This Kettal Executive Trusts Word of Mouth Above All Else

Alex Alorda's father launched the Barcelona-based outdoor furniture maker over fifty years ago but the young vice president has his eyes fixed on the future.

Alex Alorda's father launched the Barcelona-based outdoor furniture maker over fifty years ago but the young vice president has his eyes fixed on the future.

Your father founded Kettal in 1964 and is still the president. What did he teach you about running a business that has helped you in your role as vice president?

He taught me the enduring values of consistency and common sense, as well the importance of being humble. He also taught me—all of us at the company—how to manage and empower people. He’s no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the company, but he comes often to have lunch.

How has the marketing strategy changed from the 1960s when Kettal threw branded beach balls out of an airplane onto the crowded beach below?

Our marketing strategy today is entirely by word of mouth. The hospitality industry is a smaller world than people think, and one project often leads to the next with hotel groups, and with our other customers as well.

How important is it that Kettal products be made in Spain?

Our company is more of a “project” that’s by people, for people. Everyone who works here feels linked to the product. Our factory is set up to work directly with the designers, and because everything is produced in and around Barcelona, we can control the quality and explain our values—without anything getting lost in translation.

You’ve collaborated with design greats like Patricia Urquiola, Jasper Morrison, and Nanna Ditzel. How do you choose these partners?

We don’t collect designers. We work with people who share our passion and we help make their designs a reality. Patricia Urquiola is a godmother to us all and she helped transform the company from one that made garden furniture to one that makes design furniture for the outdoors. She changed our mentality and that was a great opportunity. Patricia’s a cat with nine lives—always reinventing herself—and we’ve been producing collections with her for more than 12 years.

What other lessons have you learned from your design partners?

One of my favorite Jasper stories happened at the Milan Furniture Fair. He came on a Sunday when five of us were setting up the Kettal booth. We were exhausted and he pointed out that this hands-on approach was actually our strength: We have fewer people doing things, but we do them right. This was a very important insight for me.


Kettal's Stampa and Basket chairs, the former designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, the latter by Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel. (Photo: Adria Canameras/Surface)

What, in your mind, is good design?

Jasper Morrison said it best: “A design that is still in production after 30 years is a good one.” You will never create a good design with only a good designer—you also need a good company to make good things. Good designs involve long-lasting materials and are still being made years after their original production. Chairs by Charles and Ray Eames and Jean Prouvé that are still being made by Vitra are prime examples of this.

Whom would you like to collaborate with?

It’s too bad the Eameses are dead, and Jean Prouvé, too, as I would have loved to collaborate with them. We are always looking for people with long-term vision, original ideas, and who understand our ethos.

What are some of your most notable recent projects? 

It was an honor to be a part of the Fondation Louis Vuitton project [in Paris]: the architecture, the outdoor spaces—everything is stunning. A new project for JW Marriot Los Cabos is another very rational, timeless project, and the Oasia Hotel in Singapore that we recently did with Patricia [Urquiola] is cutting-edge and colorful.

In terms of the perfect outdoor setting, where might it be? 

This is almost impossible to answer, but both Minorca and Formentera have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

In an ideal world, what products might be next? 

The wheel has already been invented, we just need more good wheels.

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