Company perspective

Where TenCate has come from through perseverance

Designation Royal

The history of TenCate stretches back as far as 1704. The company started as a trading company in textile products. The designation ‘Royal’ was received by the company on 11 July 1852 in recognition of its revolutionary industrialization of the textile production of the day. TenCate was at that time already able to absorb technologies that were being used outside the Netherlands, such as British steam technology, which was brought to the attention of TenCate by the Dutch King, Willem III.

Listed position

A second significant year is 1957, when, moving from its status of family company, the former TenCate company merged with KSW. The merged company received a stock market listing in Amsterdam. KSW was already listed in May 1954. Listed on the stock exchange, the company set in train a process of internationalization that is still important to the multinational today.

Turn around

In the second half of the 1990s TenCate abandoned its current strategy, which was based on diversification and the scaling down of all its textile activities. The company then embarked on a complete turnaround: in vision, mission, strategy and structure, and in the implementation of this strategy and its operationalization.


At the beginning of the 1990s consumer textiles still played a central role within TenCate. In the preceding years the company had lost its focus as a result of diversification. Moreover, it was being ‘squeezed’ in the many value chains in which it operated at that time. Both suppliers and customers were also wedging the company in, because TenCate had insufficient added value and only a limited degree of distinctive capability.


In the past the company suffered under a production-dominant approach and operation. Craftsmanship was the linchpin. Even though it had all the required knowledge and skills in areas such as fibres, yarns, fabrics and finishing, the company was not sufficiently aware of how TenCate customers saw its products. This inside-out way of thinking could lead to a customer seeing a product as a specialty for example, whereas TenCate considered it to be a generic product.

Market focus

The new strategic direction is based, on the one hand, on establishing market leadership in niche markets for technical textiles, in which TenCate with its knowledge and experience of textile processes and formulae can offer added value (market focus). And on the other hand, on introducing a management model that is based on global value chain control. This area of activity is now moving into the field of material technology, on the basis of which ever more new, advanced textile materials are being created. And it is this that lends TenCate its innovative character.

Growth markets

In just over a decade TenCate has developed a new business platform of activities that reflect global trends. Markets follow social themes and developments. TenCate operates exclusively in growth markets that are driven by global growth trends and the TenCate Buy & Build strategy reflects this. This strategy was in part financed by the Fix it – Exit component of the strategic process. As a result, since the start of the 1990s the company has abandoned its non-textile activities as a part of the company’s new market focus.

Social innovation

This innovative approach secured the Erasmus Innovation Award of the University of Rotterdam for the company in 2007, in recognition of the way in which TenCate combines technological and social innovation. In the opinion of the jury, the TenCate organization can be characterized by a unique form of entrepreneurship and long-term objectives, in which innovation and efficiency play a central role.

Blue fabric (Tecawork Blue 65287)