Interview

Question: SKYLIVING is a new furniture design and pro­duction company from Germany. What was your motiva­tion to enter such a competi­tive mar­ket?

Eric RinghutEric: For many decades we have been active in the sup­plier market to the furni­ture in­dustry as a ma­chine manufac­turer. Therefore we know the mar­ket quite well and know that it is rather hetero­geneous with respect to the suppliers as well as to the demand structure. We were more or less acci­dentally intro­duced to interest­ing tech­nical textiles while travelling on busi­ness. Theses textiles have special charac­teristics which are especially suitable for out­door applica­tions. It was al­most a reflex action from this encoun­ter to the founda­tion of SKYLIVING. We were in the car on the way back home from our first con­tact with a supplier of such textiles and we were already discuss­ing and develop­ing the first ideas and de­signs. Shortly thereaf­ter we started to make it happen.

Marc: The idea of SKYliv­ing emerged and de­veloped quickly and spon­taneously indeed. The two of us are also hu­man, and consum­ers who like beau­tiful, high-class and unique design elements – espe­cially in furniture. When we encoun­tered the technical textiles, which were totally unknown to us before, we im­mediately thought that there could be many interest­ing op­tions in the field of out­door applica­tions. To our as­tonish­ment, but also our fortune, we no­ticed that the com­bination of these materials was ap­parently not being offered by any­one in that in­dustry yet.

Question: What materials are those and which charac­teristics make them so special?

Eric: We are talking especially about spacer fabrics and PVC-coated mi­cro-grid fabrics. Spacer fabrics are fibre compos­ites that keep two outside face lay­ers in a defined distance by an inner layer. This inner layer consists of high-grade polyes­ter yarn which not only specifies the dis­tance of the outer layers but also the elasticity of the material. The inner layer functions as a means of thermo regula­tion by quickly trans­porting moisture and wet­ness outside. It also helps to keep the hu­man body cool on sunny hot days as air can freely float through the mate­rial even under pressure. Addition­ally, it also has great padding charac­teristics. At SKYliv­ing we work with 20 mm spacer fabrics which define its three-dimen­sional structure. Today, the mate­rial is widely used in the automo­bile in­dustry in car seats, but it is also used in high-quality mat­tresses or as filter and insu­lating material, and in medical applica­tions. Because of its ul­tra-light and weather-proof design we devel­oped the idea to use it to bring the „relaxa­tion and lounge“ effect outdoors. Our products do not need to be cov­ered or sheltered because of up­coming rain showers.

Marc: But to offer our custom­ers a high-class design aside from a highly textile technical core, we also nee­ded a face layer material that is 100% weather-proof and supports thermo regula­tion. If you do not have an out­side layer that is perme­able to air, a breath­able inner core is useless. PVC-coated mi­cro-grid fabrics fulfil these expecta­tions and are there­fore al­ready widely used in outdoor furniture.

Question: You just men­tioned the com­bination of the two ma­terials as an inno­vation of SKYLIVING. What do you mean by this exactly?

Eric: Correct. The com­bination of the two is the exciting and im­pressing element besides the de­sign and function­ality of our prod­ucts. If you try to classify the broad spectrum of out­door lifestyle furniture you will notice that there are seating and rest­ing pieces which are (A) simply not com­fortable because of missing uphol­stery or have an ergo­nomically subopti­mal de­sign or (B) are com­fortable but the padding is a sepa­rate ele­ment that in almost all cases has to be protected from the exposure to the elements. In addi­tion you will of course find fas­cinating outdoor products which are made of special and high-quality mate­rials like PVC-coated mi­cro-grid fabrics but often the cush­ioning effect is limited to the elas­ticity of the mate­rial itself or is achieved by an inte­grated flexible mount­ing. Un­fortu­nately that may nega­tively impact the de­sign and appear­ance. That is why we decided not to go with this option.

At SKYliv­ing we combine spacer and mi­cro-grid fabrics to achieve a comfort­able and signifi­cantly improved padding and use materials that can be ex­posed to the ele­ments all year long.

Question: Would it be cor­rect to assume that you see the major differ­ence to your competi­tion in using and combin­ing these special materi­als?

Marc: No, no, by far not. The out­standing material charac­teristics, especially in combi­nation are cer­tainly a signifi­cant differ­ence but by far not the only one. We are con­vinced that to­day the market wants to have some­thing new. Outdoor furniture has been domi­nated by braided synthetic fibre, alumin­ium and wood surfaces for many years. So we de­cided to go with stainless steel. Brushed stainless steel is associ­ated with high-quality and durability and is simply different. Our aspi­ration is to con­ceptually design products that leave a long-lasting im­pression through their simplicity and ele­gance. That is why we also chose luscious shapes and pro­files.

