Allen Swers, a furniture industry leader who first championed the Sunbrella brand as a casual furniture fabric more than 30 years ago, died this week, having created a legacy of innovative thinking and perseverance that helped to revolutionize the Sunbrella brand and the entire outdoor products industry.
“Allen was pivotal in the history of Glen Raven and the progress of an entire market segment,” said Allen E. Gant, Jr., chairman and CEO of Glen Raven. “It was his vision that led Glen Raven to create the Sunbrella furniture fabric business, which became one of our most important markets and helped transform the entire casual furniture category.
“Allen was also a close friend, trusted advisor and revered member of the Glen Raven family, and we will miss his wise counsel,” Gant added. “Allen’s impact on our company’s history cannot be overstated and his legacy will continue through the leadership of his son David (president of Glen Raven Custom Fabrics) and our dedicated Sunbrella team worldwide.”
Swers, who retired in 2003 at the age of 82, began his career in textiles in New York, progressing to chief operating officer of one of the industry’s leading companies before forming his own independent sales organization in 1977.
In 1982, at the age of 61, Swers approached Glen Raven Custom Fabrics general manager Chet Gant with the vision of developing Sunbrella as a furniture fabric. At the time, Sunbrella was successful in awning and marine applications, while outdoor furniture cushions were primarily made of cotton or vinyl. Swers had the vision that combining the durability, ease of cleaning and fade-resistant benefits of Sunbrella awning fabrics with a softer hand and improved designs could revolutionize outdoor furniture.
“Allen had a deep understanding of the furniture industry that was essential in our bringing his visions for Sunbrella to life,” Gant said. “Allen’s wife, Renee, and son, David, played important roles in this amazing success story.”
David Swers began working with his father’s independent sales organization in 1988 and shortly after joined Glen Raven. He was named president of Glen Raven Custom Fabrics in 2013.
Allen Swers was recognized in 2006 with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Casual Furniture Retailers and the Summer and Casual Furniture Manufacturers Association.