Aurelien Hivonnetthe co-founder of solemn, decided to entrust the manufacture of its seats and armchairs to specialists. The Bordeaux company’s high-quality products, which can dress up a house or a large hotel hall, are in fact entirely made in New Aquitaine.
Designers Didier and Arthur Garrigos (father and son) are from Bordeaux. The beautiful frames of the armchairs are created by the company Lecuiller, specialist in molded wood, a living heritage company based in Charente-Maritime. Mattresses, fabrics and seat bases are made from Bastiat seats at Hagetmau in the Landes.
Aurélien Hivonnet could, however, have concluded his business, a long way from France and Bordeaux, China. A country where he lived between 2008 and 2020 and created his first two companies. A first consulting activity, which supports French companies that want to manufacture products in China and that continue to operate. a second company Meeloaspecialized in the manufacture of medium-sized furniture, whose development was interrupted.
“Covid was the trigger. A few years ago we were planning a return to France with my partners”, explains the 42-year-old businessman, who founded Sollen with Muriel Nicholasformer manager of a carpentry shop in Brittany, Frederic Devigedistributor of the Meeloa brand in the European market and Gael Tauvelstill in China to run the consulting business.
The idea materialized in late 2020. The co-founders want to offer exceptional, durable, customizable and eco-responsibly designed seating furniture. The hallmark of the brand: each armchair has a leather ring on one of the legs, symbolizing its lifetime warranty. Altogether, they 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 associated shapes and moulds. “It was by far the most complex and longest process. Many did not succeed, did not meet our specifications, which were relatively technical, and did not have not the possibility of producing small series. They are complex and expensive products to manufacture”, recognizes Aurélien Hivonnet, a graduate of Oxford Brookes University.
Sold since the end of December 2021 on the brand’s website, the cloud armchair is sold for 2,980 euros including taxes. The pouf of the same range 1,280 euros.
More agility and responsiveness
The real motivations of the leaders are not only hidden in the marketing elements, in the craftsmanship and in the French know-how, exporting very well. O delivery delaysthey 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 meet the order, while in China it is more uncertain”, explains the manager.
Working with local partners allows you to reduce this risk in the supply chain and be more agile in managing manufacturing processes. “Having partners on hand allows us to be flexible in customization and to be more responsive. Prototyping, due to cutting-edge products, lasts longer. It takes six months to remove them, while in Asia it can be done in two months”, admits the leader.
To become a reference in the made in France furniture sector, the founders have been working since the end of 2021 to develop their network of dealers and specifiers (stores, interior designers). The brand intends to sell 150 chairs in 2022 and earn around 200,000 euros. the company of 4 employeeswhich will present a third range in 2022, aims to exceed the one million euros mark in turnover in 2024.