A new benchmark for outdoor furniture: Gloster’s innovation decoded
After winning multiple awards, Gloster’s CEO Charles Vernon provides insights into their creative process and how their investment in technology has created radically higher performance outdoor furniture, specially in the ‘upholstered segment’.
1/ Gloster has celebrated its 50th anniversary: can you provide readers with an ‘elevator’ presentation of the brand?
We see ourselves as a British Company who is a worldwide leader looking forward to continually proving that over the next 50 years.
2/ Gloster has been on a winning streak in terms of awards ( Axis, Bloc ..), can you share insights on:
- your creative process
As market leaders and innovators we are constantly on the lookout for potential areas of development within the outdoor living and furniture design sectors and we are in constant communication with our designers on how to best exploit those areas. We work closely with several international designers with whom we have established long term working relationships. These are specialised designers with different skill sets – once we identify our target market we will brief the best suited designers and review their concepts before selecting a design and proceeding through development cycles as required to the final prototype. In doing so, we can achieve the best possible results in style, innovation and technical advantage.
- how you select designers
When selecting a new designer, we look for elements of the subtle and classic style that epitomises the Gloster brand. We don’t simply select by prestige, we also look for passion and understanding of outdoor spaces and the different requirements when it comes to designing and using outdoor furniture.
- work on trends etc?
Identifying and reacting to market developmnts is of course very important for us. However, as the market leaders we prefer to set the trends. This is most recently evident in our market leading Outdoor Lounge product lines of Bloc, Cloud and Club. While the concept of outdoor upholstery isn’t completely new, we have developed an option that is a fully weatherproof solution with our unique Outdoor Lounge range of furniture. Our solution is entirely new in the industry. Cloud, Club and Bloc combine both style and functionality at a level that surpasses any other outdoor seating solution. Market response already indicates Gloster’s ‘Outdoor Lounge’ will revolutionise the usage and perception of outdoor furniture through its technological advantage and will set the future benchmark for weatherproof outdoor upholstery.
3/ Gloster’s designs include many upholstered designs – which for outdoors can be quite a challenge. You have invested in this area. Can you describe the challenges which perhaps vary by region, the options available and what buyers need to know when they go for upholstered options.
Historically comfort and luxury outdoors have always been associated with a certain amount of inconvenience,for example cushions had to be either taken inside during bad weather, which could lead to storage issues, or when left outside were damp and unusable for a certain amount of time. Taking the indoors out has been a long discussed movement within the industry, however, the notion that you can take your outdoor furniture for granted as you would do with your indoor sofa is entirely new. No care, no preparation, no storage – simply enjoy your outdoor space with as much effort as you would apply to sitting indoors.
- For us the real challenge is actually to change the consumer’s perception of outdoor upholstery.
Many items currently offered as outdoor upholstery aren’t waterproof, they only contain elements that are and consequently require as much if not more maintenance as traditional outdoor seating. Even where traditional outdoor fabrics are used, construction methods do not prevent ingress of moisture and in some cases harbor moisture rather than allowing for rapid drying.
In reality the technology behind our unique outdoor lounge concept is the result of thorough research on our behalf over an extended period allowing us to bring exceptional comfort combined with flawless function. The fabrics we use for outdoor lounge seat and back cushions is Leisuretex® – similar to a traditional PVC sling, but with the addition of 100% polypropylene yarns within the weave to offer increased comfort.
An additional backing layer adds to the virtually waterproof nature of this material and waterproof sealing tape on every seam, ensures no water can enter the cushions.
The cushions themselves are designed to be virtually waterproof, so no water can enter into the cushion filling. In the unlikely case that any water does enter, the design of the cushions – including a reticulated foam core, mesh bases and well concealed Velcro seals – allows for it to drain away quickly.
4/ Beyond the product itself, your clients often mention that they buy the overall service not just the product. What is it like buying a Gloster design ‘ in real life’?
Gloster used to have a strap line “Made for Life”.
We dropped it a couple of years ago as we didn’t need to say it as our customers knew the quality of our furniture and the quality of our service. Many of our end consumers make repeat purchases; many recommend Gloster to their friends and colleagues. We have an extremely low return rate and a policy on complaints which starts with the assumption that we have done something wrong if the customer has to complain.
