Van de Sant is a manufacturer of high-quality designer furniture, 100% manufactured from residual waste and recycled materials. With his products, initiator Robert Milder hopes to provide a sustainable solution to the vast amounts of plastic waste in the world. And with it, create a better future for ourselves and our children. Interest in his thinking was plentiful, judging in part from the huge visitor numbers to his site. But how do you market such a product sustainably? And how do you move visitors to your site to actually convert? Robert found the answer in the iONE360 3D product configurator. The solution to his furniture configure, view and order online. And thus an important step in making Van de Sant’s collection both public and accessible.
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- Specialist in sustainable designer furniture
- Leader in the circular economy
- Project and consumer market
- Environmentally friendly and comfortable
- Own production company in the Netherlands
- Operating worldwide
100% circular, 100% comfort
Robert Milder, originally a graphic designer, from a natural interest in sustainable solutions, had been experimenting with other materials for some time. The inspiration for his current product line came while on vacation in the Caribbean. “I was walking on the beach and you could literally swim in the trash. I thought: we need to do something with that!” He got to work and developed a furniture frame using plastic scraps. That worked out well. But getting others to go along with his idea was more difficult. Robert: “Back then, nobody believed in recycling. The furniture industry is very traditional in its thinking and actions in that regard.”
Yet that did not stop Robert from continuing to develop his ideas. In addition to the frame work, he looked for alternatives for the seat and upholstery. He designed furniture that – thanks in part to the material they were made of – could be used both indoors and outdoors. At first, he did not mention that the furniture was made from recycled materials. It wasn’t until around 2016, when people started asking about it and more attention was paid to the circular economy, that he started sharing his story.
Robert: “We work completely circularly. All parts are made from waste or residual materials. Moreover, we make our furniture in such a way that every part of it can go back into the production process. That way, nothing is lost and nothing is left behind in the environment. In addition, we prove with our furniture that sustainability and comfort go perfectly well together. The fabrics we use have the same look and feel as traditional fabrics.”
ABOUT VAN DE SANT
Van de Sant, founded in 2018, is a small-scale organization with grand ambitions. The company designs and produces sustainable designer furniture made from recycled plastic. Each piece of furniture is fully circular. After use, the piece of furniture can be reprocessed into raw materials to be remade into new designer furniture. With its products, Van de Sant is committed to stopping deforestation, reducing plastic waste in the oceans and creating local jobs.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT PER VAN DE SANT PIECE OF FURNITURE
less plastic waste
approximately 25 kg of recycled plastic per piece of furniture
approx. 50 kg CO2 reduction per piece of furniture
approx. 8000 liters
ocean water ‘saved’
approximately 5 kg of recycled material per piece of furniture
From traffic to conversion
The big break for Van de Sant came when Robert competed in the 2019 BBC program Dragons Den. The panelists were so impressed with Robert’s story that they competed for the loudest to be allowed to engage with him. The broadcast itself was viewed by 2.86 million people and now the counter on YouTube stands at more than 1.2 million views. The response to the broadcast was overwhelming. Especially after it was released on YouTube after a year. “Suddenly everyone wanted to work with us,” laughs Robert.
After the broadcast, the proverbial phone was red hot. Still, concrete orders failed to materialize, despite the site’s huge influx. Moreover, Corona threw a spanner in the works. Until then, Van de Sant focused primarily on the project market. But when the pandemic broke out in early 2020, that market largely collapsed and virtually all ongoing projects came to a halt. That was the time for Robert to move more into the private market.
This move did require a different approach. How can you show what you are selling? What does your product look like, what does it cost and how do you convince your customer to convert? In short, how do you help your customer buy?
To market his product sustainably, he decided to set up a web shop with – following Tesla’s lead – the ability to configure the furniture in 3D. Robert: “I wanted a tool that would allow us to visualize our items and change fabrics online. I googled ‘3D’ and ‘configuration’ and came across Colijn IT. And that was an instant hit. The contact with the people at Colijn also felt right away. They understood exactly what I meant and what I was looking for. So the choice was quickly made.”
- How do you convince the side to buy? (from traffic to conversion)
- Moving from project market to private market
- No consumer models available yet
- Looking for a solution to visualize products in a sustainable and appealing way
- Ability to configure furniture online in 3D
- Provide ultimate customer experience
"I wanted a tool to configure and visualize our furniture online in 3D.
Colijn understood exactly what I needed. So the choice was quickly made."
