Kvadrat’s General Manager for Asia speaks to Luo Jingmei about the iconic textile brand from Denmark.
2 November, 2012
After expanding its presence in mainland China in 2010, Kvadrat is now intent on building its presence in Singapore through its new shop-in-shop in Vanguard Interiors. Heading the team is Jørgen Lund Hansen, who was recently in town for the shop’s opening. Hansen has worked for Kvadrat since 1998, first as Country Director for France and Spain, and later as the Head of the Transport Division, World Wide. We find out from the passionate Danish about his ambitions for the brand in this part of the world.
How was Kvadrat distributed in Asia before you set up shop in Shanghai in 2010?
We were working with two agents: Fabric Nation represented us in Hong Kong and Singapore; Hothouse Design represented us in mainland China. It was fine but we were limited in how we developed. It’s natural for us to expand into Asia. We feel we almost have to do it to support designers around the world. [For example], Zaha Hadid specified us for the Guangzhou Opera House. She said, “Finally, it’s great that you’re here!” Also, to do business in Asia, you need to be there with a strong sales team so people understand the [brand better]. We came recently but we’ve developed very quickly.
Designed by the Bouroullec Brothers, the Clouds modules is art, acoustic treatment and interior decoration all in one
Why did you decide to come to Singapore?
Again, also because we have loyal architects and designers supporting us here. We think it’s an interesting market, and it’s proven to be very strong… Mr Ong from Vanguard Interiors was very persistent to meet us, and when we met, we just clicked. We [also] share the same clients like Apple, Google, HSBC, etc
Kvadrat fabrics have been used to clothe furniture like Fritz Hansen’s iconic Egg chair by Arne Jacobsen
What is Kvadrat’s most iconic product?
The most iconic product is Hallingdal. It’s the foundation of our company. It’s a product that represents our company very well – very modern, timeless design. We’ve sold more than six million metres.
The Hallingdal 65 exhibition at the 2012 Milan Design Week saw designers applying the iconic fabric to new furniture pieces
How does Kvadrat incorporate sustainability?
Very well. It’s deep down in our roots. We have great respect for the environment. We haven’t changed the way we make our products since our founding and all our products contribute to LEED. [For instance], Softcells are made from recyclable aluminium frames and we work with a special yarn that doesn’t contain chemicals when it burns so the off gases are 100% toxic-free, unlike polyester. We [frequently] go into the mills and ask, “How can we organise them better so they don’t waste time and energy?” When the EU Flower (a premier eco certification in Europe) came out a few years ago, without changing anything at the warehouse, we actually passed – it’s very difficult to obtain, more stringent than the Green Mark.
One of Kvadrat’s most innovative fabrics, Steelcut Trio 2 has an innovative three-dimensional surface
Tell us more about the connection between Kvadrat and Maharam, the American-based brand?
Kvadrat represents Maharam in Europe; Maharam represents Kvadrat in US. We have a joint stake in Australia. In the rest of the world, we are competitors, although we have complementary products. We used to have the same agent but we broke out and they still stick to their same agent. But although we don’t work together, we still have a good relationship. Their fabrics are more patterned; ours are plainer.
Kvadrat collaborates with well-known designers for its collections; pictured here is the Greenfield fabric by Alfredo Häberli
What are your future plans for expansion in the region?
I have very big ambitions. I believe we can expand a lot. My goal is that in five years, I want to be bigger than our biggest market in Europe – Germany. I know there is potential business everywhere [but] I think the key to success in Asia is focus, because the market is so vast. You will lose track if you are going to shoot all over the place. So the key is to have a very clear strategy and follow it, to start by building important references, [for example, through architects who specify our brands].
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