I personally adore THE One. If I ever feel uninspired, I pay their store a leisurely visit. Whether this means I end up feasting at their delicious restaurant, or I simple spend hours upon hours browsing their beautiful pieces, I always leave feeling uplifted.
For this spring, THE One is geared to deliver us with the finest in Rustic Living, a collection that deeply echoes with cozy-chic. Furthermore, the brand’s founder Thomas Lundgren, speaks to this lucky staff writer about THE One’s latest developments! If you’re a fan of this year’s Pantone color of the year, Marsala Red, then you will love the lived-in look of the Rustic Living that is reinforced by this power color for 2015.
Hi Thomas! Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I am an entrepreneur trying to live my dream; a passionate idealist in search of my own happiness. I’m an obsessive-compulsive, frustrated artist on a mission to change the world and ascribe my entrepreneurial success to a mixture of naivety, curiosity, creativity and gut-feel, as well as stubbornness, employing the right people and good old-fashioned hard work! I hold no college degrees or any other prerequisites which could possibly have contributed to me becoming the inventor and CEO (Creative Emotional Originator) of THE One – THE home fashion chain in the Middle East. With 18 stores in 8 countries and over 650 employees, we are also ranked as the UAE’s No.1 Local Employer four years in a row and Asia’s 5th Best Workplace in 2015!
How did your journey begin with THE One?
In 1993, after working in the home furnishings industry for nine years, I had a dream one stormy night, in which an angel came to me with a mission to ‘save the world from big box corporations.’ I then moved to Dubai and after three years of working on my business plan and trying to raise capital, we finally opened our first Theatre in Abu Dhabi in 1996. But it was oh so NOT my dream. In fact, it was my worst nightmare come true, looking and feeling like a home furnishings supermarket. When the endless hordes of adoring customers I expected didn’t materialize, I realized that the location was all wrong. I also discovered that a brand is not built overnight. Then I found another location in Dubai and since my early optimism had led me to overstaff and overstock the Abu Dhabi store, I transferred half the staff and half the stock to the new Jumeirah store, which ultimately secured the brand’s survival.
How would you describe ‘THE One’s Total Home Experience?’
At THE One, we aim to be both magical and meaningful: inspiring our fans by being Always Different and offering Affordable Luxury in home fashion, while engaging our staff, customers, suppliers and communities in our Core Purpose of Changing the World Together. Our stores are Theatres that are designed to deliver an all-encompassing, total sensory adventure. We want our fans to FEEL when they walk into our Theatres, not only inspired by our products, but also that we care. They should see the latest home fashion trends displayed in such a way that they can picture it in their homes… They should hear carefully chosen music, discover scents from exotic home fragrances, eat healthy fusion food and drink well-made refreshments in our restaurants and delis. Our aim is for each Theatre to feel ‘handmade’ – like a friendly, neighborhood store – a magical place where they can touch, see, smell, hear and taste THE One Total Home Experience; feel THE One’s soul. Our aim is to be a total contradiction to anything else you can find in the furniture world today.
However magical this may sound, we also want to bring meaning to a material world and give our customers the opportunity to make ethical choices and Do Good by simply shopping with us. As a home fashion brand that sources from all over the planet, we are committed to helping protect it and the people who live on it. This is why we only deal with manufacturers who sign a legal agreement confirming that they do not use child labor or wood from rainforests and why we offer many eco-friendly ranges as well as products that support disadvantaged communities worldwide.
Can you tell us about your role in creating the special collections every season?
We are a small tight-knit team here at THE Office that work on and create our two seasonal collections. My strength is to see the future and trends, to be out there with my antennas up, getting new ideas and sketching product concepts day and night.
We always work a year in advance on planning our new collections. We have a wall in THE Office where we pin up inspiration of everything we think is going to become a trend. That can be anything from movies, TV series and political events, inspiration from my visits to Harvard Business School and pages of fashion magazines. In fashion, there are always different trends from different eras. But as French poet and artist Jean Cocteau once said: “Fashion… One must forgive it everything; it dies so young.” Fashion is fickle and fun, and THE One wants to be that too. So I immediately move on anything that inspires me in the fashion world, so nobody can copy us at the same time. They will copy us eventually, but later, and by then we would have already moved on.
What is your inspiration for 2015?
As THE One is very diverse in terms of our styles, I get inspired by lots of different things for the different styles. I get inspired on my travels, by nature, a product or interior I see, a color, fabric or texture, it could be runway fashion, a hotel or restaurant… Everything around me inspires me! For 2015 I’m still very inspired by animal prints – I think it gives a cool and luxurious vibe to the home. I’ve also taken inspiration from the colonial times as well as a tropical climate. I always find it inspiring to find new and unexpected ways of mixing textures and colors together.
How is THE One becoming a Social Enterprise?