Robert Milder - From the Sant I owner
Groundbreaking and innovative
Setting up the web shop took a little more effort. “We were not yet focused on the consumer market, so all kinds of models had to be created, without already having a very good picture of that market. That was an intensive process in which we asked a lot of Colijn IT. But the result is more beautiful than I ever imagined. When we started this, in my head I got no further than a static 2D image of a chair or sofa of which you could change the color. Now you can configure entire sets online, adjust fabrics and bases and view everything in 3D from all sides. That’s just great!”
Meanwhile, Robert also had lines out in America. “A few years ago I got a message via Instagram from one Emily. That she had been following me for a while and if we couldn’t do something together sometime. It turned out to be the wife of Jackie Jackson. Indeed, the brother of…” This surprising invitation resulted in a very fun and inspiring collaboration. It was decided to jointly establish a homestyle brand under the name Hayvenhurst – the former home of the Jackons – with not only sustainable furniture, but also bath textiles and other items, all made from recycled plastic.
Van de Sant’s website has been running since December 2021. And a webshop is now in the works for Hayvenhurst as well. Robert: “What I especially like is that we managed to get someone from a totally different industry excited about our ideas. And thanks to Jackie, the concept is now reaching a lot of other artists in the music industry.”
- Webshop with 3D product configurator
- Ability to assemble and view furniture online entirely to your liking
- Showing products from all sides with the 360 viewer
- Optimal experience
"Now you can configure entire sets online, adjust fabrics and bases as well as view everything in 3D from all sides. That's just great."
Robert Milder - From the Sant I owner
Together for a sustainable future
Becoming the most sustainable brand within the furniture industry. That’s what Robert envisions: “That you’re so well known that people say, ‘I’m on a Van de Santje.’ How cool would that be?” But even more important, of course, is actually being able to contribute to the “de-plasticization” of the world.
“I have a four-year-old daughter. When I think what future she has ahead of her, it does not make me very happy. I can’t change consumer society on my own. But I do have a product that solves something.” Robert hopes to inspire others with his story as well. “There is a lot of talk about circular economy. But just go do it. At least try it. My mother, for whom Van de Sant is named, taught me to never give up. And if Elon Musk hadn’t persevered, we’d all still be driving gasoline cars right now.”
“I believe 100% that the circular economy is the future. Now we still produce everything in the Netherlands. And even the residual materials we incorporate into our furniture come from here. But eventually we want to set up production flows in several places around the world. Locally, with local manpower and local raw materials. So that we create local jobs and at the same time reduce the carbon foodprint. And there are plenty of those opportunities. The raw materials and thus opportunities are, literally and figuratively, there for the taking!”
In that ambition, all online tools and digital developments play a crucial role. And that’s what Van de Sant would like to think about. Robert: “Only by working together can we create a different and better future. For ourselves and especially for our children.”
Van de Sant’s furniture pieces contribute significantly to environmental sustainability. About 25 kg of plastic is used per piece of furniture. With larger furniture, it is even more so. With each piece of furniture, the customer receives a certificate stating where the plastic came from. Van de Sant leaves the bottom of the furniture open so you can see what the furniture is made of. And to underscore the sustainable nature, some models feature one green leg, “the green leg.
"Colijn not only has the technical expertise, but is also willing to think with you and try new things. That way you can grow together."
Robert Milder - From the Sant I owner
What customers say about us
Why did you choose us?
“Colijn offered exactly what we were looking for. And more than that. An online product configurator, with the ability to view the furniture in 3D and from all sides. And toward the future all kinds of expansion options, such as AR functionality.”
How do you experience cooperation?
“Nothing but praise! It’s great how everything was thought through. We really have not been the easiest client, I fully realize that. We started at 0 and had to enter the private market with nothing. That required a lot from Colijn. Patience, but also time and research. And we are still learning from and with each other. The only pity is that you are all the way in Goes…”
What will you find at Colijn IT that you won’t find at other providers?
“Colijn not only has the technical knowledge and experience, but is also willing to think along with the customer and try new things. That way you can grow together.”
What are your findings so far?
“The webshop is in place, the foundation has been laid. And from here we are going to develop further. With new models, external designers and also new ways of presentation.”
What do you hope to achieve with this collaboration?
“We have taken a certain path with our furniture because we think and believe that this is the future. Many parties talk about sustainability, but few actually do it. We can guarantee that sustainability. And we want to spread that story further. Our website plays a very important role in this. Everything that is new in that area, all the new online possibilities and techniques to present products, we would like to participate and actively think about that.”
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