Aurelien Hivonnetthe co-founder of sollen, has decided to entrust the manufacture of its seats and armchairs to expert hands. The high-end products of the Bordeaux company, which can dress a house as well as a hall of a large hotel, are indeed entirely made in New Aquitaine.
The designers and designers Didier and Arthur Garrigos (father and son) are from Bordeaux. The fine frames of the armchairs are created by the company Lécuiller, specialist in molded wood, a living heritage company based in Charente-Maritime. The mattresses, fabrics and the bases of the seats are made from Bastiat Seats in Hagetmau in the Landes.
Aurélien Hivonnet could however have concluded his business, very far from France and Bordeaux, in China. A country in which he lived between 2008 and 2020 and created his first two companies. A first consulting activity, which supports French companies wishing to manufacture products in China and which continues to operate. A second company Meeloaspecializing in the manufacture of mid-range furniture, the development of which has been stopped.
“Covid was the trigger. We had been planning a return to France with my associates for a few years,” explains the 42-year-old entrepreneur, who founded Sollen with Muriel Nicholasformer manager of a carpentry in Brittany, Frederic Devigedistributor of the Meeloa brand on the European market and Gael Tauvelstill in China to manage the consultancy business.
The idea materialized at the end of 2020. The co-founders want to offer exceptional seating furniture that is durable, customizable and of eco-responsible design. The hallmark of the brand: each armchair has a leather ring on one of the legs symbolizing its lifetime guarantee. All together, they then put 200,000 euros on the table and sign a contract with a marketing agency to build the project, the business plan, the strategy, define the brand identity and the message to convey.
At the same time, the founders are approaching a Bordeaux design agency to prototype the first products. “We wanted to bring something visually innovative,” says the 42-year-old entrepreneur. It is only then that they begin a tour of France to interview manufacturers and find those who can make plywood furniture, the shapes and associated moulds. “It was by far the most complex and longest process. Many couldn’t, they didn’t meet our specifications, which were relatively technical, and didn’t have not the possibility of producing small series. These are complex to manufacture and expensive products,” recognizes Aurélien Hivonnet, a graduate of Oxford Brookes University.
Marketed since the end of December 2021 on the brand’s website, the cloud armchair sells for 2,980 euros including tax. The pouf from the same range 1,280 euros.
More agility and responsiveness
The real motivations of the leaders are not only hidden in the marketing elements, the craftsmanship and the French know-how, exporting very well. The supply delaysthem risks related to poor performance of contracts and the after-sales management notably decided them to lead the fight for Made In France.
“What is quite simple here in France are the relationships with the various partners and companies. We know that the product will comply with the order, whereas in China it is more uncertain,” explains the manager.
Working with local partners makes it possible to reduce this risk in the supply chain and to be more agile in the management of manufacturing processes. “Having the partners on hand allows us to be flexible on customization and to be more responsive. Prototyping, due to high-end products, remains longer. It takes six months to get them out, whereas in Asia, it can be done in two months,” concedes the manager.
To become a benchmark in the made in France furniture sector, the founders have been working since the end of 2021 to develop their network of resellers and specifiers (stores, interior designers). The brand aims to sell 150 chairs in 2022 and achieve a turnover of around 200,000 euros. The company of 4 employeeswhich will unveil a third range in 2022, wants to exceed the milestone of one million euros in turnover in 2024.