Who we are

1931 - 1946

Between Shanghai and Chongqing

To regain the competitiveness that was lost after the First World War and jointly penetrate new markets, six German chemical companies under the leadership of BASF, Bayer and Hoechst merged into I.G. Farbenindustrie Aktiengesellschaft, abbreviated as I.G. Farben. The "I.G." in the company name referred to "Interessengemeinschaft" ("community of interests").

Defag employee Rudolf Schiffler (r.) explains the correct application of dyes to a Chinese customer. (Photo: estate of Marion Schiffler)

The Frankfurt headquarters of the new chemical giant soon decided to lay off the foregin representatives and open its own sales offices. To this end, the German dye corporation Deutsche Farbenhandelsgesellschaft Waibel & Co. (Defag) was founded in China on January 1, 1927.

Defag settled its headquarters in Shanghaiwith branches in Hong Kong and several other cities on the Chinese mainland.

The plan was to gradually replace synthetic indigo with the indanthrene dyes. Extensive promotional activities supported the product launch. Posters were hung, flyers were handed out, walls were covered in indanthrene paint and dyed pieces of cloth were distributed. The latter had a gold stamp of the indanthrene Trademark to distinguish it from the competitors' products. The Trademark itself was a large "I" surrounded by the sun and a rain cloud. lt distinctively symbolized that this dye was light-resistant and would not wash out.

Surprisingly, business in the dyeing sector was still satisfactory until the first months of 1941. Then the attack by the German forces on the Soviet Union in June 1941 ended all shipments of the German chemical products to China. In early July 1945, Defag employees were told that their employment was to be terminated immediately because I.G. Farben would be dissolved.

"So we said goodbye to the old China, which had granted us so many years of hospitality."

Karl Jakob Roll

Brilliantly colored labels played an important role in the presentation of the dyes.  

The customers, many of whom were illiterate, would recognize their preferred brand with the help of colors and symbols. The label had to show the color and also often provided instructions for use. Many labels depicted dyeing processes. The designers of the colorful graphics let their imaginations run wild. Reputable artists created attractive product and corporate brands.

Last Update November 8, 2018