A PHOENIX-LIKE ARISING
It looked like a set from a Peter Jackson movie, but it was no Hobbit grotto. Nonetheless, these whimsical solid wood creations (pictured) were among the most-visited and talked about offerings at the recent international furniture fair in Malaysia.
Made with rain tree (acacia) timber salvaged from a major railway widening project, the collection is a key part of the phoenix-like arising of a once internationally successful furniture manufacturing business, brought to its knees by relentless Chinese competition.
The Laval Furniture story offers a lesson to those in business who plough stubbornly on – certain to fall by the wayside but for some lateral thinking and the courage to change direction.
Marc Laval-Jardin, an engineer from the UK, moved to Malaysia about 30 years ago and immediately began making high-quality, original outdoor and patio furniture for export markets in Europe, Australia and the Middle East. At its peak, Laval was employing 200 people and shipping 300 40ft containers of product annually. But with the new century came the Chinese competition: not original, not high quality, but certainly cheap. And it was assumed Laval would be squeezed out, like thousands of other furniture makers before.
A decade on, Laval-Jardin says business could hardly be better. He now employs just 10 people and exports on a limited basis, but his prices are 10 times higher and he has all the business he wants, thank you very much!
The second quarter (June) edition of timber+DESIGN will carry the full story behind the Lazarus-like rising of Laval, and explain how collaboration with top furniture designers from Australia and Canada and a move to largely recycled materials has fired the company right up the value chain. Subscribe now