Ethnicraft: Test of Time
Ethnicraft is a creator of beautiful furniture and decorative objects that make the foundation of people’s homes and inspire the stories of their lives. Founded in 1995 in Antwerp, Belgium by Philippe Delaisse, Ethnicraft has consistently placed expert craftsmanship at the core of their brand. Over the years, their palette has broadened to develop a complete range of collections, while staying true to their identity. We caught up Prisca d’Oultremont, marketing manager at Ethnicraft, to learn more about both their history and future.
Can you give me the backstory of when and how Ethnicraft was founded?
In the mid-90s, chance brought Benoit Loos and Philippe Delaisse together. After traveling the world, Philippe had settled in Indonesia where he’d started exporting traditional furniture and accessories back to Belgium. That is when the two young entrepreneurs met, became friends and decided to start working together.
In a short time, the two partners realized that importing one-off traditional pieces was not a viable strategy for the long term. To keep the shared adventure alive, and to become more that just importers, they needed to move to the next step. So they decided to explore the idea of tapping into local craftsmanship in order to produce original contemporary furniture, all manufactured from solid wood. And so began Ethnicraft’s story, in 1995, with the first solid teak collection. Philippe took charge of manufacturing operations and product developments, while Benoit was responsible for marketing, finances and the company’s growth.
How many employees, offices, and designers are there today?
Ethnicraft has over 2000 people producing our furniture and decoration worldwide, with offices in Belgium, France, Hong Kong, and the United States in North Carolina. Our international presence allows great service no matter the time zone.
Our main designers are Alain van Havre and Dawn Sweitzer, but Ethnicraft also collaborates with select designers on specific collections.
Where does Ethnicraft manufacture its products?
Production is spread across four sites: Serbia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Our production partners are our own facilities or are facilities that produce exclusively for Ethnicraft. This allows us to manage the process from start to finish, ensuring sustainable and ethical practices along with quality.
What differentiates Ethnicraft from other companies producing furniture from wood?
Collections show increasingly delicate and complex lines, thanks to technological and technical advancements made in the field of woodworking, which make more elaborate shapes possible.
Along with the innovation of solid wood, the fact that we are a Belgian design company is also interesting, blending the more Germanic with Roman aesthetics to produce something unique: authentic and functional, but with a surprising contemporary timeless twist.
Aside from furniture, you also do accessories. Can you tell me a bit about this branch of the business?
The beginning of 2020 marked an exciting moment for Ethnicraft, officially merging with longtime partner and lifestyle brand Notre Monde. Beloved designer Dawn Sweitzer remains the main artistic mind behind the accessories. From her childhood in Ohio’s great outdoors, her curiosity for life and her many travels, Dawn has collected images and sensations, which she now channels into her work as an artist without limitations.
Trays and tray tables are a popular concept within the accessories range. Individually crafted using classic artistic and traditional techniques such as metal-leafing, hand painting, silk screen printing and aging, each tray is unique and can stand alone as a piece of wall art, or as a more functional item.
Textiles are crafted from the best weaving yarns which are primarily produced in Belgium, France, Italy and Peru. By consciously choosing natural fibers—such as cotton, wool and Belgian linen—we stay true to our values: design pieces full of character, made from quality materials that age beautifully.
What were you planning to debut at ICFF? Did you end up launching on your own?
Our range of workspace options was set to feature at this year’s ICFF. Workspaces is an area we continue to extend and develop. Highlight items include the Oscar desk, sideboard and drawer unit collection, the Bok Adjustable Desk, and wire management meeting and conference solutions with the Mikado Meeting Table and the Bok CoWork Desk.
The new textures coffee and side table concepts is another interesting new space we’re playing in. The Luna and Celeste collections are inspired by traditional methods and artistic techniques. Natural minerals and earthy pigments are hand prepared to form distinct textured table surfaces are brought to life with the Luna and Celeste collections. Each table is truly unique with its own character, bringing beauty, meaning and personality to any space.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your philosophy as designers?
We are now seeing more of a need for warm materials to make inspiring and calming environments both in the home and work setting. People are wanting their spaces to be comfortable and functional.
But this hasn’t changed our philosophy, rather it has confirmed our need to keep exploring this insight, to produce creative solutions for the new world we are entering.
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