Monday, September 21, 2015

frigglive Interviews Mr Pierre Clement, Co-founder of Laurastar Ironing Systems

frigglive's Dave Avran interviews Mr Pierre Clement, Co-founder of Laurastar

image credit: Pierre Clement

FL: You founded Laurastar with two of your brothers-in-law and a friend, and all four of you previously designed and manufactured fashion accessories for Italian designer Laura Biagiotti. Not stereotyping but just curious as to how 4 guys ended up being interested in ironing systems? 

PC: Its 3 guys and 1 girl J … We were working in the fashion industry designing and selling fashion jewelry and clothes with an Italian designer. We had a sales structure with talented sales people and were looking for new products and diversification of our products lines and business. Creating Laurastar just seemed like a very natural next step because it was about a great product that keeps clothes looking beautiful every time they are worn. 

Everybody who loves and cares for beautiful clothes knows how important it is to have the right tool to take care of them. Perseverance, open mindedness and, of course, luck helped us to perceive this new world and to seize this new opportunity.

FL: You went to a trade fair in Italy where you met Carlo Bertani the inventor who created a ground breaking ironing system. You distributed it in Switzerland and then bought the patent and continued with the development. What made you confident enough to take a risk and invest this ironing system? 

PC: Jean Monney, one of the four founders, went to this trade fair and met the inventor. We got product samples and began market tests in Switzerland with a team of 3 people. Success came when we began to demonstrate the product in front of a large food supermarket. Crowds gathered and were so impressed when they saw the product in action and its effects on clothes. The “Wow Effect" was clearly there, people were buying the product and coming back the following days to tell us how wonderful it is and were telling family and friends to come and buy it. At this moment we knew it would be a success.

Positive reactions of customers made us confident and confirmed that our first intuition was right! Investing in the patents and creating the Laurastar brand was an important next step. It did not happen overnight, but the entire process took approximately 3 years.

FL:  Of all things - why did you venture into ironing systems? 

PC: The last major invention in ironing dated way back… it was in 1926 (launch of first electrical steam iron). Other sector of garment care like washing & drying had seen many inventions but ironing for private households was left aside with an old and obsolete technology. Meanwhile industrial ironing brought modern machinery for ironing & finishing. We understood it and took inspiration from the industrial equipment to adapt it for individuals. Since 35 years now, Laurastar has become the reference for ironing by introducing to the market all the major inventions that have changed this industry.

FL:  Who is LAURASTAR’s main competitor in Malaysia and/or Regionally?

PC: Competition has two faces; one negative and one positive.
The first, the negative one, is not a product but a mentality sustained by a long-standing frame of mind, although not intentional but a wrong way of thinking: “a small & cheap ironing device is enough to do the job!”

(For example, it would not come to anybody’s mind to manufacture & sell "old 20th century wall rotary phones" because it cost less than a smart phone.)

Positive side is with competition from companies like Miele and Philips that came a few of years ago in the segment we created, also with pressure steam products. This provides a larger change in the garment care market with global benefits for final consumer in terms of ease of work and quality of ironing.

FL: Please share with us your global presence

Laurastar is present in some 40 countries worldwide and market prospection is one of our main activities. One of our main focuses is Asia and that is why I am here. In Asia, consumers are interested in a higher standard of living and we are part of this trend with our products combining Swiss design and technology to beautify people’s clothes. 25% of Swiss households own a Laurastar and we believe the potential in Asia is important.

FL: How much R&D goes into product development with regards to time and finances?

PC: The strength of Laurastar is based on the fact we are focused on a single activity: garment care!  We invent solutions & create ways to make better quality ironing. We set up trends and lead the ironing market as formula1 create new technologies for cars; we do similar job for garment care.

Designing an advanced technology easy to use for everyone is no easy task and takes a lot of time and investment. This is the challenge that our engineers in Switzerland have succeeded to do. The secret lies in the steam. Laurastar owns an unique patent to deliver dry steam concept. This unique type of steam is a very powerful yet very fine one. So it adapts to every kind of fabric even the more delicate like silk. Also, steam diffused with our 3D active soleplate ensures perfect ironing quality.
Everything has to be developed in order to work in extremely different situations. Silk, cotton or linen are very different fabrics and there are many different types of these fabrics out there. They do not react uniformly. Laurastar has developed ultrafine steam at a certain temperature & pressure to match the need of these variations. The 3D active soleplate and pulsed steam we integrated recently in our new products contribute to higher the level of ironing quality expected by our customers.

