textilwerk.com

"We’re a work bench and studio for artists."

Interview with Maik Ehmke — co-founder at textilwerk.com.

textilwerk.com

It started out as just an idea that two old friends came up with during a summer party. The two were Dan Schmitz, managing director at Schmitz-Werke, and Maik Ehmke, project leader at Ernsting’s Family, both in their mid-thirties, with strong ties to the textile industry in the Münsterland region of Germany. Dan had long wondered why manufacturers always got to determine the designs of household textiles.

Shouldn’t it be left up to the market to decide? Why not bring consumers and designers together on a single platform? That’s when the idea for textilwerk.com was born. Today, the company is home to ten employees, with a network of 80 artists producing 4,000 designs and around 20,000 products.

“The first responses we got from people were, 'Oh my god, what are you planning to do?’”

Maik Ehmke co-founder at textilwerk.com

 A textilwerk leather label is sewn on with a sewing machine

From idea to go-live

Maik Ehmke is his company’s most passionate representative. You can feel that even when speaking to him through video conference. Yet, talking the advisory board at Schmitz-Werke into founding a subsidiary took more than just enthusiasm. “We were getting up to about the 100th revision of our business model. We were going undercover and visiting trade fairs with completely off-the-wall project names. Each time we revised our model, we started feeling better and better about it until we finally realised that there was a market for our idea.”

“It takes some controversy and some friction.”

Maik Ehmke co-founder at textilwerk.com

Finally, in March 2019, it was time to get textilwerk.com up and running. Today, Mike looks back with a smile on how he and his team celebrated the first orders ‘to the extreme.’

Designer textiles for all

Armani and Ralph Lauren paved the way. H&M and Zara followed. After conquering the wardrobes of people all over the world, these brands started setting their sights on the living rooms as well. So, how would a start-up from Emsdetten, Germany find its place among these household names? “Our concept is different”, says Maik. “We see ourselves as a work bench and studio for artists.”
The textilwerk.com configuration tool enables artists to upload their creations, which customers can then print onto bed linens, curtains, tablecloths or textile posters. “We add new designs to the shop every day, which leads to new collections and themes”, says Maik. Along with their wide range of unique products, textilwerk.com also sets itself apart from other textile-industry players through its sustainable production techniques.

“We’re currently testing raw materials made from recycled polyester.”

Maik Ehmke co-founder at textilwerk.com

 Living room with textilwerk designs

A commitment to sustainability

‘Sustainability’ has become an overused term throughout the business world, often linked to a lot of hollow promises. That is not the case with textilwerk.com. “Our on-demand production model alone makes us more sustainable than a lot of other manufacturers. We never have any surplus production”, says Maik. The company’s state-of-the-art web-to-print solution is the driving force behind this waste-free production approach. The online shop is connected directly with the textile-printing machine. Specialised software ensures that the orders are collected and then optimally sequenced to be printed and cut from the right fabrics.

The company’s sewing department is located in Poland as opposed to low-wage countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam where most textile companies operate. All raw materials originate from certified producers inside Europe. Recently, textilwerk.com even started operating its own printing machine, which uses water-based dyes and boasts a GOTS certification (which is known as the ‘gold standard’ in the textiles sector). “There is no other machine out there right now that meets this standard”, explains Maik.

Yet, he and his company are not stopping there. “Packaging always generates a lot of waste. That’s something we are working to improve one step at a time”, he says. This is why textilwerk.com also recently decided to change to a new payment provider.

Table decoration from textilwerk

Shopware and Mollie: Two in one

“Soon, we will start using Shopware 6”, says Julia Buske, head of technology development at textilwerk.com. Julia first heard about Mollie on Shopware Community Day in 2019. This led to a contractual partnership just a few months later, which quickly began proving its worth. “There was a clear drop in the cart abandonment rate”, says Julia.

Mark adds, “The reason we decided to start working with Mollie was largely due to the checkout, but also because it includes modern payment methods, like Apple Pay.” Julia is also impressed with the Mollie back-end. “It’s better than the rest. It’s intuitive, stable and easy to use. We’ve been working with Mollie for four months now, and it’s going really well.”

“It didn’t take us long to see that Mollie was the best.”

Julia Buske Head of Technology at textilwerk.com

Outdoor decoration from textilwerk artists

The dream of a micro-factory

Next year, Schmitz-Werke is turning 100 years old. To stay in business for that long, it takes one skill above all: the ability to anticipate future developments and react quickly. To name just one example: when the coronavirus crisis hit, textilwerk.com quickly set up a product line of protective face coverings. At its peak, it was producing 50,000 masks each weak.

At the same time, the company is working at full speed to offer more personalised products. In the future, the customer will be able to create their own products from the comfort of their own homes. There is also an idea of setting up a high-grade automated factory in Germany. Currently, this is still in the ideas stage. Just the latest idea hatched between these two old friends.

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« Lorsque la question des paiements est arrivée, je cherchais vraiment une solution qui puisse nous accompagner à l’international. » — Émilien, Cabaïa