We are proud that we have many of the world’s most famous people on our customer list and many of them are the world’s most demanding.
5/The Outdoor Stylist is eager to promote lesser know craftsmen and women.
Would you like to share any names?
We are proud to employ over a 1000 people who could be classified as the world’s lesser known craftsmen and women. They work in our own factory in Indonesia and they work in our partners’ factories elsewhere in Asia. We could not be the company we are without their creativity and their application and their dedication to our brand. I don’t think I will list them here but I will tell you about the designers who start the whole creative process off for us. We are proud to work with a constantly developing international portfolio of established designers amongst them are:
- American designer John Caldwell
Probably the longest working relationship we have is with the American designer John Caldwell (John Caldwell Design). John has always been interested in using light-weight, durable and easy to clean materials for his outdoor lines pioneering this technique with the development of our hugely successful Plantation collection. His design approaches have varied widely to solve Gloster’s increasingly complex design assignments and along with his team he continues to play a vital part in Gloster’s development.
- Povl Eskildsen from Denmark
Our long-term relationship also extends to Povl Eskildsen from Denmark. Since graduating in furniture design from the School of Architecture in Aarhus in 1986, Povl has worked purely as a freelance designer. Povl has worked with many international furniture factories culminating in a successful and productive relationship with Gloster. Povl is an important part of our creative team – one of his recent projects for us was the Fusion Folding Chair which has just received a Red Dot: Best of the Best 2011.
- British Designer Mark Gabbertas (Gabbertas Studio) and the German Philip Behrens (Natura Designs).
Relatively new to our design team are the British Designer Mark Gabbertas (Gabbertas Studio) and the German Philip Behrens (Natura Designs). Marks background in advertising brings a unique perspective to his designs and a problem solving process that results in award winning furniture. Philips engineering background combined with the design of furniture for European and US markets ensures he is a valuable if recent addition to our team. His first design for Gloster was the award winning Club outdoor lounge launched in 2010.
It is rather nice to note that all designers we worked with have won one or several design awards for Gloster.
6/ The terms used by many marketers – suitable for outdoors- is rather unfair on brands like your own who offer truly reliable outdoor solutions whilst some use the term with a phone book type list of caveats. Is there governing body regulating outdoor furniture? Should there be or should terms be at least controlled?
There isn’t international body governing outdoor furniture but there are many international standards for performance and we follow these and are one of the companies that make regular input into standards development. As passionate believers in product testing to ensure our customers satisfaction we are keen on seeing standards developed and promoted so that consumers can understand that they are getting products which will perform.
The standard we use most is the one that says Gloster wants to be the best. That is quite a good standard because it keeps improving as other companies in our industry improve.
Finally what about Gloster & fairs?
We make our major launches at Spoga in Cologne in September and Casual Pre-Market in Chicago in July. That is the time we bring our new products to the market which is the normal cycle within the outdoor industry.
We occasionally launch additions in mid season but with the enormous success of this year’s new products and the rapid growth of Outdoor Lounge we have concentrated our efforts on making sure we perform during this current season and have our new product developments all ready for July and September.
This year we were showcasing several already enormously successful collections which we launched in September last year.
Club Outdoor Lounge – Inspired by the best of 1930’s retro design, Club combines an enduring, classic style with our pioneering outdoor lounge cushion technology.
Cloud Dining Chairs – Brushed stainless steel combined with padded seats and finely curved backrests, the new Cloud Dining Chair is as beautiful and practical as the Cloud seating units, using the same outdoor lounge technology to create a fully upholstered outdoor dining chair.
Fusion Folding Chairs & Kore Folding Table – A striking silhouette, noble materials and practicality come together in the Fusion folding chairs and Kore folding table, which have been designed for specific use on balconies, in coastal areas and on yachts.
Fusion Teak Chairs- To celebrate our 50th birthday, we created the Fusion Teak Dining Chairs as our Anniversary pieces. We believe these chairs sum up the best of everything Gloster stands for – understated, timeless design, expert craftsmanship and unparalleled attention to detail. A future classic? We’ll only know for sure in 50 years time…
On behalf of our readers, Thank you Charles for these insights!
Gloster site: www.Gloster.com
Bloc Outdoor Lounge
Cloud Outdoor Lounge
Club Outdoor Lounge
Fusion Folding Chair in white