Our throwaway culture is underpinned by the seasonal cycles of products with trends changing all the time, both in fashion and interiors. Thankfully, hundreds of small businesses are offering personalisation services so that you can make any mass-produced item reflect you, prolonging it’s life by making it special. We see this in fashion and clothing, but not so much in interiors. However, there is a great company by the name of Bemz that specialises in personalising the mass-produced furniture churned out by the behemoth of affordable household furnishings… Ikea. I had the chance to ask Bemz a few questions on how the business began, and where they stand on eco-friendly design.
Where did the idea for Bemz come from?
Over 10 years ago, Bemz founder and CEO, Lesley Pennington, adopted the Swedish dream lifestyle and bought a summer-house by the sea. Having adopted this Swedish lifestyle, naturally she went to IKEA where she chose a white Tomelilla sofa. That sofa sparked a business idea so obvious that she couldn’t believe it didn’t already exist – personalised ikea furniture covers – an idea that she brought to life using her technology background. Lesley came to realise that the interest in custom covers for IKEA furniture was about more than the covers themselves; it was about personal expression. She understood people’s desire to take a mass-market product – like an IKEA sofa – and tweak it to reflect their own style. The rest is Bemz history…
Was combating our ‘throw away’ society a big factor?
Textiles are a great way to easily change the decor in your home without the guilt of throwing things away and with Bemz you have the opportunity to create a truly personal look. The Bemz commitment to the environment does not stop with the business concept based on extending the life of IKEA furniture, the Bemz business model limits waste and strain on resources by only producing what customers have ordered and all product manufacturing takes place in its biggest market, Europe, keeping shipping distances short. On top of that, Bemz offers a range of recycled textiles, the Respect Collection, manufactured entirely without the use of dyes or water.
In a way it’s quite a subversive idea, helping people personalise their mass-produced furniture. Do you see yourselves as environmental change-makers?
First and foremost Bemz is about personalisation and allowing the individual put their unique mark on their homes but we also believe that consideration for the environment should be a part of everything we do, as customers and as a business. Personalising mass-produced products has become increasingly popular as consumers become more demanding along with the digital age.
Do Ikea know about Bemz and how did they react?
Bemz and Ikea have a good relationship. Although we are not affiliated, there is mutual respect.
Do you think with the Bemz covers people do keep their items for longer? Do you find people change the covers regularly?
Bemz sells covers for newly launched Ikea models as well as discontinued models, including the Tomelilla sofa that Lesley bought so many years ago for her summer house that sparked the whole Bemz business idea. Some of the models, including the Tomelilla, were discontinued by Ikea more than a decade ago yet people are still buying covers for them at Bemz. This is testament to the fact that a Bemz cover really extends the life of the furniture. Some people have a number of covers they use at different times of the year to reflect the seasons or different styles, other people are happy with the same cover for longer.
How do you choose and source the fabrics you use?
Bemz has very stringent criteria that needs to be met for our textiles and the fibres used, their durability and machine washability. This holds true whether we are working directly with the textile manufacturer or when incorporating another designer’s textiles into the Bemz range.
What plans do you have for Bemz in the future?
Bemz is constantly growing, whether it is the range of products and textiles on offer, the number of countries ship to or the designers we work with. Our next big step is extending the line of recycled fabrics in the Respect Collection. This consists of a range of vibrant and stunning coloured textiles to be launched in the coming days.