Création Baumann - The stuff of dreams



On October 1, 1886, the linen factory Brand & Baumann was founded in a Bernese valley called Langenthal. Some 125 years later, the enterprise, now named Création Baumann, is still going strong and exports home textiles of exquisite quality throughout the world. The company not only specializes in design fabrics for high-end interiors, but also in state-of-the-art materials which are held in high esteem by renowned architects, theater decorators and museum curators.

In reality, companies like Création Baumann should not be able to exist in a country like Switzerland. Given that the bulk of globally produced textiles is manufactured in low-wage countries like China, India, South Korea or Taiwan, the pricing pressure in the curtains and home textiles sector is enormous. High production costs and the robust Swiss franc force export-oriented companies to perform ever more efficiently and resort to yet more creative strategies. Création Baumann takes the lead in demonstrating how this can be done.

We supply a niche market.

Philippe Baumann took over the management of the 125-year-old family business with 260 employees in the year 2000. A forth-generation member of the Baumann family, he comes across as relaxed and confident despite the current economic and export crises. As the CEO and owner strides down the corridor of the glass office building in Langenthal, he is greeted cheerfully by his staff. The 45-year-old proprietor – a business administration graduate from the University St. Gallen – favors an informal management style.

It's the people that define a brand.

Lengths of fabric are no longer staked out on the lawns in front of the factory for bleaching, as shown on a photograph dating from the early 20th century in the company's private museum. A Swiss company that aims to survive in the textile branch in today's economy must be able to offer innovative products, sustainable production, first-class service and attractive designs.

A tour of the production facilities illustrates how Création Baumann goes about this. In the weaving shed, the floor shudders under the force of the clattering weaving looms, a sensation best compared with standing above the engine room of an ocean liner. Product manager Eliane Ernst, a slender young woman, tries to make herself heard over the din. "This is where the metal threads are woven into the fabric," she explains, and gives a demonstration of the production of an especially dense blackout fabric on another loom .

Agencies in 40 countries

A few halls further down, Ernst, who by profession is a textile designer, points at a machine that look like an over-dimensional inkjet printer. Which is exactly what it turns out to be: it digitally transfers "pictures" designed by artists or photographic images onto textiles. After passing through a veritable labyrinth of design studios and color laboratories we reach a window which looks out on the high-rack storage area – the pride of the sales department. "Here we store 35'000 fabric rolls with a cumulative value of several million francs," Eliane Ernst explains. The company offers a total of 6'000 different stock-keeping units. Part of their service is the delivery of any fabric they offer within 24 hours – with overseas deliveries taking a maximum of one week. Création Baumann is represented globally in 40 countries with showrooms in New York, Paris, Tokyo and London.

In these showrooms blackout fabrics that do not draw attention to their actual function can be viewed as well as sound-absorbent blinds like the ones star architect Renzo Piano had made to order for the Klee museum in Bern. Other textiles on display include non-toxic fabrics used, for example, in the British Museum. When world-class architects Herzog & de Meuron were asked to create an interior world made of textiles in Ricola's marketing building in cooperation with artists Rosmarie Trockel and Adrian Schiess, the fabrics they used were as a matter of course produced by Création Baumann.

Functional fabrics give added value

Textiles from Langenthal always provide added value. For example, each new fabric is tested for its acoustic properties so that information about its sound-absorption quality is available.

We create fabrics that make us stand out.

According to Philippe Baumann the uniqueness of their products constitutes nothing less than the company's life insurance. If a fabric can be copied, the original loses its competitive edge. Put succinctly: Baumann has to produce singular textiles that justify their cost. In order to detect market requirements and new trends as early as possible, their product managers and designers travel all over the world, says Eliane Ernst.

We systematically look for themes that set us off from our competitors.

In 2007, for example, Création Baumann launched a global innovation that created a sensation among experts. The product, called Gecko, is a self-adhesive, silicon-coated textile that sticks to windows. This fabric can be removed and re-stuck to a glass surface as often as one wishes – a curtain, but without the complications of hanging curtain rods. Another inventive technique that Création Baumann has developed is a laser-cutting procedure that cuts any pattern out of a fabric to make attractive partitions and screens. And the "big issue" they are currently working on are textiles that actually save energy. Marketing Manager Corinne Hunziker displays textiles that have been treated with aluminum and steel so as to radiate light and warmth from large window fronts.

Philippe Baumann's brand needs to satisfy both on an innovative and on an aesthetic level. "High quality" and "sophisticated" are key features of the brand personality, and "looking to the trends – but not trendy" is the unofficial motto.

Création stands for our aesthetic side. Our down-to-earthness and sustainability is reflected in the name Baumann.

This, in a nutshell, summarizes their corporate culture. Création Baumann may have roots in this Bernese region that date back several generations – nevertheless, it has the entire globe in its sights. Philippe Baumann, who believes his appreciation for art and culture stems from his Italian mother, is active in the local business community and involved in regional cultural associations. He is a founding member of the internationally noted Swiss design biennial "Designer's Saturday" and a board member of the highly respected art museum Langenthal.

Admiration for Akris and Vitra

Asked which brands he admires, he doesn't hesitate a second before coming up with: Akris. A fashion company, located in St. Gallen, which like Création Baumann combines Swiss virtues with international flair. He also mentions Vitra, another globally active family business. Though, of course, neither Akris nor Vitra can look back on such a long family tradition as Création Baumann does. And there is a great likelihood that the tradition will be carried on by a fifth generation. After all, together with his wife Prisca, Philippe has three sons.

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