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Felicitas Lehner EMC Go Live Event

STYLIT by Lehner Wolle at EMC Go Live Event

emc go live event sustainability trends Jul 09, 2021

Trendy Sustainability: Wool!

Interview with Felicitas Lehner, speaker at the EMC Go Live Event

Felicitas Lehner was brought up in a background of horticulture, with one florist’s shop too. Her parents were the second generation to run the horticulture side and the florist shop and she had to help a lot. This was also the part where she developed her love of the plants and flowers and also developed an interest in the creative aspect.  This was how she was brought up, and the plan was that she should take over the florist shop.

Then she met her the man who was going to become her husband, and he ran a spinning and weaving company. He told her it would be necessary for her to help him in his company, when they got married. She dived into the spinning and business world, and it was a complete change in her lifestyle. Her mother started using the leftovers of their carpets in the florist shop for the flowers and for the plants. They developed the ideas and ways to use the product in their floristry and this was her next twist in her way of life when she started to work with creative designers and came back into floristry.

She loves the creativity of the designers and florists and it's always such a pleasure for her when she sees the designers working together with their wool, the plants and the flowers. This is her background, and it has strengthened her love and passion for floristry. 

What inspires you and what are your main sources of inspiration?

So, what inspires me, my passion for design, yes, natural material like sheep wool, and of course, nature, flowers and plants. We now produce 6000 square metres of products out of sheep’s wool and for different uses for insulation such as house insulation, for acoustic soundproofing and for carpets, of course, and also in the great innovation of ‘Do It Yourself’. We also use the outer wool of the sheep as a fertiliser. We use it in horticulture and in the landscape. Sheep wool helps to protect against freezing when planting in the soil. It's all about nature, sustainability, living a green lifestyle, electric cars and we have photovoltaic in our houses. This is us and how we want to live, and this is our inspiration, and it is also inspiring for me to create new products, especially the development of flexible products now. We usually spend about two weeks when we have designers in house and create great colours and print products. This is always the most inspiring part of the year when we create and develop new products and always with a new perspective and a new style. It's always wonderful. We love the desire to develop your creativity with our products and we are really very happy for the for this cooperation. 

What do you think sets you apart with what you do in the floral industry? I get the idea that you also have this background with floristry in your early years when you were young, so it was kind of normal that at one point you were going to come back to the floral industry.

It felt I like coming home, it was what makes my story so special. What makes the floristry so special is the homes of the people. I have told you my background now, so you see that we are in different business areas. But there's no business like the florist, every business designer is always so warm. It's always such a good feeling to get together with designers. This is also one of the points you ask me to share with you what are my main sources of inspiration, and this is people and nature coming together.

Creative people, but with ideas that bring change - I love brainstorming sessions. Now Miriam Lehner is also in the family business. She is well switched on and is responsible for the marketing. She grew up with us visiting exhibitions, florist exhibitions, when she was six or seven. The development ideas come from within the family, and we bring together the ideas. It's great, it's a real passion. This also ensures the future of our business, because we already have the next generation that can take over. We have a really good team of 60 employees and it's always a team. My oldest teammates, not oldest by age but the member of the company who has been longest with us, has been in the company for 37 years.

We have a family business, and we have teams with team meetings, and team activities. When it comes to development, product development, we have three or four of our employees who join the designers team. It doesn't depend on whether you are designer, or you are someone special, because everyone is special. There is also the possibility for them to bring their knowledge, their creativity and their opinion, and this always leads to a really good collection and products. We are very proud of our whole company team. It's not a single person who gained the success, it's always a team. 

What would be your vision? What does integration mean from the perspective of Lehner Wolle, because as you know, it's a trendsetter company in the business for sure.

Yeah, I think it's great and I'm really curious to see the outcome. Integration for us means introducing sustainable and natural products to the creative industry, changing the mindset from artificial to nature materials, and developing their creativity together with natural materials, because we are sure that this is necessary for the future, and this is what the future needs. So natural materials and also locally sourced wherever possible, so as to not need to import all the goods, but also to see what we have in our countries and use the natural materials that we have there. Where people and their ideas really matter, and the products are made of natural materials so that they can use them and feel the difference. Within the integration, we must be aware of the creativity of each person.

