Valencia-based Capdell is in bullish mood. It's welcoming the economic upturn that's starting to take place in many countries and it's focusing on exports. Leading that marketing drive is Marcos de Nutte, area export manager for Capdell. And he has a lot of ground to cover. "I'm concentrating on the US market, the Middle East and Asia. And Europe too", he says.
Capdell has its own factory and a core 50-strong workforce led by MD Jesús Navarro Castillo. It makes very stylish, eye-catching and robust contemporary furniture that's aimed at contract interiors - but which is so attractive and comfortable that customers often buy it for their own homes too.
Best known for its chair designs, Marcos de Nutte explains that Capdell is three years into a major overhaul of the company, which he likens to a family that has lived a rather closed and insular life deciding to open its doors and let the outside world in. "It's hard to put it into words, but we've been going through – and are still going through – root and branch change. So we've been changing everything, from our design to our visual identity, to our management, to the way we think and do business. It's been hard work, but we are seeing the results now, which are very positive."
He explains that he is part of the second generation management team and while it's not a story of the young bucks overthrowing the fuddy duddy old folks, he says he and his colleagues could see when they joined Capdell that it wasn't in a good place.
"By the 1990s, the company was becoming static, it wasn't innovating. The core problem lay in the fact that it wasn't working with the top tier of international designers, so it wasn't keeping up with market trends. And I think that was the fundamental problem, Capdell lost sight of market trends."
To address the problem Capdell decided to update all of its collections and to bring in the very best designers experienced in working at an international level.
Hence names you see in the company catalogue today read like a who's who of modern industrial design greats – Vicente Soto, Gabriel Teixidó, Carlos Tiscar, Fiorenzo Dorigo and Rafa Ortego – as well as younger, up-and-coming designers, such as the Sweden's Claesson Koivisto Rune and londoner Lucy Kurrein.
"We've really been consolidating our brand as the experts in modern chair design – we do call ourselves chair makers - both for the contract market but also for the home market,' says Marcos de Nutte. 'And I think our work with the best international designers means our products have caught the attention of the market, which is great."
Marcos de Nutte says one of Capdell's core strengths is its production know-how, which allows it to make new designs that meet the stringent standards demanded by its customers around the world. "And our production capability means we can work with new materials and new techniques. We like to surprise ourselves with what we can do!"
He says in terms of designs, Capdell products adhere to the principles of good design – clean lines, ergonomics, no extraneous detailing – so they don't become quickly outdated.
Which isn't to say everything is designed to be in use in 80 years' time. "You have to keep with the times, with the trends, and obviously these change. So there are products we designed in the 1990s that we would not try to resurrect. But a lot of pieces in our archive can be reworked to make them desirable now", says Marcos de Nutte.
He explains that the essential brief to designers is not "do this or that or make something this size or this shape. No, what we ask our designers to do is to capture the personality of Capdell...which is in itself the sum of all the designers who've worked with us."
Capdell is very hot on eco issues and is proud, says Marcos de Nutte, that more than 90 per cent of its products can be recycled in their entirety. "I think that every day we become more conscious of the need to care for the environment, as much for our generation as for future ones. For us, we focus on the sustainability of materials which is why we like to work with wood from managed forests. We strive to use water-based inks and dyes, and we take care not to waste materials. I do think there's an evolution taking place in terms of industry and the environment, which is very progressive."
But he acknowledges that environmentally-friendly materials can be more expensive, so it's not always economically viable for all businesses to be as eco-friendly as they might like to be.
Chairs: the ultimate design challenge.
Marcos de Nutte asserts that the chair is the most difficult piece of furniture to design and make. "Think about it. It's got to be light and easy to pick up. Lots of people will use it and they'll stand on it to reach things. Chairs can be a weapon or a protection. You tend to see them more from behind than from the front. And chairs must be able to take lots of different body shapes. So don't think chairs are easy because there's a lot to consider!"