GM of Kvadrat, Jorgen Lund Hansen.
The next time you sit on an upholstered seat from a big designer furniture label such as Moroso, Cappellini, Zanotta or Knoll, you may just be sitting on a fabric by Kvadrat! The Danish interior textile brand supplies upholstery fabric to all the major designer furniture brands, and is renowned for its superior quality and luscious colours. There might not be a label on the seat informing you where the fabric is from, but use it long enough and the quality will speak for itself, asserts Kvadrat’s general manager for Asia, Jorgen Lund Hansen. Find out more about Kvadrat and their strategy of selling European fabric to the Asian market.
How did Kvadrat get started?
It’s actually a family business that began in 1968 in a small Danish village. The family was in the furniture trade, and they only had black and blue fabrics to use for upholstery. So, they started to produce their own coloured textiles. Colour helps architects and designers to shape a room. Once you have colour, you will feel more relaxed. It changes people’s moods. We have 3,500 colours now, but the idea was never to build such a huge collection. Innovative products look very simple but are difficult to make.
Who designs the fabrics?
The colours are created by artists and designers from different backgrounds – very few are from a textile background. They are all freelance designers who we meet because they apply or we ask them. We have designers from the US, Denmark, Italy, France and Japan. For example, our tambourine fabric was designed by Japanese designer Akira Minagawa.
How closely does Kvadrat follow international colour trends?
We set the international colour trends, that’s what makes us unique! Our colours are inspired by nature, travel… for example, studying the forests in Denmark, with the different tones of wood and grass; or the spices in India.
Is there a way to distinguish a Kvadrat fabric at first glance or feel?
(Long pause) There is no way to tell actually, but all the big brands – Moroso, Cappellini, Zanotta, Ligne Roset – use Kvadrat. Other fabrics might look similar, but they’ll start to peel and lint balls will appear on the surface after some time. We offer a 10-year warranty on our fabrics. Our textiles also have high colour lightfastness as the hues go deep into the fibres.
Asians don’t use fabrics at home as much as Europeans do. Was it difficult to change mindsets here?
We entered the Asian market in 2006, through agents. At that time, an order of 20m of fabric was considered good. I came to Shanghai in 2010 to expand the business in Asia. There was neither a customer list nor a project list, and no sales.
Now, China has nice landmark architecture – the Guangzhou Opera House, Qingdao Opera House and National Museum in Beijing, with many more to come. People’s tastes are improving. China needs to promote an image of “better quality” instead of “cheap” and “copy”. The government is attracting foreign investment by investing in landmark architecture, and the foreign architects and designers are specifying our fabrics. Local architects and designers are picking them up. The Chinese are open to learning, we explain our products and they understand.
How can you convince Asian customers that your fabrics are suited to warmer tropical climates, too?
We have many fabrics – wool, linen, silk, cotton, polyester, microfibre and so on. In fact, in Asia, it’s colder indoors than any other place I’ve been! Wool warms up when it’s cool, and cools when it’s warm. It regulates your body temperature, too, but only when you use Kvadrat. We use the best A-grade wool from Norway and New Zealand.
How eco-friendly is Kvadrat?
We keep our chemical use to an absolute minimum. Our products provide a very relaxing feel in contact with bare skin. We have always been concerned with protecting the environment, and spend a lot of money to create colours with less chemicals. Some textiles are awarded the EU Flower certification, which is much more stringent than the Greenmark. In the past, microfibre always had to be bound with toxic solvents. We found a way to use high-pressure water to do that, and developed the technology over six to seven years. We launched it this year. (Waterborn Track is a sustainable microfibre textile designed by Aggebo & Henriksen.)
Make your own “Clouds” installation – the permutations of these fabric pieces are endless. They are available in two Kvadrat fabrics and seven colour options.
Tell us about Clouds, which is the first “finished” product from Kvadrat.
We worked with Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, who designed North Tiles (a series of interlocking foam fabric tiles) for our Stockholm showroom. This was the beginning of Clouds. (Clouds is a similar system that uses fabric tiles locked with rubber bands to create infinite permutations). Clouds is our first self-standing product. We don’t really like it as we don’t want to develop products such as furniture. There are many other companies that can do that. It is totally against our philosophy, we are not going to compete.
Do you start running your fingers through upholstery everywhere you go now?
I’ve been with the company for 14 years. After a week on the job, you’ll start to check out every fabric. You check everything, every single corner of the building. The longer you are in the industry, the more you will appreciate good design.