“I saw it in the beginning. These are special people with a special view of the world.”
Michael Kiolbassa, AXOR’s Global Brand Ambassador, recently visited sunny South Africa to discuss AXOR and the brand’s latest developments. But to understand where AXOR sits now, Kiolbassa first painted a picture of its storied past, and how it has evolved into a leading luxury brand in the bathroom.
Precision from the Start
AXOR belongs to Hansgrohe Group, which began in the Black Forest in 1901.
“The Black Forest area is a special location,” says Kiolbassa, “as it was home to the clock and watch industry at the time. The Black Forest means the highest precision and quality. When Hans Grohe lived there, he saw that these people had the right mindset. They were engineers who would wake up in the middle of the night, writing down solutions to complex problems, constantly thinking about how to improve.”
92% of hansgrohe and AXOR products are still made in Germany, which is important to the brand.
“German quality is very important. Our people are exceptionally proud to work for this company, with many having fathers and grandfathers who worked here. The Hansgrohe Group combines German inventiveness with production and quality,” says Kiolbassa.
The Beginnings of Luxury
The Group made their first mixer in 1981, but it was in 1993 that AXOR was born. “We realised that we needed a brand for the luxury segment, and our commitment is all in the name. Ax is the old Celt word for ‘water’, while Or means gold in French, Italian, and Spanish; so AXOR means ‘gold in water’,” says Kiolbassa.
By this time, the company had a number of excellent designers on board, such as Phoenix Design. In 1994, Phillipe Starck teamed up with the minds at AXOR and brought out a complete bathroom, which he called the ‘Salon d’eau’ – the living room of water.
“This was really a revolution in the bathroom because a bathroom did not look like what he proposed,” recalls Kiolbassa. “It made a great impact, not only for the newly founded AXOR, but on the bathroom world in general.”
Then came Citterio, Urquiola, Front Design, Nendo, Barber & Osgerby, and more. “I always say we are working together with the best,” says Kiolbassa.
The Secret of Success
“The secret of success with AXOR is that the company, starting with Klaus Grohe, and his sons, the management, and the brand, and especially our engineers, understands to put these unusual ideas for the bathroom into great products. Then you have the combination of Germany and design coming together, and that is the core of the brand,” says Kiolbassa.
A Unique Approach to Design
“This is not a normal corporation; these designers are our friends, the design process is not a normal one,” he continues. With AXOR MyEdition, the original concept was ‘that everyone would like to have their bathroom according to their personal wishes and demands’.
“We needed a collection with the best possibility of individualisation,” says Kiolbassa. “Phoenix Design came in and we did not talk about the bathroom. We asked, ‘where can people express their individuality best in life?’ Someone said the Opera house. Someone else said the theatre. So, we put the bathroom on a stage. We are very open-minded and we want to collaborate with design and engineers to get the best possible result.”
An Exciting Future
AXOR recently featured a range of new products and innovations at ISH – the international trade fair for sanitary and heating technology – including stunning new finishes like matt white and matt black, gorgeous AXOR suite basins and bath tubs, and new showers.
“This is the top of individualisation,” says Kiolbassa.
Become a Part of the AXOR Story
It is no wonder that AXOR products are known for pristine quality and gorgeous finishes, sitting as the pinnacle of luxury in the bathroom.
“You not only buying a product for the use,” finishes Kiolbassa.
“It’s the story behind it. The story is between real people. Designers, engineers, customers, architects, and consumers. We do not invent stories, the stories are there.”
Author: Bryan Groenendaa
Visit the Hansgrohe Showroom in Johannesburg to see the AXOR range in action.