April / 2017 / Tilburg / Netherlands

Febrik is an innovative textile company from Tilburg. Working in-house with designers such as Bertjan Pot, Sylvain Willenz and Patricia Urquiola they’ve managed to make a big splash in the design and textiles world since launching in 2008. The journey started at Innofa, a company in based in Tilburg which develops mattress fabrics. Jos Pelders and his wife Renee Merckx who were working there, began experimenting with creating knitted fabrics for upholstery. Febrik was born and since then this small company has created a recognisable signature in their three-dimensional and patterned textiles, building an impressive client list along the way.

We visited Jos at the company’s design studio and factory in the south of the Netherlands to learn more about their history, what it takes to do something differently and succeed.

We’ve grown a bit too fast because we offer something that isn’t available on the market yet. We make knitted upholstery textiles and while knitting is popular in fashion, in upholstery it’s all woven textiles. Knitted textiles for upholstery existed in the past but when we started, no one was doing it anymore. It isn’t rocket science but we're showing that with the machines we have you can create a different typology of textiles.

My wife is a designer but her family background is in furniture. Her father Arnold Merckx owned a furniture business and was also a designer. He used to design for brands such as Arco and Artifort. So my wife was raised in this context, she had a connection and knew what that world looked like.

We started working with Patrizia Moroso very early on. Her designs are as much about form as they are about the surface. At the time I didn't realise, but meeting her was a critical moment for us. They are always looking for new materials to show the creative vision of Moroso and we’re always exploring the possibilities, so it was a good match.

In the beginning, 100% of what we did was special developments. We just made stuff that the team at Moroso asked for. At the time we didn’t care about the cost or how many meters or if it would be commercial. It just felt right. So now, every year in Milan, Moroso presents their new collection and it’s always about innovation in products. Through the years we’ve become an important partner to help them show something new.

When I studied at university I got lost and started acting. I continued with my studies but was convinced I would become an actor so I took every opportunity to be on stage that I could. In the end, I got my degree but all these years later I’ve found that acting and improvisation have given me the skills I need in sales. You have to be aware of people and what’s happening so you can connect at the right moment.

It’s hard to choose colours that will work for an international audience. There are just too many differences in taste and style. With that said, my wife and her designers are doing something special. They’ve managed to work with colours that translate internationally but that are also recognisable as coming from Febrik.

Our textiles are different but the world is crazy and moves fast. Now we start to see some copycat designs. Sometimes the copy cats can be even more successful than the people who did it first! There are a lot of eyes on us now because we’re a small company. It doesn’t happen often that a new textile brand comes up. And we’ve been lucky to work with some of the best brands out there.

Looking back we were really just lucky to work with the right people. We started working with the right brands early on. Of course, we made a few mistakes but I’m happy that we were very careful about how we built our relationships. It might sound soft but that’s really my starting point for every deal. Because who you work with effects the people in your company and how they work too.

Having a focus for what you're doing is important, especially in the beginning. When we started we thought about being a brand that would do any kind of knitted textile. But it was too much and it got complicated too quickly. In the end, we brought it back to circular knitting and specialised.

Our focus now is more on commercial styles of textiles. Translating the ideas in our current fabrics into products that are easier to use in more situations and designs. Our current textiles are quite thick so we’re exploring how we can make thinner textiles.