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How a small company of 30 m2 expanded to a working space of 3.700 m2 - the story of how the company came into being is as fascinating as any of the famous Lanarte designs.

On 13 December 1934, Augustinus Johannes Maria Vergnes, son of a respectable business family in Leeuwarden, established himself as an independent entrepreneur. He set up in premises in the centre of town next to a beautiful canal for which Holland is very famous.

Guus Vergnes
Guus Vergnes laid
the foundation of Lanarte.

The shop was intended to be a tailoring outlet for customers who required garments pleated or embroidered, or fabric buttons made. Alongside this went the sale of handicraft items, haberdashery, woollen knitting yarns and ribbons. Wife Maria Emilie helped out her 'Guus' by writing up the daily orders in the evenings. Gaining a reputation for reliability, customers responded well to its rapid, quality service, which often meant that Emilie was working till late at night. This effort to keep promises was, and still is, characteristic of the Vergnes family. The unwritten family rule is 'never give up, keep your promises and produce quality'.

 

First retail store
In the historical building A, Guus Vergnes started his first retail store in 1934. Later on he expanded his business with building B en C.
Like father, like sons!

Guus bravely opened stores in Drachten and Alkmaar in the difficult period of 1938-39. Business began to thrive and so did the Vergnes'. Soon, their children outnumbered the stores - three daughters and six sons! These six sons all entered the business between 1950 and 1965, influenced by the enthusiasm of their parents. Guus opened a store for each of his sons, giving them all a chance to show what they were made of. This chain of stores operated under the name of Naaldkunst (which translates as 'Needle Art'), a name dreamt up by Emilie Vergnes. Periodical meetings about policy, collection and quality (father Guus always put his nose deep into a ball of wool in order to test its quality!) ensures the burgeoning business ran smoothly.



Sewing machine
The authentic sewing machine Guus Vergnes started his company with in 1934.

In the sixties, cross-stitch work (via charts) from Clara Waever and Eva Rosenstand was introduced from Denmark. At that time, embroidery in the Netherlands was mostly printed cross-stitch designs on canvas and other materials. The technique of cross-stitching following a chart was quite unknown. It took a decade for this idea to catch on, but catch on it did. As the Danish imports did not appeal to everyone, the Vergnes' saw a space in this lucrative new market that needed filling. In this way, they began to produce cross-stitch designs for their stores. Production was small at first, no more than 24 to 36 pieces at a time - a dipping of their corporate toe in the water. It has proved to be a diamond of a decision.

 

the interior
The interior of the first retail store in 1934.
The end of an era

In 1969 Guus died, but progress continued because of the professional manner in which the company has always operated. The six brothers consolidated past achievements and continued looking to the future. And so, the company's wholesale/production arm, Lanarte (lana = wool, arte = art), was born and eventually settled in the industrial area of Schenkenschans in December 1973. This new building had attractive offices and a 1,000 m2 warehouse. In the beginning Lanarte supplied, besides their own cross-stitch kits also related items, such as DMC embroidery yarns, knitting needles, frames, bells and bell pull ends, fabrics and knitting yarns.

Soon they were supplying more than 150 retailers in the Netherlands. One development followed on from another. Professional managers were placed in the Naaldkunst stores, enabling the Vergnes' boys to concentrate on Lanarte, with each son holding a specific responsibility (Purchase, Sales, Administration, Collection Development, Direction and Production).

 

First Lanarte Catalog
The first Lanarte catalogue,at that time still under the name of "Naaldkunst".

1975 proved to be a breakthrough year. The introduction by Lanarte of the Alphabet of Kate Greenaway (an English Victorian illustrator) made the potential of cross-stitch noticable. The alphabet was introduced as a complete design with individual letters available as very tiny kits and emphatically established the company as a quality cross-stitch designer and manufacturer. From this time on Lanarte produced many new collections. Among these were the Holly Hobby kits, other alphabets (cat's ABC, the Classical ABC of Martin Engelbrecht), designs by Willem Haenraets, Marjolein Bastin and others.

Lanarte began to attract attention abroad and the home market flourished as the leading Dutch women's magazines, Libelle, Margriet and Ariadne, promoted cross-stitch work.

In 1980, Naaldkunst/Lanarte had 9 stores and 7 franchise stores. The franchise businesses came to a halt after several years, being too difficult to fit alongside the wholesale concern. All six sons now worked for Lanarte. For the Vergnes, it is a de facto rule - there will be only one director with the other brothers taking on subordinate management functions.

 

 

 

 

 

Construction
The construction of the current business accommodation in 1973. Later on the building needed to be expanded several times.

Times of expansion

As Lanarte's business flourished, the premises became too small to contain everything. Firstly, an extra 2,000 m2 of warehousing was added and then another 700 m2 - a total of 3,700 m2. At the beginning of the eighties, the knitting wool market boomed. Lanarte promoted a modern collection of yarns and colours. The sales were supported by a free, half yearly, knitting magazine. With its characteristic layout, this magazine became a very effective promotional tool for Lanarte's retailers. In the late eighties, the knitting market declined. In this period as well, the Naaldkunst stores were turned over to a third party in an effort to channel the energy of the Lanarte team into the production operations.

 

 

 

Current Lanarte business accomodation
The current Lanarte business accommodation.

Success story

The Lanarte success story is due mainly to the fact that the Vergnes' have always been able to subordinate their family interests. Business is never conducted at any of the regular family get-togethers, but remains firmly in the arena of the office. Today the firm is still run by the youngest Vergnes, but managerial vacancies are being filled by non-family personnel.

Throughout the years, Lanarte export market has expanded and their beautiful designs are now available in more than forty countries world wide. Lanarte continue to develop and improve their range through, for example, the introduction of patterned background fabrics achieved by a silk-screen process. New packaging also gives a contemporary feel to the design as does Lanarte's careful choice of frame.

And so Lanarte is always innovative, producing two collections each year which keep up with current trends and developments in home decoration.
Put in simple terms, Lanarte would not be Lanarte without their constant search for new challenges.

 

 

Lanarte entrance
The current entrance.