For us, Corporate Social Responsibility (which we prefer to call Socially Responsible Investment) is not a Values issue. It’s a Priorities issue. As I said before, we don’t believe the world needs another retailer. We need a better world. It’s all about CSV (Creating Shared Value) for People, the Planet and also our Profit, because the better we do as a company, the more good we can do in the world.
We feel THE One has a much more meaningful role to play than merely buying and selling stuff no one really needs. We have a responsibility to try to improve the world we live in. This goes way beyond environmental and social auditing. It’s about engaging with society on a significant level and empowering our communities to evolve as a by-product of our core business. We are on a mission to fulfill our Core Purpose of Changing the World Together!
Besides this, we believe that companies without real values will not only lose their staff but also their customers. In today’s world the best talent as well as customers want to work for and shop at a company that cares.
As a retailer, Ethical Sourcing is an obvious first step. Since we are a home fashion brand that sources from all over the world, we are committed to helping protect it and the people who live in it. This is why we only deal with manufacturers who sign a legal agreement confirming that they do not use child labor or wood from rainforests. In addition, we offer many eco-friendly ranges and a number of our products support disadvantaged communities worldwide.
Local Volunteering is the next logical step, since we want to give back to our communities. Our aim is to get involved and fulfill a need in the local communities of our business units. We do this through giving our people the freedom to choose which causes they wish to support in their market and encouraging them to devote company time to Local Volunteering initiatives. Furthermore, we participate in events in support of our chosen causes and host weekly, hands-on vocational training sessions for young adults with special needs in order to help integrate them into the workplace. While I originally initiated our Local Volunteering program, it has since taken on a life of its own. We have seen that every time our people organize and participate in a Local Volunteering initiative to support their chosen causes, it re-engages and re-energizes the team, boosting morale and wellbeing. As I always say: what comes from the heart goes to the heart!
Our Challenged Employee initiative is perhaps not so obvious, but in this part of the world, individuals with special needs are often seen as unable to contribute meaningfully to the workplace. We will continue to fight this misconception as we have seen that employing those with challenges fosters better understanding and greater social integration. In our experience, these individuals have a tremendous amount to offer, inspiring staff and customers alike, while gaining an increased sense of purpose, empowerment, independence and an income. It’s a win-win situation and all parties have everything to gain. While, back in 2002, I personally hired our first Challenged
Employee in Dubai (who is still with us today), we currently employ 19 special needs individuals across the network and aim for Challenged Employees to eventually make up 5% of our staff.
Then finally, there’s THE Onederworld. This idea was born out of our belief that education is the key to ending the cycle of poverty. So in 2008, we launched THE Onederworld -– our Sustainable Village Community program, focusing on neglected regions in the world where our employees come from or our manufacturers are based. We are placing special emphasis on areas where there is a high incidence of child labor, exploitation of children and minimal opportunities for girls. Teaming up with Free The Children on our Onederworld projects, we are currently working with villagers in Rajasthan, India on five-year plans towards self-sufficiency through holistic community development. This includes Balanced Quality Primary Education, Healthcare Services, Alternative Income Projects, Safe, Clean Drinking Water and Sanitation Systems and finally, Food Security. We have set ourselves a Big Hairy Scary Goal of successfully running 99 stores by 2020 in order to build and support 99 Classrooms. Fans can follow our monthly progress and leave comments on our video blog youtube.com/THEOnederworld
Can you tell us about the latest collection styles? What are some of your favorite items from the collection?
New this season is the Bohemian Glam trend – a mix and match of the dark and heavy with shiny and glamorous products… and lots and lots of flowers! We’re also introducing our charming Rustic Living colonial-inspired style, featuring mixed metals, dark wood and natural materials in a neutral color palette and finally, our eclectic Moroccan Delight look, where ethnic goes edgy! Monochrome is still big, so our cool masculine MonoMania trend carries over from autumn, but with new products. Same goes for Glamorama: the mix of animal prints, leather and gold gives a very luxurious and rich look. Pastels, antique metals and rose gold take center stage in our feminine Timeless Elegance trend, while Tropical Punch is fresh and crisp – perfect for Spring!
What are some of your plans for 2015?
Our planned growth up to June 2015 is to open another 11 stores, which will bring our total to 30 stores across 10 countries. This will comprise of 3 new stores in Abu Dhabi and we will also be entering 4 other Emirates, namely Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Al Ain. Two more stores are on the cards for Qatar, one more for Lebanon as well as our new franchise Azerbaijan. 2015 will also see the launch of THE One Basics – our brand new concept – in 4 locations, so watch this space!
THE One is located in Marina Mall (2224 4511) and The Avenues (2259 7284). Learn more at theone.com, or ‘stalk’ them on Instagram @THEOnePlanet, Twitter @THEOne_Planet, Facebook: THE One Planet and YouTube: THEOnederworld.