Without doubt one of the most successful Slovenian inventors is Peter Florjančič. Although he turned 100 this year, he is still full of life. There is not a moment when he is not thinking about some new challenge, some new invention.
He was a sportsman, composer of melodies and an actor. He has lived in Switzerland, Monte Carlo, Austria, Italy and Germany, and in recent years in Bled and Radovljica.
To be a successful innovator he believes you need three things: to take joy in discovering obstacles, to believe in yourself and to have people around you that trust you. Of course you also need to have luck.
"I lived all my life under a lucky star," says the great innovator, of times, sprinkled with the stardust of Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel, Elizabeth Arden, Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, the Karađorđevićes and many others. He laughed, danced, drank and conversed with them. Probably quarrelled with one or two as well.
Perhaps those times had greater charm, but Peter Florjančič sees a challenge in the near future. "The age that is coming will be based on vision and imagination." He has himself earned millions in various currencies, not just once but several times. He also spent it several times, since, as he says, money means nothing to him. His carefree nature, even though he has no pension, stems from his thinking that money is just lying there in the street. It is true, you need courage, but in his opinion in the mass of people there are many more inventors than would appear at first glance. "It’s a problem, because we can’t recognise it in ourselves. Routine kills creativity and also courage," says the Slovenian inventor.
And perhaps this creativity is in the blood. Peter Florjančič’s grandfather, Jakob Peternel, was very resourceful, and was mayor of Bled from 1895 to 1906. He was aware that Bled needed not just hotels, but also municipal facilities, a school, a home for the elderly, electricity, a railway station, public baths and well-kept surroundings. During his time numerous villas were built on the shores of Lake Bled and in the surroundings. His son Francelj founded the Bizjak factory, today’s Kraš enterprise, and he also held the highest military distinctions. Peter Florjančič’s uncle was also mayor and a large landowner. By arranging hotels, the public baths and footpaths Kenda contributed greatly to Bled developing into a modern tourist destination.
- Marlene Dietrich with Peter Florjančič in Monte Carlo. Photo: Personal archives
- Peter Florjančič sitting at the head of the table at a dinner with Otto von Hasburg, the son of the Austrian Emperor Charles I, after the presentation of the pocket perfume atomiser. The blonde woman looking at the camera in the first chair is his wife, Verena. Photo: Personal archives
At school Florjančič performed very badly, at least at grammar school – later at technical school he showed his mettle. But that fateful moment coincided with a terrible period in his life. He was called up to the German army. What saved him was his invention – a weaving machine. Indeed the Germans saw the potential in him. But his struggle to survive demanded even more cunning. He had to fake his own death, and his parents even paid for a requiem mass. Then he could start a new life in Switzerland.
There, together with some Jewish friends he patented the weaving machine and sold the invention. He went from destitution to riches and the very cream of society. But his life was not just on the dance floor, at abundant dinner tables, in evening dress, and elegant car and luxurious house. "When we worked, we really slaved. We worked night and day. I lived by being a musician. When a company or person I was working for called me, I got in a plane and was there where I needed to be." And he adds: "The team spirit was always important for me. I was lucky to be working in the best teams of that time. With people of genius and visionaries."
But this certainly made it hard for his family, and he was aware of this, although this way of life also offered many advantages to them. Mainly because they travelled a lot, his two daughters got to experience a first-class education and learned several languages.
Peter Florjančič married a Swiss woman and has two daughters from the marriage. "The moment I saw Verena, who was an actress and model, I was drawn to her. I was infinitely in love with her, I wanted to get to know her all my life. We lived as a couple and also as individuals, and we were blessed with two wonderful daughters. I was married to her for 70 years."
"I also worked for Elizabeth Arden. I made a perfume atomiser for her, and later on it was bought by all the famous brands, including Coco Chanel and Dior. When I sent Arden the atomiser, which was already patented, I received in the return mail an air ticket to the USA. And I went."
The most he earned was from a spraying machine which he sold for 1.5 million Swiss francs. Among his favourite inventions is a frame for photographic slides.
- Parfumerie de France ad with perfume atomiser. Photo: Personal archives
- Elizabeth Arden ad. Photo: Personal archives
- Golden perfume atomiser. Photo: Personal archives
- A machine for Bacbock & Wilcox. Photo: Personal archives
- Airbags. Photo: Personal archives
- Flortex loom. Photo: Stanko Gruden
- Slide frame. Photo: Personal archives
- Mini fitness pool. Photo: Personal archives
- Dancing belt. Photo: Personal archives
- Nail polish bottle cap with brush. Photo: Personal archives
Even though his eyesight is failing, he is still working away. Mainly on simple products for which he knows there is a market. When he learned that 200 million people in Europe are overweight and cannot bend over to put on their shoes, he invented a special kind of shoe horn. He also learned that more than 100 million people have dentures, and he made a special vessel for to make cleaning them simpler.
His most recent inventions include a birdhouse made of corrugated plastic under the principle reduce, reuse, recycle in cooperation with Valter Krmar’s company K.M.K Box. The house is light, can be assembled and disassembled, and is resistant to the weather. The songs of the birds it attracts will also have a therapeutic effect on people’s feelings, especially those with dementia.
It is not important how old you are, but what kind of old you are
This is just one of his inspiring thoughts. A servant of his Uncle Kenda predicted that he would live to at least 99 years, or as many steps as there are up to the church on Lake Bled island.
Peter Florjančič was indeed several times a millionaire; he had more than 40 cars and more than ten luxurious houses. But there is no doubt that in his life his greatest wealth has been his imagination, drive and love of life.
Perhaps it was not just good fortune, since good fortune is on the side of the brave. In truth in those gleaming eyes, almost entirely smooth face, chivalrous posture and dignity there is quite a lot more.
And yes, I admit it, I will remember him when I hold a bottle of perfume. And in the elegant bottle I will recognise the face of someone who was around when King Farouk won 15 million Swiss francs at the Casino in San Remo, when his friend Ilhami Hussein Pasha lost everything, when the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis and Sir Winston Churchill played roulette, and who chatted to Pablo Picasso, Cary Grant and Salvador Dali. And I will recognise a person with whom I also chatted.
I hope that on Lake Bled island there are still many more undiscovered steps up to the church below the surface of the lake. And indeed, Peter Florjančič himself says he is lucky. I believe him.
Date: 15. November 2019
Time to read: 5 min