On a recent game drive in Amboseli National Park getting inspiration for the new lodge, Annemarie proposed we make a trip to Paris for Maison & Objet, the design fair that happens each year in January. That we could also pay a well-overdue visit to Fermob sealed the deal.
If you've seen any of the Angama Mara's tent photos or have visited the lodge, you know Fermob is practically part of Angama’s DNA. From the initial concept development of the lodge, our lead design consultant, Annemarie Meintjes, made the connection between the era and the inspiration for the design. Fermob chairs are comfortable, timeless — but with an eye on the future — and not to mention hardy in all weather conditions.
We mentioned the trip to the Fermob team and the next thing I knew, an invitation landed in my inbox for us to visit their headquarters in Lyon. The invitation also included pre-purchased train tickets leaving from Gare Lyon (which, it turns out, is not the same as Gare du Nord). Luckily, we made the train by the skin of our teeth.
It was a beautiful 90-minute journey into the countryside which finally allowed us to put faces to the names we’d come to know so well. Francois and Amelie were waiting for us at the station and informed us we’d go for a 'quick lunch' with the rest of the team before continuing to the factory, the headquarters and the showroom. In true French style, a 'quick lunch' involves wine and a delicious 3-course meal. It was wonderful to meet the whole team, tell them more about Angama and show them where their beautiful furniture sits proudly looking over the stunning Mara Triangle. Their first visitors since COVID, the team gave us the warmest welcome and were very generous with their time, sharing Fermob’s history, their challenges and plans for the future.
Next, we visited the factory, witnessing 4,000 tons of aluminium steel in action. They produce 1,000 chairs a day and some key items (like my favourite bench, the Chairivari) take 3 full days to make. We oooh’d and aaaah’d at their fancy machinery, impressed with all the quality checks. The paint section was the most fun of course, as this is where the items come to life. After a tour of the headquarters, with all the brains behind the production and furniture design, we headed to the main showroom.
At the entrance stands a miniature Eiffel Tower, built using 364 bistro chairs as part of the 125th-anniversary celebration of both the original Eiffel Tower and the Fermob bistro chair itself. This was where the fun began for me and Annemarie — we sat on every item, compared colours and sizes, created mock setups of our chosen items and imagined them in situ thousands of kilometres away enjoying the views of Kilimanjaro.
Finally, it was time to share some slides on Amboseli — the gorgeous views, the lodge design and the elephants that gently roam the sweet sanctuary that awaits our guests. Would you believe that they have a range of furniture with elephant-shaped feet? We couldn’t have scripted it any better. Our next order is due to depart France later this month and we can’t wait to unveil all the new items headed to Angma Amboseli next year. Attendez-vous.
With thanks to François, Amélie, Sandra, Sabina and the greater Fermob team for hosting us, putting up with all of our antics and for making it so easy to fill yet another container full of beautiful outdoor furniture. Please come and visit us soon.
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