” since so many passengers slipped things in their bags to take home with them. Despite this, the cutlery always sells quickly at online auctions.

Today, design at SAS continues to maintain the same high standard as in the past. The latest in a series of tableware collections arrived in 2001. In SAS Business, drinks are served in glassware designed by Gunnar Cyrén and by Orrefors. The glasses are a further development of the Nobel range he designed in 1998, although modified to meet airline requirements. The china is by Ursula Munch-Pedersen for Royal Copenhagen and the cutlery by Bo Bonfils for Georg Jensen.

Text: Ida Magntorn

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