We are keeping a close watch on the textile industry. Indeed, fabrics are evolving and it will take totally new technologies to care for them.  Yes, R&D is the larger part in our products.

FL: What is your distribution strategy for Malaysia and worldwide?

 PC: To be present in all channels. We want to reach customers where they go to buy an ironing device. We are working with large & independent retailers but not only. Department stores, targeted fashion designers boutique to web platform & TV shopping as well as opening our own Flagship stores.

Since our products need to be demonstrated we will choose any way of doing it in order to meet people and having therefore the opportunity to show this new technology.

FL:  What are your future plans in innovation?

PC: It will not be serious if I will tell you all the inventions we have in the pipe! But for you let me unveil just a little bit the secret….

Our objective is to deliver results that match those of professional machines and make it easy to use thanks to its stylish and practical design. We are going to bring products that need less and less human intervention.

FL: Your household has 4+2 females - your wife, three daughters and two granddaughters. Again not stereotyping but sheer curiosity - do you still iron your own clothes?  

PC: I like this question J … Don't forget my son in law! My grand-daughters are 5 and 7; I have not taught them how to iron yet. Our 3 daughters are grown up and independent, but it was a time where they asked me to iron their dress to go out at night weekends. It was great pleasure to do it.

We are now just the two of us in our home. And YES, I iron. I share with my wife, she does the shirts, blouses and polo's and I do pants, jackets and suits. With a Laurastar it's not a problem and I like to iron.

FL: You missed KL Fashion Week this year due to being indisposed. When is your next visit? We’d love a one-on-one interview.

PC: Yes, I'm sad to have missed KLFW. I will come to Asia in a few weeks. I have not fixed my schedule yet. But promise I'll be in KL before Christmas and will be very glad to meet you.

For our review on the Laurastar Ironing System, click here

For our chat with Ms Lim Pei Yan, owner of Visionary Solutions Sdn Bhd, the sole distributor in Malaysia, click here

Click here for more products from Visionary Solutions Sdn Bhd. 

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frigglive Chats With Ms Lim Pei Yan

frigglive Chats With Ms Lim Pei Yan, the vivacious owner of Visionary Solutions Sdn Bhd and sole distributor of Laurastar Ironing Systems.

words: Dave Avran
images: veronica Ng

FL: How did you bring LAURASTAR into Malaysia? Did you see a need in the market?

LPY: Well, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak and always wanted to start something on my own. When I got married and traveled to Australia and then Singapore, we came across a Laurastar demonstration. When we came back to Malaysia we wrote to Laurastar and by coincidence Pierre was going to Singapore so he sent us a demo unit before he dropped by here to meet us. Long story short he agreed to supply us with one container load and we were committed.  

Yes we saw a need in the market and we were determined to work hard and put in what it takes to succeed.

FL: How did you begin marketing your first container load?

LPY: Initially we did not have retailers. We hired salespeople, we did roadshows in shopping malls, attended every home exhibition we could find to build up awareness of our company and brands. It was not easy but the hard work has paid off  

FL: Why are you sponsoring Fashion Week KL for a second year?

LPY: Laurastar is actually one of the unsung heroes behind the scenes that keep the show running along smoothly and on time. Its unique features ensures savings in time and effort in keeping the clothes being modeled looking their very best. It’s a workhorse that is equally handy for both touch up jobs and wardrobe emergencies.  

FWKL brings a lot of industry focus on Laurastar, paving the way for us to talk to people about our product.  

FL: How do you source for such unique brands to market?

LPY: My husband has a keen eye for innovative products that work well. They must not only look nice and be of good quality but must actually work well and be value for money. He then convinces me on the product, and if I buy his pitch we get them. 

It’s been ten years since we started and we have since established a name for ourselves as the premier company providing innovative, useful, modern and exciting new home solutions to cater to the growing needs of the Malaysian household. Along the way we have also built up a great team in our staff that can provide the requisite support services expected for such premium brands.

Besides providing distinctive quality products we always strive for unparalleled customer service to gain the respect and trust of our customers and suppliers.

FL: The price point is pretty steep for an ironing system - above 8k. How do you justify this?

LPY: It’s important to keep in mind that Laurastar is not a luxury item. It is a fully functional technologically advanced ironing solution whose true value is in its features which will actually save you precious time; effort and money while making you look well dressed and confident. The other ironing systems in the market with similar features are also in a similar price range, so we are not alone in our pricing.  

For more articles on the Laurastar Ironing System, click here

Click here for our interview with Mr Pierre Clement, the Co-founder of Laurastar.

Click here for more products from Visionary Solutions Sdn Bhd. 

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