Two very new furniture companies - One Nordic Furniture Company from Finland and La Chance from France offer fresh new ideas on how to deliver cost effective furniture and lighting to a global market. Both are just over eighteen months old and have launched their second collections. With the economy in Europe less than thriving, it takes a certain strength of character to launch a new brand at this time. Joel Roos, founder of One Nordic and Jean Baptiste Souletie, co-founder of La Chance both feel that there are real opportunities for new brands to gain a foothold while more established brands struggle to adapt to a rapidly changing retail environment.
"We experimented with what we call the Jekyll and Hyde concept when we launched at Most in 2012 - playing with colour versus monochrome examples of our pieces and this idea is still part our brand philosophy. We like products that have this ability to be outgoing in one form or quite conservative in another. With the 2013 collection we didn't feel we needed to demonstrate this so overtly again but the character of the objects still change greatly depending on the materials chosen", says Jean Baptiste Souletie.
"It’s not about being different at all costs, and it’s not about competing with big brands like B&B Italia. Our pieces are designed to be used in combination with products from other great brands. La Chance provides the accents that make the room we don’t see ourselves producing everything in a room. We are like the twist at the end of the project and we like our products to appear in unexpected environments. That’s why we went to a very old castle to shoot our new catalogue this year. We wanted to show or products in a different context - with wooden floors, plaster walls and against other traditional backgrounds. Because the pieces have a strong personality they can hold their own regardless of the environment. In Australia we are working with Living Edge but we already had established a little retail outlet in Brisbane a year or more ago that sells mainly French antiques. Our products work amazingly well with their old pieces and we are happy that they like to be bold with juxtaposing new and old - say one of our yellow Luca Nichetto tables with a Louis XV commode" says Souletie.
"We have never been dogmatic about producing our items in France. For our generation this type of nationalistic pride doesn’t mean anything – we are more about Europe. I’ve lived in India and Louisa (Breguet - the co-founder of La Chance) has lived in China. We don't really accept geographical boundaries. If a product can be made well and at a reasonable price we will consider it. Currently our products are made in Portugal, Italy, France and Eastern Europe. The blown glass and marble is made in the Czech Republic for example, while the upholstered pieces are done in PortugaI. It’s the same with designers - we will work with designers from anywhere", says Souletie.
Joel Roos, the founder and CEO of Finnish brand One Nordic Furniture company takes a strong view on maximising his products ability to be freighted efficiently around the globe. Most of the pieces knock down into a few parts for shipping and while he accepts that the Ikea model has been a big influence on his brand strategy, the products are in another league altogether. "We don’t like the term flat pack - we could have made the 'Bento' chair a flat-pack design by changing the back rest but it would have killed the look of the design and the comfort. I guess you could call it semi-flatpack!" says Roos.
The Nordic brand has a global outlook and encourages the evaluation of potential shipping costs right from the start. "Once we have chosen the designers we want to work with we discuss the ideas that might be appropriate for us and emphasize our need for cost effective shipping - that’s why we have an armchair that folds in half - to reduce freight costs! We also want our products to have instant likability so when you see them you have an immediate reaction. From the initial idea we try to get a good compromise between the cost and the integrity of concept that the designer has brought to us. We encourage a deep collaboration from the beginning with the designer being part of working through the manufacturing process and even the branding decisions when we launch it", says Roos.
"Fundamentally we are trying to accomplish the same type of longevity as past Scandinavian design but delivering it in a more cost effective manner. We try to pick our designers when they are peaking in their career - Form Us With Love who designed our first product, the 'Bento' chair, were named Swedish Designers of the Year for 2013 and GamFratesi, who did our 'Key' side table were announced as Young Talent of the Year (during Salone del Mobile in Milan in April 2013). We don't tend to choose finished product ideas that are sent to us by designers as we prefer to have a dialogue with the designer right from the beginning and develop a product between us. When the designers come back with a design, they have really thought about One Nordic the brand and what a product should be like to fit into the One Nordic family. Even though we have a small collection there is a thread that joins the products together. You can have as many of these items in the same room together as you like and they all work together or you can accessorise other furniture with just one piece", says Roos.
"As a young company we don’t have to confirm to the past so we are lucky. I’m a huge fan of Artek and I think it’s important that we have brands that represent our design heritage but a design heritage can sometimes be a bind - something that ties you up and prohibits creativity" says Roos. It’s not a mistake that we are in the more affordable segment of the market. We understand that the world is looking for well priced items with high design content. It’s not an easy task to manufacture things well for such reasonable prices - it’s far easier to do high end as you can do it well and charge a lot but this lower cost segment has huge potential growth".