There are imperfect concepts in the world for which improvements are obvious, and then there is the tombstone: a centuries-old tradition of using an elegant engraved monument to the life of a deceased person buried near the marker. Some are simple, some are ornate, but none--until French company Funeral Concept launched its product 2012--have been hot pink, with graphics of a cartoon teddy bear printed on the face in a wraparound graphic.
The company, founded in September 2012, offers people the opportunity to memorialize their loved ones with a custom design that highlights both that person's unique interests and personality. The creations (as you can see in gallery above) are what those in the real estate industry might delicately call "taste specific."
And while these creations raise many taste-related questions, Funeral Concept founder Freddy Pineau says such questions are unwelcome when discussing his product. "We have the right to dislike, but not the right to criticize," he tells Co.Create in an email (that we translated from French). "It is, above all, the choice of the bereaved families to have a (gravestone) in the taste and image of their dead. Out of respect for these families, I tell people [who criticize the product] that they should think before speaking."
That's an important part of the Funeral Concept product: each marker is created specifically according to the vision of the purchaser. While there's a catalog from which bereaved families can choose certain broad templates, customization is an important part of the idea, and Pineau makes it clear that that's a point of pride for the company. "We made about 100 monuments in the first year, and all of them are installed in cemeteries. We do not sell our products to be displayed in showrooms. We create unique works tailor-made for our customers."
So how are those works created? Each one is made of either iron, or iron on granite, and the process from order to completion is four to eight weeks, "depending on the work required," Pineau explains.
"The warranty is 30 years," he adds. "We come from metallurgy and steel work for yachting and aviation, and we offer a guarantee of 30 years." That may not provide eternal comfort for the families of the deceased, but we guess that a traditional granite or marble headstone could see some wear in that amount of time, too.
In any case, Funeral Concept is certainly a company marketing a weird product, but Pineau explains that people in the industry actually appreciate what he's doing.
"They are surprised, and happy to see colorful monuments," he says. "I would say that they are surprised at first, and then happy--it provides a little gaiety in places that really need it."
While Funeral Concept has garnered some attention in France, the products have yet to reach American shores. The company expects to double in size in 2014--currently, they have eight full-time employees--and he's hopeful that they'll be developing more international products soon. "The customs and traditions differ so much between countries and religions, we make the strategic choice to export our know-how through technology transfer contracts with manufacturers worldwide," he explains. "We have some interesting and interested contacts for [the U.S.], but also for many others."
He's also hopeful that perhaps a U.S. reader can help a family for whom his company has created a gravemarker reach the copyright holder: namely, the Walt Disney Company. "[We made one] fully dedicated to the theme of Walt Disney for a girl who loved the theme parks. The family is now waiting for authorization to use the images--if you're in the U.S. or Canada, and you have contact with the Walt Disney gentlemen, the family would happily talk to them."