Dedon: Creating luxury synthetic furniture

Dedon: Creating luxury synthetic furniture

Dedon creates outdoor furniture and prides itself on producing everything in-house, while having invented a unique fibre that stands all weathers and has been imitated the world over.  Not to mention the small fact that they boast famous designers, among them one Philippe Starck.

This company's collections include everything from stools and parasols to luxury items like hanging loungers: Swingrest and its iconic Nestrest, which President and Managing Director Donald Terell says people call a "hanging candy kiss, " because of its resemblance to the United States' favourite Hershey's sweet.  It's no surprise that their customers include high end restaurants and hotel chains, such as the W South Beach hotel in Miami Beach, Florida.

Synthetic furniture

Items are all manufactured in-house, and their materials are produced using technology in its headquarters in Lüneberg, Germany and then crafted by hand in the Philippines.

One of the many things that sets Dedon apart is the synthetic fibre it created, which is extremely hardy and can handle all elements. As Terrell explains, "we invented the synthetic fibre 30 years ago. It's patented, UV-protected and corrosion resistant, it withstands almost anything that nature can throw at it.

"It's used outdoors, around pools, on balconies, in lobbies, and for when people are wearing wet bathing suits. Most people don't think of outdoor furniture to last, but ours does."

Even if the fibre comes into contact with chemicals of some kind, Dedon provides customers with a heat gun so they can smooth the fibre out and it "self-heals", Terell explains.

It is manufactured at the company's German headquarters, and in fact all of Dedon's products are produced in-house, something Terrell says differentiates it from other companies in the same market.

The fibre is unique to them. "It's only us. We've had a lot of people copy it, but it doesn't have the same properties. It looks similar, especially to those not familiar with it, but it's not got the same lasting properties. We've got products in many places that we've had for almost 20 years that are still being used every day in the commercial environment."

Handcrafted technology

As well as this unique technology, all the furniture is crafted by hand. "We have a big plant in the Philippines. Our fibre is woven, it's really a mixture of the technology to design it and the handcraftsmanship of the weaving."

The furniture can also be created specifically to fit client requirements, for instance the customer will give the designers an idea and Dedon will produce it. "We do customise lots of pieces. In particular we will have a lot of hotel chains that may have certain balcony sizes and we can make a product to fit their balcony, and we can change the synthetic fibres to match the colour of their logo. We can actually do almost any colour if they give us enough time to test the product." 

Because each item is created by hand, it can take up to eight weeks to produce each one. Terell explains the importance of sourcing the best designers, one of them being Phillipe Starck. "We usually get really high end designers from all over the world, and we will sit down with them and come up with the concept.

"If we want a beach chair, we give them a few bullet points, and they start sketching it out," he says. "The majority of our designers are sketchers, they will sketch the chair out, and we have a creative team who examines those sketches and start creating what are we after, what's our objective, who this is this going to appeal to, and what kind of function it is going to work for."

While Dedon sells to a lot of upscale restaurants and hotels, there is no typical customer. "We sell to hospitality channels, to all high end hotel chains, to multifamilies, to corporations. The other channel is to our showrooms where we mostly sell to designers and architects that are going to work on people's homes such as in New York, where we have a showroom. A lot of designers who are designing things in the Hamptons, say, they'll come in and look at our products and choose one, and then we sell that, which goes into the residences. There's not a channel we don't sell to."

While Dedon sells to over 90 different countries, the biggest market is currently the US, particularly California and Florida because of the warm temperature all year round and the growing wealth, with more and more people purchasing condos.

The best-selling items are the beach chairs and the Nestrest, a hanging chair that can be hung from a tree or even a cable. This is bought by a lot of hotel chains but also by consumers who place them in their backyards. "It's seven feet wide and nine and a half feet tall," Terell says. "It's like a basket with pillows and people sit inside it. You can have as many as three people lying in it. Some customers even put a fan and a TV in it."

Weaving through the market

Terell explains that Dedon is in a fortunate position to not have much competition in the sector. "There are really not many competitors in the woven market so to speak. They may have a sling chair or other types of materials or products for people to use outdoors, but as far as woven products there are very few competitors, because we are considered the inventors and the best."

In terms of staff satisfaction, Terell says employees are dedicated and passionate. "Not only the manufacturing and the design, but our culture matches that too. It's one thing to produce something, but we match that with an open and honest culture. 

“We hire people who love what they do. Ultimately you've got to have the right people to continue to create the right designs, processes and quality to support our growing customer base.”

Donald Terell