From London’s Royal Park Hotel and The Pig in the Wall in”Hampshire, to Waldorf Astoria Chicago and the five-star STOCK resort in Austria, Vispring beds grace luxury hotels across the globe.
With the hotel sector adopting ever more sophisticated methods to ensure ‘the perfect night’s sleep’ for guests,”Gemma Ralph visited Vispring’s headquarters in Devon to discover the company’s recipe for success after over a century at the top of its game.
Anyone who knows anything about Vispring will be aware that its founder, British-born engineer James Marshall, was the first to develop an individually-pocketed coil design at the turn of the 20th century.
Marshall’s iconic Vispring bed caused a major shift in the way that beds were manufactured, and the design quickly became synonymous with the prestige of the luxury hotel suites, fine residences and oceanliners into which it was installed.
This revolution in comfort, and an emphasis on using only natural materials, handcrafted, are the founding principles of Vispring, yet are also the sustaining force of the company over 100 years later – as I found out when I”visited the company’s head office in Plymouth, Devon.
If it wasn’t already apparent just how much time, patience and skill goes into handcrafting a bed, it soon was after a tour of the factory. Each phase of production is allotted to a small team of highly-skilled craftspeople who work expertly and meticulously to execute each and every detail to the very highest standard – there is certainly no cutting of corners here.
The key to a Vispring mattress is of course its ‘core’ spring unit, and the company is one of very few bed manufacturers to make its own springs. Formed using a unique alloy of premium steel and vanadium, the springs are nestled inside sewn pockets of pure calico, before being arranged in a honeycomb pattern within a wooden frame. Carefully positioned by hand, each spring is able to work independently to provide evenly-spread support for the body, to the specified tension.
In order to consolidate the form and strength of the mattress, the borders are side-stitched by hand in the traditional way, using double-ended needles and flax twine. The skilled side-stitchers work by eye, ensuring that each stitch is uniform – a labour-intensive process that can take several hours per mattress. After trying (and failing dismally at) this process myself, I can safely say it’s no mean feat!”
Once the side-stitching is complete, the ‘build’ gets under way. Each mattress contains a unique blend of luxurious natural fibres to provide the desired texture or feel – all of which are selected for their ‘loft’ or ability to retain their original shape after compression. Austrian or South American horsehair – favoured for its unique twist and spring – can be combined with silk, mohair, cashmere, bamboo, alpaca or real Shetland wool. This carefully-sourced palette of materials ensures that each Vispring mattresss is naturally hypoallergenic, breathable and provides an eminently clean, fresh and hygienic sleeping environment.
The next stage is to enclose the fillings between the outer fabric and the border. This entails gathering the edges by hand and feeding them gently into an advancing sewing machine. In order to prevent the mattress from becoming distorted, the craftsman must ensure that exactly the right amount of material is taken in to leave the form of the top panel intact.
To complete the process and to hold the filling in place, the surface of the mattress is sculpted through hand-tied tufts, giving it its characteristic domed surface.
Of course, it’s one thing to read about this labour-intensive process, but to witness the individual elements of the mattress in their raw form, and to observe the skill and dexterity of the craftsmen as they assemble these components, is quite something else.
“the company has invested heavily in a training and development centre which aims to transfer the knowledge and skills of its existing staff to future generations of craftsmen”
I think this ‘timelessness’ is what really makes Vispring so special. Without detracting from the obvious benefits of machinery, there is a distinct feel and aesthetic that only handcrafted objects can achieve – whether due to the simple fact that no two mattresses are the same, or the human element and historical significance of the craft process itself.
Despite steadfastly honouring the tried-and-tested methods of the company’s forebears, Vispring is nevertheless extremely forward-thinking in the scale of its product offering and branding, and its ambition to become a leading name in the global market.
Indeed, having undergone extensive rebranding last year, Vispring has refined its product portfolio, unveiled a new logo and an engaging website, and launched an aspirational advertising campaign guided by the launch of the Vispring philosophy, ‘sleep well, live better’.
In addition, the company has invested heavily in a training and development centre which aims to transfer the knowledge and skills of its existing staff to future generations of craftsmen.
While the UK base is of paramount importance to the company – with 60% of its business being UK-based – the company is perpetually striving to consolidate and extend its international footprint, and anticipates that international expansion will be the key to its future prosperity.
Currently Vispring has a sales, marketing and distribution base near Brussels which deals with its business in mainland Europe, a team in North America dealing with sales on the East and West coasts, as well as a team member responsible for RoW sales across South America, South Africa and the Middle East.
At this critical juncture in the company’s development, Vispring is instigating a carefully-measured, yet rigorous scheme of improvement and expansion both at home and abroad. There is no doubt that with this ambition Vispring has the potential to be amongst the very best in the global design world – but, whatever its future success, it’s a company that will never lose sight of its traditional roots, pride in its quality product, or value in the talented workforce at its heart.