Björn Axén: 60 years of vision and innovation – and fabulous hair
By Malin Norman | Photos: Björn Axén
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Sweden’s leading haircare brand Björn Axén, which is celebrated with a new smashing book release! It tells the story of how its founder, legendary hairdresser of stars and royals, Björn Axén, brought glamour from Paris to Sweden in the 60s, and much more.
Björn Axén was the founder and visionary of Sweden’s leading haircare brand, which carries his name to this day. Björn opened his first hair salon in Stockholm in 1963, and quickly became the preferred hairdresser of stars and royals. Over the years, his innovative business has won numerous awards, including The Global Salon Business Award and Hairdresser of the Year.
In celebration of the 60th anniversary, a new book hits the shelves telling the fascinating story of the iconic hairdresser and his empire. Johan Hellström, hairdresser, CEO and owner of Björn Axén, has been part of the company’s success for more than 30 years and shares his thoughts on the new release. “This book is as much a declaration of love to an art form and a craft as it is the tale of the company that is our life’s work,” he says. “It’s an ode to a profession that in essence is about the joy of elevating others and improving wellbeing through beauty.”
In addition to many captivating stories about Björn’s mentors and magnificent couture shows in Paris, the book takes readers on a journey through the company’s winding past and simultaneous history of hairstyles. And, of course, it explores the magic skills and the passion that made Björn one of the world’s most celebrated hairdressers.
From haute couture to Royal hairdresser
Björn began dreaming of opening his own hair salon during his humble beginning as a shampoo boy. In 1963, the dream came true when he opened his first salon in Stockholm. “Björn had trained in Paris for the master of hair at the time, Monsieur Alexandre, and had the opportunity to work with the big fashion houses such as Dior, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent,” smiles Hellström. “Having gathered heaps of knowledge, creativity and inspiration there, Björn brought glamour and the art of hairdressing to Sweden.”
Known for his innovative craftsmanship, Björn quickly became a favourite amongst Stockholm’s most elegant women. Not before long his name was on everyone’s lips and in 1976, he became the hairdresser for Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden and several other members of the Royal Family. As from 1984 and still to this day, the brand Björn Axén is a purveyor to the Royal Court of Sweden, a long-term relationship that the team is very proud to maintain.
The influential hairstylist was also a great visionary. Already in 1984, he launched a line of exclusive, cruelty-free haircare products. “Delivering superior quality was important to Björn, and through his products, he was able to make professional haircare accessible to everyone – a legacy that is still the core of Björn Axén today,” says Hellström. Today the product portfolio consists of 80+ haircare and styling products.
A new visionary grows the business further
In 1993, Björn sadly passed away. His will stated that the young apprentice Johan Hellström, aged just 27, was to inherit the entire business. “It was a huge shock, and all of a sudden the spotlights were on me,” Hellström remembers. What people didn’t know was that the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. “My advisors told me not to do it because they didn’t think I could make it. But that’s just like putting sweets in front of a kid and saying they’re not allowed to taste. Of course, I had to try!”
Together with fellow hairdresser Peter Hägelstam, he managed to turn things around and during their strong creative and commercial leadership, the company has grown steadily. In keeping with the innovative spirit of its founder, they continue to deliver award-winning products to the market and with an ongoing quest to provide world-class service in the salons.
After 40 years in product development, Björn Axén has a product portfolio with over 80 products in haircare and styling, with guaranteed salon quality. “In our salons, we perform over 80 000 treatments per year. Our hairdressers meet customers daily and gather experience that is later mirrored in some form in our products,” says the CEO with undeniable passion. “We are still devoted to providing professional haircare from Sweden, known for high quality, strict ingredient policy and guaranteed by hairdressers to the end consumer.”
Key to continuously growing the business is having a clear set of values, believes Hellström, who is indeed a great visionary and entrepreneur himself, and he emphasises the importance of humility, knowledge, ambition, and respect. “Above all, our mission is to create wellbeing,” he concludes. “We want to lead by example and be a role model in the industry when it comes to everything from corporate culture to carefully selecting ingredients for our products.”
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