Peter Florjančič is not just an inventor but also cosmopolitan man of diverse experience with an unusally vivid life. In the spring of 2007, his biography, titled Skok v smetano Jump into the Cream (for now available only in Slovene), was published. In this book, he describes himself with the following words: “I’ve had five citizenships, 43 cars and the longest passport. The profession of inventor forced me to spend 25 years in hotels, four years in cars, three years on trains, a year and a half on airplanes and a year on board of ships.”
Gifted young man
Florjančič was born 1919 as a son of a relatively wealthy family in the possession of a hotel in Bled, Slovenia, then an international holiday resort. As a child, he had opportunity to associate with the various important people who spent their vacations in their hotel, including the members of the then Yugoslav royal family. As a child, he showed that he was particularly gifted. He says that his first invention dates back to the age of six, when his mother was often telling him off for using the sleeve of his shirt as a handkerchief. So, the inventive young man made a sleeve-like tube of fabric and slipped it on top of his shirt’s sleeve and continued with his habit without mother’s disapproval…
A decade later, when a young Austrian, Sepp Bradl, set a new world record in nearby Planica and became the first man in the world to ski-jump over 100 meters (101 m), Peter Florjančič was also there as a competitor. At the age of 16, he was the youngest representative of the Yugoslav ski jumping team. Less than two years later, he was the owner of textile mill, which was successful on the base of his organizational and promotional abilities and his improvements of the weaving loom. Another of his versatile interests was music; presently he is as attempting to be a music composer.
In 1943, when he would have had to join German army as a soldier, he escaped to Austria, faked his own death and disappeared into neutral Switzerland. He married and had his first baby there, but in the late 1940s, after spending short vacations in Monte Carlo, he decided to move to the French Riviera with his family. Although he was a refugee in Switzerland, he was successful in business (he had a textile mill and had already sold some of his inventions), so he was able to move to then very glamorous Monte Carlo. He had an opportunity to meet all kinds of wealthy people there, including those who were ready to invest their money to develop or to buy Florjančič’s patents.
Even today, he never misses an opportunity to stress the importance of practical use of the inventions, especially when addressing young inventors.
“There are millions of inventors like me. But I was fortunate to come up with products that sell on the market,” he states.
Another important characteristic of Florjančič that most surely added to his success were his self-promotional skills.
The Monte Carlo Era
The next 14 years Florjančič spent in Monte Carlo. In his biography, he admits he always felt the need to be at the centre of attention and so he liked to entertain parties with his story telling. This ability was his ticket to Monte Carlo’s high society. He had always loved to be seen and acknowledged in society.
Even if we don’t take everything written in his biography literally, the fact remains that this era of his life was particularly exciting. When reading his biography, one wonders where he found time to work on his inventions; he describes many parties he attained and spent time associating with important people among whom were Orson Welles, the then Egyptian king Faruk, Otto von Habsburg, Rita Hayworth, Onassis, Frank Sinatra, Salvador Dali, Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, Gilbert Becaud, Elizabeth Arden, and others.
In Monte Carlo, he designed perfume atomizer bottles, which the beauty industry still uses.
“I was observing women with various handbags,” he recalls. “I started thinking about those big perfume bottles they couldn’t carry around and that’s how I made an atomizer bottle, which wasn’t perfect at the beginning. But then we developed the idea and it is popular up to this day. Everybody still uses this system.”
He was awarded for the invention by Parfumerie de France and signed a lucrative contract with Elizabeth Arden, a Canadian businesswoman who built her perfume empire in the USA and around the world.
Women, women …
The cheerful world of Peter Florjačič was never short of women. It seems they made his world go round; the atomizer perfume bottle was no surprise … As a fit, communicative man who was also a big showman, he never had any problems winning in their hearts, as he describes it. Nevertheless, he remains married to his first wife Verena from Switzerland. After more than 60 years of marriage they are spending their old age together in Bled, where Florjančič returned in 1998, just as he promised his beloved mother.
After Monte Carlo, he moved to Austria at the beginning of the 1960s, where he worked mostly with plastic and opened his own factory. Two important inventions date back to this time: one is a machine for injecting plastic, which brought him the then whopping sum of 1.5 million German marks. Nevertheless, as ever the money did not last long. “I had seven houses and squandered them all … But I had a great time,” he recalls with a smile.
The second invention in 1969 was a well-known slide-holder for slide projectors. It sold in the millions in the following three decades, when Kodak, Fuji and Agfa started producing them. It remained a popular and useful product up until the recent advent of digital projectors.
Among most interesting and widely used inventions designed by Florjančič are the cigarette lighter with the side system of ignition bought by Dunhill; the ski holder now used in front of hotels in skiing resorts, and a treadmill for skiing similar to those in fitness centres.
He also invented a sort of precursor of airbag for cars. developed in the 1950s mostly for the Dutch market where car accidents often ended in water; the airbag was supposed to prevent the car from sinking . However, in 1957, when he designed it, the car industry was not sufficiently developed to embrace it.
“At the time, they still did not have the materials and technique for that. This took another 30 years to develop.”
Peace and playfulness
Peter Florjančič says that in order to work as an inventor what one mostly need is peace: “The inventor must not think about getting a sandwich or about what he will eat tomorrow.”
He also thinks that the playfulness, mostly inhibited by schools and other educational institutions, is exceedingly important for creative work. His childlike playful spirit was obviously impossible to break. Once, when he was already approaching the old age, he prepared a surprise for a custom officer, who always took time to carefully examine Florjančič’s car each time he crossed the border, and set a mousetrap under the seat. Afterwards, he innocently explained that he had mice at home and that they were crawling into his car. The trick definitely prevented the custom officer from being as thorough the next time Florjančič crossed the border.
The child in him was also responsible for another anecdote described in his biography; when he was in Italy, he played recordings of passionate sex in his hotel room for long hours, so that the other hotel guests sent admiring looks his way the next morning.
In 2002, some years after returning Slovenia, the country of his birth, where he had been more or less unknown, the director Karpo Godina made a documentary film about him called The Story of Mr. P. F., which made him known also among his fellow Slovenians. Although it is not easy to establish who are true fellow compatriots of Peter Florjančič considering that he has had five citizenships – French, Austrian, German, Yugoslav and Slovene.
Despite his advanced age, he is still active; his inventions are still winning awards and attracting investors. In 2006, at IENA 2006: International Trade Fair in Nuremberg, Germany, his water fitness device won the first prize among 1,500 inventions.
He says he has never taken a single day of sick leave; he has also never saved for his pension, so he is in a way obliged to continue to work, but he does so without regrets. After more than 60 years of inventor’s work, he plans to introduce another invention this year.