Bringing Outdoor Sexy Back

This past January, Bruce Weber photographed his first-ever furniture campaign, Coming Home, for German outdoor-furniture brand Dedon. Twenty years ago, though, Dedon’s founder and CEO, Bobby Dekeyser, would have been the more obvious subject for the acclaimed photographer. At 15, the bold, handsome Dekeyser left school in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and soon went on to become a pro soccer player, suiting up for several German teams—until he was sidelined by an elbow to the face at age 26. When he got out of the hospital in 1990, he founded Dedon, which makes items like garden chairs and loungers woven from a weather-resistant synthetic fiber invented by Dekeyser’s uncle. Early on, Dekeyser repeatedly teetered on the cusp of bankruptcy, but today he’s a multimillionaire. “It’s like sports,” Dekeyser says. “You know in the end you’re going to win, even if there’s a lot of suffering.” A few years back, Dekeyser sold a minority stake in Dedon to an American investor, but the friendly atmosphere soon became focused on “money and numbers,” according to Dekeyser. He bought the stake back last year with the intention of restoring the company’s good-time vibe. Certainly, working with Weber sends a signal that Dedon has returned to its core values. “He’s so warmhearted,” Dekeyser says of Weber. “Everything he does is cozy.” Weber himself liked the Dedon crew’s concept of shooting in a tree house. “It was fun to add a game of soccer to my sitting,” says Weber. “Most designers I’ve worked with don’t play soccer.” The same sense of play that guided the campaign also informed one of Dedon’s latest collaborations: a straight-back garden chair designed by Philippe Starck. They are values evident, too, in Dedon’s other initiatives, including Dekeyser & Friends, a youth foundation. “I think it’s time to open the doors,” Dekeyser says of his work with the organization. “Let’s do it together. You have one life. Don’t waste it.”