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Three family companies, three pairs of brothers - one success story

The essentials at a glance:

The subject: Dornbracht and collaboration with Sieger Design and Meiré und Meiré

The special feature: The long-standing partnership of Andreas and Matthias Dornbracht, Christian and Michael Sieger and Mike and Marc Meiré has lastingly changed bathroom/spa and kitchen culture


Iserlohn, January 2018

The Dornbracht brand success story is also, and most notably, a story of successful partnerships.
The central figures here – as has been the case for more than 25 years – are three pairs of brothers:
Andreas and Matthias Dornbracht, Michael and Christian Sieger and Mike and Marc Meiré.
During years of collaboration with Sieger Design and the communications agency Meiré und Meiré, Dornbracht has innovatively and lastingly changed the development of the bathroom and kitchen environments. 

“It needs a lot of experience and instinctive feel to develop something suitable for the Dornbracht brand”, explains Andreas Dornbracht, who together with his brother Matthias is the third generation to head the medium-sized family company. They took over the running of the company from their father Helmut, the son of company founder Aloys F. Dornbracht, at the start of the nineteen-nineties. Dornbracht is now one of the few sanitation sector companies to still be in family hands, and as a leading premium segment manufacturer, produces all its products at the Iserlohn location.

“Both Sieger Design and Meiré und Meiré share our premium orientation and have high quality standards. Not only that, they are both family companies with a similar culture and way of thinking. Just like us, they think long-term and aspire to sustainable development – which is a big advantage compared to management-led design or communications agencies”, continues Andreas Dornbracht.  

Sieger Design developed Domani, the first designer fitting for Dornbracht, in 1985 – Dieter Sieger still had overall control at the time, but passed the business on to his sons shortly afterwards.
Meiré und Meiré took over all communications for the Iserlohn-based premium fittings manufacturer at the beginning of the nineteen-nineties. The close partnership that Dornbracht still enjoys with them both has continued to grow over the years.

“Our working relationship is much more team-based than it was to start with, however. Previously, you would issue a briefing and then three months later, be presented with a complete concept. Nowadays, we are constantly exchanging ideas and information with the teams at Sieger Design and Meiré und Meiré”, declares Andreas Dornbracht. His areas of responsibility within the company are Strategy, Finances, Communication and Marketing, whereas Matthias Dornbracht is in charge of developing systems and technologies, along with his responsibility for Operations. “Both partners are involved in the product development process, right from the start. Technology, design, marketing and communication are always closely intertwined.”

Dornbracht has been continuously setting standards over the last three decades, whether with iconic designs such as Tara and MEM, with solutions for digital water control such as Smart Water and the Ambiance Tuning Technique (ATT), with eUnit Kitchen and the Water Zones, with Horizontal Shower and Sensory Sky or with the most recent concept, LifeSpa. “If you look at these milestones as a whole, you realise that what makes the Dornbracht brand so special is the culture behind it; that there are entrepreneurs here who really are happy to take innovations on board”, says Mike Meiré. And it is also the willingness to take risks, emphasises Michael Sieger: “The special quality of our collaboration with Dornbracht is that we also implement product concepts which we know will initially pose a challenge to the traditional market.”

 

Dornbracht was a pioneer of digitalisation in bathrooms and kitchens. “Basically, we were a few years ahead of our time with Smart Water, the market is only now just starting to develop. But this means that we are even better placed for the future”, declares Matthias Dornbracht. 

 

From fittings manufacturer to design leader

An extremely important milestone in the collaboration with Sieger Design was the launch of the Tara series of fittings in 1992. The minimalist fitting with the characteristic cross-handles paved the way for a new, aesthetic understanding of contemporary bathroom design and after Domani, firmly established Dornbracht’s reputation as a design leader. This was accompanied by a radical change in corporate design, as implemented by Meiré und Meiré. The agency took over communication for Dornbracht at the same time Tara was launched, with Mike Meiré as creative director and Marc Meiré in charge of strategic and operational processes. “The artistic creativity of Sieger Design was really radical and new at that time”, explains Mike Meiré. “But it also posed a question: what do we do with the logo? All those involved agreed that continuing with the traditional Dornbracht lettering was not an option. It had to be shorter. So we simply said, we will cut through the name and run it over two lines. It was almost as if we were slaughtering a holy cow. But Andreas Dornbracht’s response was immediate: we’ll do it. I think that was incredibly courageous of him.”

 

The new, artistically creative line was consistently pursued over the years and decades that followed – up to and including the present day.  As before, Dornbracht’s entire product portfolio is created and developed in collaboration with Sieger Design. It is about far more than external appearance nowadays. “We regard design and product creation as a response to the changing needs of customers and consumers”, explains Michael Sieger, who is in charge of creative processes at Sieger Design. His brother Christian is the business economist responsible for finances, marketing and public relations. Along with aesthetics and functionality, it is about creating added value and including social megatrends in the development process. All parties consider aspects such as “healthness”, individualisation and connectivity in detail. “What will motivate customers – in the next five, ten or fifteen years? These are the questions that occupy us”, says Andreas Dornbracht. 

