+49 (0) 421 9600-10
18 October 2018 - Volker Kölling

A visit to the textiles treasure trove

Maritime economy and logistics
Sabine Grimm Yacht & Interior Design specialises in creating beautiful interiors for large yachts

Sabine Grimm’s son, Jan-Dirk Grimm, has also joined the Bremen-based company.
Sabine Grimm’s son, Jan-Dirk Grimm, has also joined the Bremen-based company. © WFB/Frank Pusch

Sabine Grimm specialises in the interior design of large yachts, and for anyone with a passion for sophisticated fabrics, a visit to her showroom at an der Grenzpappel 41 is a must. She has 2,000 fabric samples on site, over 45,000 in her catalogue and soon will be adding another 20,000 to her collection. The business sells everything from rayskin to silks costing over €800 per metre. Grimm has also just launched her own range of leather surfaces that are virtually incombustible.

“Designers come to us to find products that they can’t find elsewhere. Everyone sells normal checked material for €6.50 per metre. With us, the prices are a bit higher, ranging from €35 to €850 per metre,” says Sabine Grimm, explaining her business model. But the bright decorative ‘Sea Queen’ curtains have real shells sewn onto them and are adorned with hand embroidery. The leather mesh interwoven with golden thread is ideal for the handrails in superyachts and costs €600 per metre. The rayskins, at €80 each, are perfect for desk tops. “Although rays are challenging to cut because the skin is armoured, unlike cow hide”, explains Grimm. Whereas the vibrant yellow embossed wall covering fabric, fittingly named Versailles, is easier to manage and costs €350 per metre.

Smooth, crested, embroidered, or with tassels and accessories – creativity has no limits here!
Smooth, crested, embroidered, or with tassels and accessories – creativity has no limits here! © WFB/Frank Pusch

“We are also happy to create bespoke designs for orders of 300m² or more”, says Grimm. So, if you have your own specific design requests, then Sabine Grimm Yacht & Interior Design in Bremen Hastedt, near the Hemelinger Hafen industrial estate is the place for you. She did, however, once reject an order requesting eel skin, explaining that “we draw the line at protected species”. Sometimes designers come up with specific, almost-feasible ideas, “but then get stuck transforming them into reality. This is where we are happy to help,” says Grimm. For two years now she has been working alongside her son. The fact that he is a qualified carpenter has proven very useful. “While he’s out making deliveries in our liveried van he can talk to the interior fitters on a different level because he’s familiar with their trade. My expertise lies more in the fields of textiles and commerce”.

The entire collection can be viewed online. If you like a particular textile, then Grimm is happy to send a sample.
The entire collection can be viewed online. If you like a particular textile, then Grimm is happy to send a sample. © WFB/Frank Pusch

Sailing runs through both of their veins. Jan-Dirk Grimm practically grew up on his parents’ boats and has just upgraded from an X-79 to an X-99 named Xara, both speedy sailing yachts made in Denmark. He is often to be found participating in local regattas, such as the Weser autumn regatta. Meanwhile, his mum enjoys cruising along the Baltic coastline with her husband Carsten on the Nis Randers, a mahogany yacht just under 13 metres long built at Judel/Vrolijk und Co in Bremerhaven.

Sabine Grimm’s ties to the Bremen water sports scene go back a long way

The birth of her business sprang from a series of coincidences that were always closely related to Bremen’s sailing scene. In 2004, when she became unemployed, she began her own business with a start-up grant. The 54-year-old has been sailing since the age of three, so she knows the ropes when it comes to water sports and yachts. She used to carry out paperwork from home for the yacht designer Jens F. Dörgeloh. When his company went bankrupt, she discovered the world of luxury yachts through a customer from the Vegesack district in Bremen. She then met the German representative for Robert Allen, the world’s largest premium fabric manufacturer based in the US. Upon learning that he was planning to retire, Sabine Grimm immediately called the European headquarters in London. One week later she had bagged the role, and today she represents Robert Allen in all German-speaking countries and Denmark.

“A product showroom was a must for the business. In January 2016 when we first moved in, the 110m² retail space felt enormous – until the containers full of samples began to arrive from the US,” she remembers. Today she receives new sample deliveries on a weekly basis and the showroom almost feels too small. Her product range now also includes the brand Duralee, a company that has recently merged with Robert Allen. “These fabrics are more geared towards younger and European tastes,” says Sabine Grimm. She adds that her range will also soon be extended to include her own products. “We are still undergoing the final fire tests with the certifying company Germanischer Lloyd, but we are confident that we will be able to begin deliveries from 1 January 2019.”

Sabine Grimm also represents her business at luxury yacht trade fairs.
Sabine Grimm also represents her business at luxury yacht trade fairs. © WFB/Frank Pusch

Developing their own virtually incombustible specially coated leather

Sabine Grimm has discovered that fire safety is playing an increasingly important role on luxury yachts, and the requirements pose real challenges for material manufacturers. “We use finished leather, but then coat it in our own special way. We hope to market this product on a global scale.” They offer 200 different surfaces in every colour imaginable, produced with split cow leather ‘made in Germany’. Sabine Grimm’s membership of the DBSV (the German boat and shipbuilding association) and their industry pool Deutsche Yachten enables her, and her young company, to participate at several leading trade fairs. She will be attending the Monaco Boat Show and a fabrics trade fair in Paris in September, Metstrade – a water sports trade fair in Amsterdam – in November, and the ‘boot’ (boat) exhibition in Düsseldorf in January.

“But we have contacts in Finland, too. I spend a lot of time on the road – including in the south of Germany, where we design material for stately homes and hotels – and we have four freelance sales representatives who travel for us. But we carry out the shipping and quality control tasks here in Bremen,” says Sabine Grimm. She tells us that her current annual turnover is €200,000. Grimm believes that Bremen is the perfect location. “Many people don’t realise how much business we have here at the shipyards and how many small suppliers there now are.” What’s more, Hastedt is within easy reach of the motorway and her customers in southern Germany. “We also work with stately homes and hotels, and so we sometimes have to drive for a few hours to meet with architects and designers.”

Sabine Grimm and her son still supply standard yacht equipment

Having begun her business as an equipment supplier, she’s still open today to helping out yachties if they need products other than fabric. “It’s in my blood because I’ve been on the water for so long, sailing everything from kids’ dinghies to heavy cruisers. I am happy to provide sailing blocks or pots of yacht paint should I get any requests.” She also thinks that her son should work more on yacht maintenance: “Jan-Dirk should start being more active during the winter.” The 13-metre, mahogany-laminated family yacht is a perfect example of what a well-groomed boat looks like. When asked why she polishes the varnished wood every morning, even on holiday, she laughs and says “Well, of course, the boat is our business card.”

What direction will she be steering her business in next? She thinks for a moment then tells us candidly that new-build orders for yachts often have too long a lead time for her taste, and “refits are much quicker. But I would really love to fit the entire interior of a large yacht solely with our own materials – it wouldn’t necessarily have to be a superyacht.”

For further information about the north German maritime cluster, please contact Andreas Born, innovations manager for the north German maritime cluster and Industry 4.0, on +49 (0)421 960 0316 or by email at andreas.born@maritimes-cluster.de.

If you are interested in establishing a business in Bremen, please contact Andreas Gerber, +49 (0) 421 9600 123, andreas.gerber@wfb-bremen.de.

More information on the maritime economy and logistics in Bremen and the services offered by Bremeninvest is available here.

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