Mastering the Knack for Over 70 Years

Interview with Christoph Larsén, Managing Director of Mattes & Ammann GmbH & Co. KG

Mattes & Ammann Master Knitter Mr. Karachalias
In addition to state-of-the-art machines, the employees' know-how is in demand; here master knitter Mr. Karachalias with a knitting machine

The textile industry is one of the oldest economic sectors in Germany, characterized by small and medium-sized enterprises, including many family-owned businesses. One of them is Mattes & Ammann GmbH & Co. KG; a traditional operation that has consistently focused on textile fabrics - and that in excellent quality. Mattes & Ammann stands equally for tradition and pioneering spirit, often taking different paths than others while always remaining true to its values.

Economic Forum: Mr. Larsén, you are the owner, managing director, and sole shareholder of Mattes & Ammann GmbH & Co. KG. What are the important milestones for you when looking back at the history of the traditional family business?

Christoph Larsén: My grandfather founded the company in 1951; after his death, my mother led it alone for 37 years, at a time when a woman at the head of a company was very unusual. Initially, the portfolio was mainly characterized by fabric by the meter for ladies' outerwear. In 1974, Mattes & Ammann was the fourth largest manufacturer of ladies' outerwear fabrics in the knitting sector. When the market collapsed and many companies disappeared, Mattes & Ammann successfully transitioned to technical textiles, thereby establishing a successful presence in the mattress industry and, by the end of the 1970s, in the automotive industry. For Daimler, Mattes & Amman produced ceilings for trucks, later also for all passenger cars. Today, we are leaders in the truck sector for interior linings and work with many international corporations.

Christoph Larsén, Managing Director of Mattes & Ammann GmbH & Co. KG
Christoph Larsén, Managing Director of Mattes & Ammann GmbH & Co. KG

Economic Forum: Where is the main focus today?

Christoph Larsén: We generate 60% of our sales with the automotive industry, including passenger cars, trucks, agricultural vehicles, caravans, and construction vehicles. Other markets include the mattress industry and the diaper closure business. In addition, we supply fireblockers for airplanes, materials for shoes, window seals, food packaging, and much more. It is crucial that while we have expanded our portfolio, we have remained a meter goods supplier for 72 years, making us one of the oldest manufacturers in the mesh fabric sector.

Mattes & Ammann Knitting Master Mr. Hönes
Mr. Hönes, knitting master, at the machine. Because employees are dear to the company and social responsibility is taken seriously, there is a company-owned foundation
Mattes & Ammann Master Knitter Mr. Windt
Experienced and competent specialists are the alpha and omega of any successful company; here Mr. Windt, Master Knitter

Economic Forum: For 72 years, Mattes & Ammann has been successful in a market that constantly brings new challenges. What strategy is behind this success?

Christoph Larsén: Our goal is to provide uncompromising quality, hence we have various certifications – including for quality, environment, occupational safety, culture management, shipping, aviation, and railway industries. Furthermore, we have an accredited laboratory for technical inspections for the automotive industry. Since we are the only knitted fabric manufacturer with such a laboratory, we also offer testing services for third parties. Last but not least, we place great emphasis on high delivery reliability, a pronounced willingness to develop in collaboration with research institutes, suppliers, development partners and customers, discipline, and reliability. These values form the basis for everything, including future orders.

Economic Forum: How does Mattes & Ammann approach the issue of sustainability?

Christoph Larsén: This topic is as old as the company itself and has been a matter of course for us for a very long time. For example, we started experimenting with growing renewable raw materials on fields and cultivated nettles to obtain fibers. Even if the success is still moderate, we persist until we achieve our goal. Another step towards sustainability is the use of recycled materials. We can supply everything here, but customers still hold back due to cost reasons. It requires persistence, but we are convinced that we are doing the right thing. At the same time, we believe that the future lies not in recycled material but in a circular system. Here too, we assume a special role in the market as one of the first to offer a complete circular system. With the system 'faircollect', for example, mattress covers made from 100% polyester can be returned; they are then turned into a liquid, from which granulate is made, that is used for new mattress fabric. With 'faircollect', we are a pioneer in the market. With our second system 'faircollect mixed', mixed quality can also be recycled and turned into a new product; however, this process is not as advanced as the circular system.

Mattes & Ammann Fabric Inspection
Because quality is a hallmark of Mattes & Ammann and nothing is knitted with a hot needle, fabric inspections play a major role

Economic forum: What does the future look like?

Christoph Larsén: A few years ago, we acquired a former supplier, Blanke textech, which allows us now to also offer textile finishing, lamination, and printing, which will continue to be an advantage in the future. Overall, our capacity utilization is very good. We are customer- and market-oriented, maintain very intense partnerships with our customers, want to grow together with them, and meet our social responsibilities.