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Chris Weylandt, the man behind the furniture
We talk to Chris Weylandt about furniture and Cape Town as a design city
Weylandts is a well known and popular designer furniture store in South Africa and yet few people spare a thought for the interesting man behind it all. We found out more about the businessman, traveller and family man, Chris Weylandt.
CTMag: Who are you?
Chris: I am a 46 year old, German speaking man born in Namibia and educated in Cape Town. I live in Franschhoek but travel extensively around the world. I am a father and a businessman. I love what I do as it covers many disciplines. I am a CA by profession and enjoy the financial aspects of my job. We also have a production factory in Cape Town and I am actively involved in the manufacturing of Weylandts products and in the selection process of products sourced from around the world. Naturally I love the retail aspect and enjoy spending time on the shop floor interacting with customers and keeping in touch with what they want. My family and business are the most important things in my life. I prefer to spend down time with my family and definitely shy away from the cocktail circuit. My job is demanding and this makes my free time very precious. How, and with whom I spend my time with is very important to me.
CTMag: How and when did you come to Cape Town?
Chris: I attended high school at Bishops, stayed on in Cape Town to study at UCT and returned to Namibia for six years once I had qualified. I returned to Cape Town in 1996 to open a furniture manufacturing plant and have lived here ever since.
CTMag: You are the founder and owner of Weylandts. Why furniture, why that passion?
Chris: My father set up a small retail store - the first Weylandts - in Windhoek 1964. He travelled extensively sourcing top brands to sell in his store and this love of design and quality product is what I grew up with.
CTMag: Keywords for Weylandts are good design, furniture with character and quality. How do you choose the furniture and where?
Chris: We travel extensively in Europe and Asia. I attend international fairs to get inspiration and keep myself updated with industry trends. We manufacture product in various parts of the world to ensure that high quality standards are always met. I also travel off the beaten track to source interesting and unusual pieces which add character and individuality to our product offering. I buy pieces I love and would live with - in my home. I steer away from mass produced items and concentrate on pieces with innate design integrity. I am aware of the importance of encouraging traditional crafts, such as weaving – and support these hand-made skills using sustainable materials and contemporary design. We cherry pick the most interesting product from around the world and this pre-selection allows Weylandts to offer a world class product that is founded on design quality and always interesting due to its eclectic mix and varied provenance.
CTMag: Do you see Cape Town as the design city in SA?
Chris: Yes definitely – it’s a very cosmopolitan city. The architecture around the city is reflective of the ever-increasing importance of good design. I often introduce new design product into our Green Point store first, as I believe that our customers in this store show acute design appreciation.
We also have a large German customer base who demands good design, quality product and outstanding service. This continually helps us to improve our business.
CTMag: In your free time you go kite surfing and biking. Do you live in Cape Town because there are so many things to do?
Chris: I live in Franschhoek on a wine farm because I think it is incredibly beautiful and affords me a wonderful lifestyle. Wine, produced on our estate, Maison, is a great passion of mine (see www.maisonestate.co.za). The farm allows us to have horses and a pot bellied pig and I am able to switch off from the pressures of work and enjoy the challenges of this rural environment.
We also have a home on the coast and love to spend time on the water. I kite surf, have a sea kayak and love sailing. I also do bike trips into Africa and for me this is the ultimate physical challenge in the most beautiful space.
CTMag: Are you in any way involved in a German community in Cape Town? Do you have German friends here?
Chris: My children attend the German school in Cape Town and this has been my major touchstone with the German community.
CTMag: What in Cape Town is German for you? Are German things important for you? (In your business maybe a German product stands for quality?).
Chris: German product always embodies quality and good design. My garage is filled with German cars and I regularly visit Raith Gourmet - the German-owned butchery shop and deli in Gardens. It is a wonderful piece of Germany for me.
CTMag: What (and where) is your Hotspot in Cape Town (your own personal secret tip: Bar, Café, Restaurant, Shop, Market, Gallery)?
Chris: I enjoy good food and eat out often. Willoughby & Co. has great sushi and Carne is the place to go to for the best Florentine steak. I am an art collector and can recommend the art gallery at Grande Provence in Franschhoek.
CTMag: You seem to get bored easily. What's next? A Weylandts Restaurant?
Chris: I don’t get bored easily, but I am constantly looking at how to improve my business and as a result I see many opportunities and welcome new challenges.
Currently we are looking at expanding our national footprint and there are more stores in the pipeline. The possibility of global expansion is on the near horizon. We receive requests from around the world on a weekly basis for our product and to open stores in these countries, and looking at international expansion is a natural progression of the business.
The Maison wine we produce has won several awards and this is a venture that will no doubt grow and expand too. At times it seems that the opportunities are endless and I have to be disciplined to pace myself, but it is all very exciting.
By Antonia Heil
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