DWC: Building A Luxury Brand From The Factory Floor Up
Dutch Walltextile Company (DWC) has an international reputation for producing luxury wall textiles for high-end interiors. But building a manufacturing business in the high-end segment was not all plain sailing. In this blog I’d like to share with you how the roots of DWC are grounded in our family story.
Foundations In Construction
The story of DWC begins with the entrepreneurial spirit of my father, Sjouke Vogel. In his years as an entrepreneur in multiple fields in the construction industry, my father visited the most immense manors in the area of Heemstede, where the wall-filling antique hunting scenes were hanging on the wall. Luxury real estate was one of his specialties. And here he became familiar with the interiors of the high-end segment. He learned what the clients in this segment would prefer, what they would find important. He knew that they would only go for the best quality and the best service, and cared less if they paid a higher price for that. His experience in the field would eventually be meaningful in the development of the luxury product of DCW. My father was always looking for new interesting projects to invest in. So his career wouldn’t end in the construction industry. By the 1990s he had sold the construction firm and begun looking for a new venture.
Transitioning To Textiles
When he saw a promising opportunity, my father took over a textiles factory, where all kinds of fabrics were made. And I was pulled in from the start. I helped out at every department where some extra hands were needed. Whether it was with cleaning, packaging, logistics or machine working. I got to know the factory, and the people working there, very well. I believe that has been helpful in the process of growing towards my leadership within the company.
From A Handbag To The Wall
Our first major breakthrough occurred by chance. One of our clients came to us with an unusual request. He wanted to use one of the fabrics we used for lampshades on a wall, and glue it to the wall like wallpaper. The material itself was a synthetic suede called Alcantara which is popular in Formula One racing cars and high-end fashion products like handbags. It was far from a typical wallcovering!
Rather than thinking it couldn’t be done, me and my father worked together with our production team to develop methods for installing Alcantara on a wall. It took quite some research and development. But eventually we were successful, and with this experiment we marked the beginning of our venture into wall textiles.
Pioneering Wall Textile Production
In the early days, there was lots of trial and error. The methods used to install Alcantara on a wall didn’t necessarily work for other materials. I spent long hours at the factory testing different materials and techniques with backings, speeds and heats on the machines. Initially I thought self-adhesive fabrics were the way to go. However, the professional installers I spoke to disagreed with me. They taught me that each material is so unique that it requires its own specialist application.
From the beginning I had spent much time on market research and analysis of wall textiles. But being relatively new in the wall textile industry, I realised we needed a specialist on board. With his expertise, we could develop new products in high quality.
Chris Speelman: The Interior Specialist
Chris Speelman wears his heart on his sleeve. That I noticed right away, when we first met in 2014. He is not afraid to say what is on his mind, or to criticize. And, as I also told him at one of our first meetings, that is exactly what I need in a business partner. I need full honesty. I always want to know if we can do things better. And I felt Chris was the person that could provide us with the right insights. Chris brings his expertise in producing, packing, and sampling high-end interior products. Bringing him in was an important step in our business development. With Chris’s help we pitched our way into a renovation project for a listed building.
An International Initialism
While I was spending most of 2014 and 2015 on research and development and laying the groundworks for the business, our new company still needed a name.
With a family history in quality Dutch craftsmanship, I was looking for a name that could draw on that legacy whilst being recognised internationally. The name Dutch Walltextile Company communicated exactly what they needed. And the initials ‘DWC’ assisted our aspirations for a brand that could be recognised globally.
Showcasing A Product With Sample Books
As I continued with testing and development, I felt confident that eight materials were ready for market. However, I had been overlooking one thing. I didn’t have a sample book to use in my sales pitches. It was a rookie mistake. When I realised that I immediately got to work, and put one together myself. I still see myself sitting on the factory floor, cutting samples, gluing and binding them on a stack of palettes. My idea was to make the sample book so huge that it would be impossible to overlook by the stockists. Another rookie mistake. The book became so heavy that it was a burden to carry around. Inconvenient for me, but also for designers that wanted to show our fabrics to their clients.
Meanwhile the big question still remained: how was DWC going to compete in the competitive and exclusive, luxury interior design market?
Building A Dealer Network
We began showcasing it at interior design fairs and started to get some attention. Building a dealer network took time, patience, and persistence. Much of 2015 through to 2017 was spent knocking on doors and getting into stores as I tried to build a retail dealer network in the Netherlands.
One of the biggest hurdles we faced was to impress established luxury interior designers. In the past I already had several jobs in sales in different fields. I knew a bit about how to present myself and the company I represent. But this time I needed to take into account that this was a high-end luxury segment. I couldn’t turn up with my shabby old VW parked in front of the door. So I parked my car a few blocks away, and made sure I stepped into the clients office in a flawless three-piece suit.
Breakthrough With De Ru, Amsterdam
After 3 years of persistent hard work, a breakthrough came via Nils de Ru, owner of the De Ru paint and wallpaper specialist store in Amsterdam. He had been one of the first retailers to stock DWC products and an opportunity had arisen with Residence magazine. The editor at the time, Miluska Van ‘T Lam, was running a feature on high-end wallcoverings. She met with Nils for an interview, and he gave her the story of DWC and his endorsements of their products. It was this moment which gave DWC the validation it needed.
Driven By Aspiration And Belief In The Product
Ultimately, the continued success of DWC depends on maintaining a creative, smart and agile approach. In a process of continuous improvement, Boudewijn looks at competitors but maintains the DWC way – going the extra-mile and producing products he believes in.
For more information about any work, techniques, and materials, drop the DWC team a note.