L E T ' S C E L E B R A T E
Passion for quality. Ideas for tomorrow.
Style for eternity.
Throughout our anniversary year in 2023, we will tell stories
about a company that has shaped the market like no other.
We’re kicking off with five milestones, and we will keep
adding new stories on a regular basis – so stay tuned!
On 5 November 1863, Bernhard Hönigsberg founded his first company in Vienna. Together with his partner Salomon Singer, he opened a little ‘plot’ at Fleischmarkt 15, in a busy shopping street in the centre of Vienna. This is where ‘Hönigsberg & Singer’ sold haberdashery – that is, everything you need for dressmaking and tailoring, from buttons and yarns to needles and threads. It didn't stop there: by the beginning of the 20th century, the Hönigsbergs employed about 300 people in Vienna, making them one of the largest clothing manufacturers in Austria. They supplied customers all over the world, with business contacts that extended to Egypt, Syria, Canada, Mexico, India and Australia.
Shirts have a centuries-old tradition in textile history. ETERNA set some milestones along their route to becoming the garments we know today. In 1882, for example, the founding Hönigsberg family applied for a patent for ‘shirt innovations’: a ready-to-wear shirt that provided a better fit. Its collar width could be adjusted using special seams on the shoulder and collar. Another milestone was the semi-stiff collar made of durable double-weave fabric. This loose collar could be buttoned to a matching shirt with a stand-up collar and exchanged for a fresh one when needed. The semi-stiff collar was so significant that its trade name, Eterna, later became the company’s brand name.
In the 1920s, there was a growing desire to revitalise the German business. A regional office was required – and this opened in Berlin in 1925. But it is hard work keeping everything under control in Berlin from Vienna. Passau proved a better option a little while later, and the owner came over personally from Vienna to check on things once a fortnight. He came to extol the virtues of the placid Passau people after noticing the workers hanging out the semi-stiff collars on the clotheslines in the Passau factory’s garden, which was neither fenced nor guarded. "If we did that in Vienna, we’d quickly run out of fabric," Robert Hönigsberg remarked wryly, "but the Passau people are honest and dutiful, and don't steal."
As far back as the 1960s, it was clear that bachelors and working wives thought the perfect shirt was a non-iron one. The non-iron polyester fabric in vogue at the time, which came mainly from America, could be hung over the bathtub in the evening dripping wet, and taken down and worn the next morning without needing to be ironed. But the sweaty polyester was quite uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it still took until 1981 for a ready-to-wear company to bring a non-iron cotton shirt to market: ETERNA accomplished this innovation with item 1100, the Excellent shirt. The non-iron showpiece decisively contributed to ETERNA's growth in the following years.
In 2000, ETERNA became the first clothing company in the world to receive what was then the highest OEKO-TEX® standard for the Excellent range’s entire production chain. Most textile companies did not really consider sustainability to be worth bothering about – ETERNA, however, had already had the environmental safety of its non-iron fabrics tested, for which it received its first OEKO-TEX® certificate. Today, shirts and blouses from ETERNA not only bear the MADE in GREEN by OEKO-TEX® product label, but the Green Button as well. Part of the collection is produced in a climate-neutral way through offsetting. ETERNA is also a member of the Better Cotton Initiative.
We will keep adding new stories from ETERNA's history. Keep checking in – it will be worth it!