Following the launch of yet another successful collection, Roca’s Marc Viardot tells Sophie Harper how the group is well placed in the market to create popular products for the design industry, because of the group’s love of collaboration.

Marc Viardot is the corporate marketing and design director for the Roca Group. Marc joined the Roca Group in 2003 as Laufen’s export area manager for commercial subsidiaries and from 2010 to 2020 he was responsible for marketing and products and helped turn Laufen into the successful and renowned premium brand it is today by working closely with the world’s best designers and architects.

Now, based at headquarters in Barcelona and together with his team of marketing, product, design and innovation managers, he manages the Roca brand, as well as overseeing the development of all Roca Group’s brands.

Having worked with some top names in the design industry: Marcel Wanders, David Chipperfield, and Herzog & de Meuron to name a few, Marc tells me how they select design talent to collaborate with to design new collections. “We don’t just collect big names, we select designers based on their suitability to any one project. We actually like working with new designers, sometimes it takes working with a designer on a separate project before you get to know each other and build that relationship and understanding of each other’s work.”

Marc talks about the Ona collection, Roca’s latest bathroom collection, explaining its launch and initial conception. “We launched the new Ona range with an online streaming event last December, with around 5,000 people viewing the event at a time when physical events were limited. Since February this year, when travel was opened up again, many people have visited the exhibition in Barcelona to see the new products – and of course, it was very well received at Salone Milano in June.”

Inspired by the Mediterranean Sea, Ona offers a wide range and timeless design with soft shapes and geometric lines. Developed by the Roca Design Centre team in collaboration with international design studios Noa Design and Benedito Design, the collection is defined by a Mediterranean-inspired aesthetic. “We have a great in-house design team with really skilled engineers and designers,” says Marc, “but external influence is a wonderful addition to have working with us on our projects.”

Manufactured with a respect for natural materials and a transversal approach to sustainability, Ona conveys distinctive versatility. The full bathroom collection includes basins and furniture, brassware, baths, accessories, WCs and bidets. “Ona was all about the harmonisation between all the items in the collection, it was important that everything fit together seamlessly – in terms of functionality and aesthetic,” said Marc.

“It was quite a complexed collection, it took up to 400 people to develop and produce all the different stages for the whole collection to come together.” He adds, “Orchestrating this sort of thing is an art – if the ensemble is not in perfect harmony, anyone with a discerning eye would see the disconnect.”

Now an award-winning product, Ona basins are constructed with Fineceramic – an innovative material that allows for finer and lighter pieces that adapt to any size, it facilitates a more sustainable production process. It generates zero waste, all its composites are natural, and the weight reduction positively impacts firing and transport, reducing CO2 emissions. “Actually, the Roca Group had the first zero waste factory in the world,” says Marc, “which completely recycles all the water and raw materials within the production cycle. We have a sustainability department and a very tight roadmap of actions from water treatment to decarbonisation and a very clear definition of what we want to achieve and by when with environmental aspects, societal and economic growth. So far it’s looking very promising.”

He talks more about sustainability, adding that Roca has been building on its sustainable practices for a long time, and that essentially everything the team does is based on sustainable design and research. “Everything is based on research, we do research all day even if we don’t realise it’s research! We have a very open-minded team that understands different cultures, fashions, design, architecture and we absorb all of that. We don’t base anything on trend studies, our designs are based on longer-term investments, so our products are classic and made to last. Designing in any other way wouldn’t be very sustainable.”

But essentially, Marc explains that everything Roca does is based on a collaborative process, from design, development, production, and installation. “We have a clear programme,” he says. “When collections take two years to make, we need to plan five years ahead of time. I feel the product is at the core for an industrial company like Roca, we have 80 factories around the world, we need to make sure we have the best products for the market in terms of creating demand but also for production for use of resources. In terms of innovation, we are investing, we have created a venture fund, an innovation hub, where we need to see how we can bring everything together. Ultimately Roca’s culture of collaboration is key and shows what you can achieve in the world if you are united.”