From “Culture in the Bathroom” to “Culturing Life”
The Dornbracht Culture Projects, which were established in 1996 with the “Statements” series, are an important source of inspiration here. Starting from the new corporate claim of “Kultur im Bad” (“Culture in the Bathroom”), internationally famous artists, photographers, musicians, architects, writers and designers were asked to create their own choice of work in their particular genre on the subject of water, cleansing, rituals and culture in the bathroom. “None of us knew what to expect. We gave the artists carte blanche”, remembers Mike Meiré, who is still the curator of the Culture Projects to this day, and who sometimes actively contributes as an artist. “It was incredibly courageous of Dornbracht to take such a step at that time. Perhaps we can smile about it now, but at the time, it was paving the way for the entire industry.”

 

“Statements” were the initial spark for an examination of art and culture that is still going on today, and which keeps giving Dornbracht crucial impetus for product and brand development. It also provided the inspiration for Dornbracht ritual bathrooms, which were developed by Meiré und Meiré in 2003. For the first time, the focus of attention in the bathroom turned completely to people and their actions – and this approach fundamentally altered the understanding of contemporary bathroom design: from a functional wet room to a place of physical and mental regeneration and ultimately, of personal preventive health care. 

 

Trust and responsibility

Three family companies, three pairs of brothers and a good three decades of collaboration. A connection that has to keep on proving itself all over again, as well as building up trust and demonstrating a long-term commitment to the same aims. “Obviously you have to keep checking: where are we going with this partnership? Are we heading in the same direction, do we have similar ideas about the development of the Dornbracht brand?”, explains Andreas Dornbracht.  

“These are the questions we regularly and openly discuss, from family company to family company. After all, it is these in-depth discussions that make sure we remain on an equal footing – and can go forward together.”
01_Dornbracht_Family_Company Brothers Andreas (on the right) and Matthias (on the left) Dornbracht are the third generation to head the medium-sized family company. They took over the running of the company from their father Helmut, the son of company founder Aloys F. Dornbracht, at the start of the nineteen-nineties. Photo: Dornbracht
02_Dornbracht_Family_Company Sieger Design developed Domani, the first designer fitting for Dornbracht, in 1985 – Dieter Sieger still had overall control at the time, but passed the business on to his sons Christian (on the left) and Michael (on the right) shortly afterwards. Photo: Dornbracht
03_Dornbracht_Family_Company The first designer fitting Dieter Sieger developed for Dornbracht was Domani (03a), in 1985.
Since then, the collaboration with Sieger Design has produced a great many fittings that have progressed to being design icons: from the timeless classic Tara (03b), to the new Vaia series of fittings (03c-d).
Photo: Dornbracht (03a)
03b_Dornbracht_Family_Company The first designer fitting Dieter Sieger developed for Dornbracht was Domani (03a), in 1985.
Since then, the collaboration with Sieger Design has produced a great many fittings that have progressed to being design icons: from the timeless classic Tara (03b), to the new Vaia series of fittings (03c-d).
Photo: Thomas Popinger
03c_Dornbracht_Family_Company The first designer fitting Dieter Sieger developed for Dornbracht was Domani (03a), in 1985.
Since then, the collaboration with Sieger Design has produced a great many fittings that have progressed to being design icons: from the timeless classic Tara (03b), to the new Vaia series of fittings (03c-d).
Photo: Thomas Popinger (03b-d)
03d_Dornbracht_Family_Company The first designer fitting Dieter Sieger developed for Dornbracht was Domani (03a), in 1985.
Since then, the collaboration with Sieger Design has produced a great many fittings that have progressed to being design icons: from the timeless classic Tara (03b), to the new Vaia series of fittings (03c-d).
Photo: Thomas Popinger (03b-d)
04_Dornbracht_Family_Company The Meiré und Meiré agency took over communication for Dornbracht at the same time Tara was launched, at the start of the nineteen-nineties – with Mike Meiré (on the right) as creative director und Marc Meiré (on the left) in charge of strategic and operational processes. The agency still shapes Dornbracht’s overall brand identity.
05a_Dornbracht_Family_Company It was also during the collaboration with Meiré und Meiré that Dornbracht developed into a brand,
one which is still helping to shape and create culturally relevant processes. The company has been supporting and initiating selected exhibitions and projects under the auspices of the Dornbracht Culture Projects since 1996. Photos: The Island (KEN), 2015, DIS in collaboration with Dornbracht and Mike Meiré (05a); Faust, 2017, Anne Imhof (05b).
Photos: Heji Shin (05a), Nadine Fraczkowski (05b)
Copyright: Dornbracht; Nadine Fraczkowski (05b)
05b_Dornbracht_Family_Company It was also during the collaboration with Meiré und Meiré that Dornbracht developed into a brand,
one which is still helping to shape and create culturally relevant processes. The company has been supporting and initiating selected exhibitions and projects under the auspices of the Dornbracht Culture Projects since 1996. Photos: The Island (KEN), 2015, DIS in collaboration with Dornbracht and Mike Meiré (05a); Faust, 2017, Anne Imhof (05b).
Photos: Heji Shin (05a), Nadine Fraczkowski (05b)
Copyright: Dornbracht; Nadine Fraczkowski (05b)