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Alki is a homegrown enterprise so it is only natural that its business activities focus on championing the Basque Country, the land that witnessed the birth of the co-operative and saw it grow. Indeed, Alki’s approach goes beyond simple acts of production to embrace social and environmental responsibility with a commitment to taking part in the region’s activist culture. By drawing on our roots, we have also found the energy that drives our openness to the world, an essential ingredient to Alki’s influence and reputation.
Alki emerged in 1981, at the height of an economic and social crisis set against the backdrop of a tense political context. In an effort to counter the exodus of Basque Country youth seeking opportunities elsewhere, five friends decided to join forces by using their energy and hopes to create qualified employment and thus contribute to developing economic activity in the Basque Country.It was in Itxassou, a village untouched by industrialisation, that Alki’s first workshop found haven. Driven by the impetus of both ideological and economic support, Alki saw the light of day in the form of a cooperative flying the flag of deeply-rooted values that went well beyond any economic aspect.
“In order to shape the future that we dreamt of, we had to be capable of envisaging its contours”. So Alki embraced the culture of activism by fervently advocating regional development, sustainability, equality in the redistribution of wealth and support for local culture.
Our ambition was, and still is, to craft a cultural and commercial project that would be a veritable catalyst for our environment, enabling it to flourish by encouraging cooperation between people and enterprises in order to offer our customers the very best. With this in mind, we work alongside individuals, supporting initiatives and projects that bring added value and strive for the future of our region.
Projects we support
Bertso is one of the cornerstones of Basque spoken literature: it is sung and versified improvisation on imposed topics. Here, Alki can be seen participating with its iconic Kuskoa chair in the Basque Country finals of the discipline.
Herrikoa is an innovative grassroots saving scheme that has enabled thousands of jobs to be created and maintained in the Northern Basque Country, thus actively participating in the region’s sustainable economic development.
Esku Pilota is a cultural and sports association created by former world champion, Jean-Baptiste De Ezcurra. Its main purpose is to promote and perpetuate bare-hand pelota, the benchmark sport in our country.
Since 2020, Alki has been using electricity supplied by Enargia, a cooperative that supplies 100% renewable energy, based just a few kilometres from our workshop.
Photo of Itsaslaboa, a performance created by the dance company Dantzaz. This creation, in homage to the artist Mikel Laboa, features our Jantzi chairs, which play a key role on stage.
Cavalcades are popular events combining dance, music, bertso, singing and theatre that are staged in Basque Country villages.
Euskal Herriko Laborantza Ganbara is an association that contributes to the development of sustainable, small-scale agriculture and the conservation of rural heritage and peasantry.
Eusko, Europe’s most widely-used local currency, is a collective, shared tool that fosters solidarity and establishes a connection among stakeholders in the Northern Basque Country.
Traînière is a one-of-a-kind rowing sport. Trainera boats, fishing vessels developed at the beginning of the 18th century, are used in this sport that is exclusively practised along the Basque and Cantabrian coastline. Alki supports the Lapurdi rowers, the only Northern Basque Country team participating in trainera regattas.
The musical trio, Kalakan, draws extensively on a traditional Basque repertoire to which the musicians add a contemporary touch. They work with major names in the international music scene, such as the Labèque sisters and Madonna, on her MDNA tour in 2012.
Seaska est le nom de la fédération des ikastola, écoles immersives en langue basque. La raison d'être des ikastola est le développement de la langue du peuple basque: l'euskara.
Alki was created in 1981 in the rural and non-industrial environment of Itsasu, a small Basque Country village nestling in the Pyrenean foothills. The cooperative emerged thanks to five friends who joined forces to create jobs in the area. Alki means "chair" in the Basque language. Right from the very start, Alki focused on traditional furniture, mostly for the French market.
Things were not easy at the beginning; in 1984 a fire destroyed part of the production workshop. All the cooperative members rolled up their sleeves and set about reconstructing the building, making it even bigger and better than before.
The level of requirement put in to working the wood, the quality of our materials and the launching of a series of collections enabled us to quickly position Alki as a reference in the traditional French furniture sector. More experienced craftsmen were taken on to keep up with the increasing demand to reach a total of fifteen skilled journeymen.
In the mid-1990s, Spain, Portugal and Italy saw their currency devalued and from that moment on the main distributors of classic furniture turned to these countries for their supplies. The French furniture sector began to suffer from the consequences of this strong competition.
In order to cope with the crisis facing traditional furniture, we identified the necessity of differentiating our offering and so we started combining woodwork with wrought iron. The Biarritz range saw the light of day and was met with resounding success, enabling us to maintain our position in the market for the next few years.
The traditional furniture sector continued to decline sharply. Peio Uhalde, Alki's Chairman, was increasingly preoccupied with the company's critical position and decided to contact the industrial designer Jean Louis Iratzoki: a working relationship began that would see the company steer its production towards new markets.
The Emea collection resulted from the first collaboration with Jean Louis Iratzoki: the solid wood furniture perfectly highlights the expertise of Alki's master craftsmen. The collection drew a great deal of attention when it was presented at the Maison&Objet trade fair in Paris. The Laia and Kuskoa collections then followed, clearly showing Alki's new direction.
The real transformation occurred thanks to the in-depth work of a united team. Going beyond the product itself, we developed a project pivoted on the brand that is deeply rooted in our values and ideas. By reflecting together on this project, we have enabled Alki to reinvent itself day after day.
Under the artistic direction of Jean Louis Iratzoki, new product ranges were developed with designers Samuel Accoceberry and Patrick Norguet. Our creations, to which it is so easy to be emotionally attached, combined oak and natural wools. They began to be seen as a source of reference in the contemporary furniture market.
Alki has negotiated the bend in the road and its change of direction is truly consolidated. The conviviality expressed by our products is appreciated in all four corners of the world. Alki furnishes not only contemporary houses, traditional apartments, the MuCEM restaurant in Marseille, the Louis Vuitton Foundation and the offices of Quiksilver.
Presentation of Kuskoa Bi, the first chair on the market to be manufactured using bioplastic: a plastic material that is over 80% plant-based. The international success of this product amply rewarded Alki’s eco-design approach.
Eñaut Jolimon de Haraneder, former industrial director, took over the reins from Peio Uhalde, the cooperative’s co-founder, as Chairman and CEO. Eñaut’s mission was to steer the company’s transformation with projects such as the construction of a new workshop and brand digitalization.
Alki opened its first showroom in Paris, in the heart of the 3rd district. Everything in this meeting place has been conceived as an opportunity to draw closer to our partners, purchasing consultants, architects and other professionals, by inviting them to soak up the Alki atmosphere.
The foundation stone was laid for the new workshop in Larressore. Designed as a building dedicated to efficient and sustainable production, this new space is intended to inspire cooperative members and inquisitive minds from around the world.