Eric: Further­more we are highly con­vinced that an out­standing product is not only made by the right material choice and its design but also by its function­ality. We have all experi­enced little annoy­ances: the ele­gant classy teapot that keeps on dripping after the tea is served or beautiful designer basins and fau­cets that do not allow a clean and easy washing. Certainly, both may look great but the look is not enough.

Design and func­tionality are closely related. Design pleases the eye in the first place but only when you experi­ence conclu­sive func­tionality and utility can you win the heart too.

Question: A good example. Do you have one for the field of outdoor furniture too?

Marc: Certainly. Take the sunlounger for instance. We all are aware that we have the most useful and so­phisti­cated tech­niques to adjust the backs on chairs or auto seats. But for our high-class design sunlounger you need to get up to adjust the back by changing the notch. That doesn’t make sense.

Question: Where do you manufac­ture SKYLIVING products?

Marc: We manufac­ture ex­clusively in Ger­many. We are well aware that these days many compa­nies can only real­ize “De­signed in Ger­many” or “Devel­oped in Ger­many” but not “Made in Ger­many” anymore. At SKYliv­ing we can put the label “De­signed AND Made in Ger­many” on all of our products

Eric: In addi­tion we may stress that most of the process­ing is manual. Of course we also work with state-of-the-art CNC bending and mill­ing ma­chines or lathes as well as fully elec­tronic multi-needle and single head quilting ma­chines. But weld­ing, prepara­tion, mount­ing, sew­ing, cut­ting, bordering and many more activities are manually per­formed. But since SKYLIVING is a sup­plier of premium and ex­clusive outdoor furniture by choice, we do not see signifi­cant advan­tages by going abroad. You need to know that qual­ity man­agement and transpor­tation costs increase by out­sourcing produc­tion to foreign countries. And be­sides that we are proud of having short lead times which we can only realize by produc­ing and sourcing locally.

Question:You indi­cated yourself that Germany is cer­tainly not a cheap manufac­turing site. How has that reflected in your pricing?

Eric: That is correct. Our price levels fall into the premium category just like our prod­ucts. Only with that we can be suc­cessful in Germany. The mix of labour quality, infra­structure and cus­tomer contact here is just right for us. But our price level is also stra­tegically driven. We do not see our prod­ucts in Do-it-yourself stores or discount­ers and never will. Our custom­ers buy our prod­ucts be­cause they are attracted and so we are focused on creat­ing argu­ments and benefits that at­tract and delight, but cer­tainly not with emphasis on price.

Marc: However, we also know that our price must corre­spond to our per­for­mance. That we do see abso­lutely fulfilled for all of our prod­ucts. It becomes especially clear when we compare us to the competi­tion.

Question: Who is your target cus­tomer? Or to put it in dif­ferent words, what does the typical SKYLIVING customer look like?

Marc: The cus­tomer of SKYLIVING is driven by the desire to have some­thing special, spectacu­lar, some­thing that catches your eye. Money is not so much involved. He or she looks for some­thing that you do not find every­where and that you do not share with everyone else. They want to show individu­ality. But our cus­tomers pay at­tention to function­ality. This is re­flected in all their decisions and in all aspects of life. They are self-confident and success­ful in whatever they do, but are not arro­gant. They pursue their own style in fashion, music, vacation or jewel­lery but you would never declare their style as swank or gaudy. Furniture belongs into their category of invest­ments and in­vestment decisions are well-thought and planned. Ulti­mately, they want to iden­tify them­selves with our products.

Unique­ness, individu­alism and function­ality cre­ate at­traction and per­suasion – this logic is our central theme and guideline which you will find in our entire product portfolio.

Question: A final question: Where does the name SKYLIVING come from?

Eric: Let me put it this way: we first gave birth to a „child“ and we then named its parents. The SKY­bed was our first child and our start­ing point. We came up with the name because we did not really want to build a real bed for the outdoors but some­thing compa­rably comfort­able. What do you see if you lay in a bed outdoors – the sky. And there it was, the SKY­bed. Shortly thereaf­ter SKY became the epit­ome for relaxing, enjoying, forgetting and free­dom. I always feel this when I am lying outside under the blue sky watching the clouds pass by, so we added the term “living”, as this is truly about life for us.