Le Klint is a traditional Danish lamp maker known for classic designs dating back to the 1940s. All its products are still handmade in Odense, Denmark. Design Stories interviewed the company’s CEO, Kim Weckstrøm Jensen, who had a career in the army before turning to the field of design.
UPON SEEING LE KLINT’S lamps, it’s hard to believe that they begin life as a piece of thin, flat sheet. It requires a mixture of skill and dexterity to transform the two-dimensional sheet into a three-dimensional shade – rather like a gigantic work of origami.
“Le Klint is not about mass production: all shades are made by hand by our skilled craftsmen and -ladies. It takes years to master the different folding techniques and many lighting designs. We put a lot of dedication and passion in each lamp, and our team works every day with pride,” says the CEO of Le Klint, Kim Weckstrøm Jensen.
Le Klint's production and headquarters, which currently employ over fifty people, are located in Odense, Denmark. Le Klint has been producing lamps for over 75 years. Production began when the brothers Tage and Kaare Klint founded the company in 1943. However, the initial concept of pleated shades is even older.
In the early 20th century, before electric lighting became widespread, Danish architect, engineer and painter Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint (1853–1930) had already been designing ceramic kerosene lamps as a sideline. He hand-folded shades himself when unable to find suitable ones on the market.
Le Klint’s lamps are pleated by hand in Denmark. Tage and Kaare Klint founded the company already in 1943.
Following this, shades were folded for family and friends until Peder’s sons, Tage and Kaare Klint, established a company based on the concept, adding their own, modern designs to the collection. Kaare Klint, a leading furniture designer and architect in Denmark at the time, designed items such as the popular, fruit-like 101 luminaire of 1944.
Jan Klint, Tage’s son, was determined to develop the business. He introduced designs by talented young designers such as Poul Christiansen. For example, in the early 1970s, the 172 pendant was folded into a completely new curved shape. Kim Weckstrøm Jensen has been at the helm of Le Klint and revamping its image since 2001.
What was your first encounter with Le Klint, and how did you end up working for the company?
“My first memory of Le Klint is from my grandparents’ home, where they had a Sax wall lamp. Later, my father used to read stories for me and my brother in the Papa Bear chair designed by Hans J. Wegner, under that same lamp. He became the sales manager of Le Klint when I was 17 years old. I met Jan Klint via my father, and we formed a special bond.
However, I never expected to be working as the CEO of Le Klint. I was a professional soldier, and my longing for the great outdoors took me to the Norwegian mountains, where I worked and lived for ten years. My love for nature as well as sisu (Finnish for grit) come from my Finnish-born mother. After the Lillehammer Olympics, I started working with design and quickly became the sales manager of Stokke in Norway.
“My first memory of Le Klint is from my grandparents’ home, where they had a Sax wall lamp.”
The Klint family had kept an eye on me, and one day I received a message from them: Now that you have come down from the mountain – we need you here in Odense. I started in the company in late 1998 and took over as the CEO in 2001. Not a day goes by that I don't love my job.”
Since the year 2000, the classics in the collection have been joined by lamps designed by both renowned designers and young graduates. How does the newer design fit in with the Le Klint collection?
“Working with designers and architects goes hand in hand with Le Klint as a brand, and it is equally important today as it was back in the 1940s. The classics are our design DNA. But at the same time, we are not afraid to try new designs, materials, and technology – to find the next classic.”
“The classics are our design DNA. But at the same time, we are not afraid to try new designs, materials, and technology – to find the next classic.”
The lighting world has been undergoing a significant upheaval in recent decades: for example, LED technology has revolutionized design. How do you see the future of lamps?
“There’s more and more modern technology including LED in newly built homes and public buildings, and growing demand for wireless and chargeable lighting. It is important to take into consideration that the light is not just a gadget or a cool design – it also has to be functional.
I do believe that there will always be a demand for the individual lighting Le Klint can provide. We use modern innovations in our designs but also make sure that they can be used to create different lighting zones needed in everyday life. I also think that the future and the modern consumer demand a high level of sustainability and transparency, and the products that will remain strong will have something more than just light or design. In essence, they will have a history, too.”
A recent innovation is the popular The Bouquet luminaire series, created by Danish designer Sinja Svarrer Damkjær. Could you tell us more about this cooperation?
“I met Sinja when she was finishing her studies, and her final assignment was to design a line of products. I had always admired the old chandelier in my Finnish grandmother’s home and the Le Klint Chandelier that Kaare Klint made back in the late 1940s. I suggested creating a modern chandelier, and she loved the idea. The Bouquet was one of the three concepts she presented, and I liked it the minute I saw it. Sinja drew her inspiration for the series from tulips sold at Italian markets.”
Would you like to reveal which of Le Klint's luminaires are your personal favorites?
“After working 23 years at Le Klint, they are all like my babies. However, I have to say that the 101 by Kaare Klint and the 172 by Poul Christiansen are my favorite classics. I also love our Carronade series by Markus Johansson.”
Designs by Le Klint
Text: Anna-Kaisa Huusko Photos: Le Klint