Vibrant Spirit – Fermob

Words by Millie Thwaites
Photography by Tom Watson

France’s incomparable joie de vivre is widely envied and emulated, and no brand truly captures its essence quite like Fermob. The furniture manufacturer’s origins can be traced back to the late 19th century, with some of its most iconic designs strongly linked to French culture. Yet while its history will always enrich its identity, Fermob’s collaborations with contemporary designers alongside its global mindset and commitment to innovation adds an exciting layer to its future.

Excellent design and artisanship have always been the pillars of Fermob’s philosophy. They are, in fact, part of the reason current CEO Bernard Reybier was attracted to the company in 1989. “I came across Fermob, a specialist in metal garden furniture, by accident,” he says. “At the time, it was an ironworks employing just nine craftsmen. The company’s catalogue comprised just four pages with two product ranges – an old-fashioned scrolled chair from the end of the 19th century and the traditional Bistro folding chair with wooden slats that had to be repainted every summer. I immediately understood the potential of this workshop.”

Fermob’s furniture is steeped in history, however a forward-thinking mindset and a string of collaborations with contemporary designers adds an exciting layer to the manufacturer’s future.

Bernard’s vision has helped drive Fermob forward for the past 30 years. His wish to create stylish furniture that works with every lifestyle was the catalyst for two important initiatives: creating an integrated design and development studio and encouraging collaborations with established and emerging designers including Terence Conran, Patrick Jouin, Frédéric Sofia and more. Experimentation, innovation and a sense of playfulness are encouraged in the design and development process; roughly 250 new projects are researched every year, half of which come from spontaneous suggestions. These concepts are reviewed and assessed for their environmental impact and functionality, before being refined to a yearly release of 40 new products that all encapsulate the Fermob ethos. The appetite for these joyful creations has global parameters; Fermob’s pieces can be found in over 60 countries on terraces, in homes and as part of installations.

As well as releasing new products, colour plays a significant role in Fermob’s evolution. The colour chart has grown from two colours in the late 1980s – racing green and white – to 23 shades today, all mixed in-house. The newest – Opaline Green – is bright and refreshing. When paired with pastels, it evokes the Arctic Circle, while alongside blues and greys it is reminiscent of the Northern Lights. Each colour is selected by Fermob’s team for its individuality and relevance, and the construction and stability are crucial; they are hardwearing, and resistant to UV light, abrasion and water, ensuring a long and vivid life. Further, the company’s commitment to innovation and sustainability is nicely illustrated through the zero-waste painting line machine. Up to 20,000 products can be painted every week at 98 per cent productivity producing no waste in the process.

While the elegance and mystery of French culture can never be replicated, Fermob offers a generous dose of its spirit through design, bringing an element of ‘je ne sais quoi’ to homes and public spaces around the world.