It takes courage to do it. Setting up a business with just one innovative product and consciously waiting four years before expanding the collection. 

By Inge Vranken

Extremis: extraordinary and revolutionary

The plan was: 'to develop a range of products, to produce them in series and to market them internationally to meet the needs of a public with a penchant for contemporary design in furniture and accessories for outdoor use, taking strong account of form, functionality and ecology'. 

With this in mind, interior designer Dirk Wynants came up with a round garden table Gargantua in 1994. lt was Extremis' first product, a company based in "far-off" Gijverinkhove in West Flanders, founded in 1995 and run by Wynants.

He needed three years to set up a world-wide distribution network. Since the home market proved too limited, export became his major market. Wynants exhibited the table at all the leading furniture fairs in Europe, and recently in New York. In the last few years, he has set up agents to operate as intermediaries in almost every country in Western Europe. Other markets (Australia, Japan, Russia and USA) break down the seasonal barriers of the business.

The Gargantua tabla has now become almost a classic among modern garden furniture internationally. Ingo Maurer selected the table for the Design Yearbook 2000 and bought one for himself. Thanks to this success, the company was able to expand its collection in 1998 with a range of garden furniture named Extempore. For this, Dirk Wynants called on Dutch designer Arnold Merckx.

'Gargantua '& 'Extempore'
'Gargantua' & 'Extempore'

Combining the job of business manager with that of designer is not a practical proposition for Dirk Wynants. Originality is jeopardised if the designer also has to bear the responsibility for all the business aspects as well (product specification, concepting, guiding designers and production, marketing and distribution).

Dirk Wynants keeps a very close eye on the design process, but his area of authority is all the other business aspects.

From the beginning, he gradually developed his own business philosophy, which has most certainly been the determining factor in Extremis' success. He aims for innovation not only in the design of the products, but also in the fields of marketing, communications technology and ethics.

Thus, he strives to develop a business mentality that focuses on running affairs properly, including at human level. Ecological considerations also play an important role, not onlin in the choice of materials, but also in the durability of the design.

The growth of the company was such that it recently required reorganisation. Now, Extremis is a public limited company, in which Dirk Wynants is supported as manager by an administrator, an export specialist and a PR specialist. He continues to rely on external designers for product development.