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(Yonhap Interview) Laurastar CEO says tech-savvy S. Korea is ready for premium steam iron

15:21 September 11, 2019

By Kim Eun-jung

BERLIN, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's love of fashion has led to Swiss brand Laurastar being well received there despite its products' high price tags, its co-CEOs have said.

Founded in Switzerland in 1980, Laurastar has sold 2.7 million products in more than 40 countries across the world and has a strong presence in Europe.

The company released its premium ironing system in South Korea in 2017 and brought out the world's first Bluetooth-connected iron in March.

Michael Monney, co-CEO of Laurastar with his sister Julie and son of founder Jean Monney, said the sales performance of the firm's steam irons in South Korea was better than expected thanks to fashion-savvy consumers and high awareness of how to care for clothes.

"Korean people love fashion. If you go to Shinsegae and Hyundai (department stores), people are well dressed. People who love clothes want to beautify and purify their clothes," Monney said in an interview with Yonhap News on the sidelines of the IFA technology show in Berlin. "I travel around the world and all over Asia, and I can tell that Korea is a fashion market."

Michael Monney (L) and Julie Monney, co-CEOs of Swiss premium iron brand Laurastar, demonstrate their product during the IFA technology show held in Berlin from Sept. 6-11, 2019. (Yonhap)

The company targets the high-end iron market, with prices ranging from over 1 million won (US$840) to over 4 million won in South Korea.

Laurastar's irons are not cheap, but people buy them because they are fast, easy-to-use and efficient and have specialized steam technology that reduces the need for expensive dry cleaning, Monney said.

With a sensor built into the handle, a Laurastar iron can detect motion and automatically trigger a burst of steam. As the thermostat is programmed to adapt to all fabrics, there is no need to adjust the temperature, the company said.

Its "dry micro" steam is proven in laboratory testing to kill 99.999 percent of bacteria and 100 percent of dust mites and is certified in Switzerland and South Korea, it noted.

"About 80 percent (of) people hate ironing. So if you give (them) something that works fast, they love it," Monney said. "It's two times faster, so they use Laurastar."

Laurastar's steam ironing system Lift is on display at its booth at the IFA technology show held in Berlin from Sept. 6-11, 2019. (Yonhap)

Gatevision, the local importer of famed British brand Dyson, is Laurastar's South Korean partner and sells the products via local department stores. It opened a pop-up store at a branch of U.S. retail chain Costco last month and ran a show on Hyundai Home Shopping, a local TV shopping channel in February, which was a huge success.

"We had one show (on) Hyundai Home Shopping, and it was amazingly successful. We were very happy," Monney said, adding that another show is scheduled for later this month. "This is really something that we are very proud of."

The company's easy-to-carry Lift model can be used like a traditional iron with a board or held upright to steam dangling clothes. Users can smooth the sleeve of a silk shirt by inserting the Lift into the arm and letting out a whoosh of steam.

Laurastar's Smart lineup is equipped with a blower and vacuum system on its ironing board to prevent unwanted creases. It comes with a smartphone app that connects via Bluetooth to become an "ironing coach" to teach the best ironing technique. It also provides information about the equipment, such as water level and time spent ironing, Monney said.

"Bluetooth is easier for consumers and more secure because Wifi-connected products can be hacked," he said. "Since we do the long-term products, we want to improve the customer experience with advanced technology."

Although prices are even higher in South Korea than Europe due to import taxes and certification processes, South Korean consumers have better access to customer service and they are more likely to benefit from the Bluetooth version with their higher receptiveness to smart home solutions, the CEO said.

"You pay more, but we have more service than in Europe. It's really something that's additional," Monney said. "Service is also important."

Having initially aimed to sell 2,000 units this year, the company has already surpassed the target thanks to positive responses online and word-of-mouth, and it is ready of solidify its position with long-lasting and customized care service, he said.

"As Laurastar has a certain price, we're not all about sales price. We are there to beautify clothes and beautify people's lives," Monney said. "Our goal is to make our customers ... happy. Then the numbers will come."



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