Everyone needs to have so many ideas for recycling and up-cycling, and to create new ideas with what we already have. When I think of my mother, she is really a very creative person. I'm not so creative. I only see when others are creative. It is important when somebody sees the creativity, it's not enough just that people have it, somebody has to see it. So that's super important. When I see she her with an old container, and with a few little bits of the wool and felt, she can create a new product out of an old one. Because she gave us used items to have, to save money and to work with less money, it was a very nice outcome.  The development of creative ideas is already existing, with existing materials. We also use the sheep wool from local sheep. We think this is really a big opportunity for the floristry industry to create new designs, new products out of what we know we have now. It's very often the designer that has a very good idea, then the wholesalers or someone else see the idea and try to bring the product in very cheaply from another country with cheaper labour.

Could you talk to us a little bit about how this process works inside the company.  Do you work with designers first or do you develop the products and then work with designers? What are the steps behind it?

First, I work with a brand designer from Netherlands. Sangha Konings is her name, and she works with different companies. What we discovered was that, you know, it's not only the menu on the floristry, you’re altering the decoration, you're also working on the packaging. There are so many more possibilities, or you can create new. Your designs and you have different uses. Within the floristry and visiting designers, different uses come together with a little bit of crafting.

We want to inspire the designers to use their creativity in different ways and to be aware that you can use it for the packaging, for gardening and also for knitting with it, for example, and always combining it with your main love. We style it, we want to invite the designers to develop new ideas with the passion for the materials and we love to use that as our kind of starting point. It's not as developing products where we see if someone likes it, it's rather a floral designer suggesting products and we collect ideas for development. It is fair to say that we have those two weeks where we just develop new products. We take a look at trends, and the research has already been done before they just come with their ideas. We have a huge wall where they just pin all their ideas and then we can just see a brainstorming workshop set up with what we can develop. That's always the team with experts, who are already expert creatives and it's always a mix of different people with different skills.

How do you choose the team of designers you work with for the new trends?

We have to rethink Stylit each year and so each year, we invite a different designer, always a top designer and we rethink our whole collection each year.

Because we get so many different assessments and points of views on our products, plus reviews from other countries, it is really necessary to me that we do as designers ask, for instance, and also promote the products in magazines, so that we can always meet their needs or invent new products for them. We have to meet everyone’s needs, with a practical packaging, and having the natural product. So, it is always another top designer each year, to keep the ideas fresh.

What about trends? Where do you see the importance of trends? How do you see trends influencing the business and taking us forward?

To be honest, we sell 85% of the usual products. In my opinion, I think it's really necessary to understand the trends, and I always explain this to our clients. Please try out something new! When you like it, it is in fashion. Maybe you buy the blue jeans when you see the blue jeans in their first display and in a fashionable shop, but you would not choose to go inside the same shop again. I think we have to show them the 15% of different trend products. I also know they do their business with 85% commercial items. They think we want to show them to help them, push them sometimes to use and show something different to grab the headlines, that there is something exciting and new.

I think we all want to see something new. We do not want always to see the same things. This is our drive, and this is what I have to tell the designers and tell them to tell my clients to inform their wholesalers. We have had these types of discussions today. ‘Yes, Mrs. Lehner, I always sell the usual things and not the new products’. But how can the creative designers and the flower shops be different from cheap markets when it's usually the main stores who have the products? Designers have to be different and that's the point, and demonstrate the 15% different products. I spent a lot of money for the 15%, but I'm sure that this is the reason why we are still in the market and at the top.  It has always been important for us to always work at the top level, as well as for the florists themselves and the designers. So go out and try something new. We don't tell them not to buy the usual products but also please display the new products. 

What are the things that make you curious, at the moment, as well?

I think the time of coronavirus showed us a lot of different ways we can follow. In the past it would have been more difficult to communicate. Now it is state of the art. Now we are used to communicating. We are online, we have to be, via Skype. And I'm really curious about how we can develop and exchange and create creativity in the future, in the mixture of personal exchange and connections. With the help of technology basically, or whatever there is. I am really curious about how the crisis will move floristry in in a new direction and in a new light. It's, I think, a really a big chance to win right back from the oil gas station, who also sell flowers and the supermarkets. I think now is the time for the new ideas and I'm really curious about which ideas will be the winners.

I am also very curious about the mindset of the people if they use this chance for material sustainability, and so on. To swear to stay safe and to save CO2. To study climate change. I think that we are thinking of the world being a better place and a healthier place. I'm really curious how it turns out with the 50 different ideas and products, which we already have.

interview and blog by Diana Toma & Sara Marie Andrews

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Read more about this amazing event here.

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