Van Robaeys Frères

Culture et préparation de fibre de lin


All the versions of this article: [English] [français]


The Van Robaeys brothers were originally Belgian farmers. They had to leave their country during WWI. Some of them had to go to the front, the others who were too young found refuge in a little village near the border named Killem, to escape the fights.

When the war stopped, they started to scutch the flax in a hand-crafted way.

In the 30’s, the craft really developed and mechanized. Thanks to the energy, the work and the perceptiveness of its founders, the company managed to become the largest in its sector in Europe in that time.
Nowadays, VRF employs around 90 persons.

Its exportations are very developed to diferent countries such as China, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, India, Turkey...


You have to go back a few years to discover the origin of the company Van Robaeys Frères.

In 1917, they started to scutch flax for themselves.

In 1918, Achille and Maurice died during a battle. Constant died also the same year. Thus, when Camille came back home, they decided to settle down in France since their farm in Flanders had been totally destroyed during the battles.

At first they were working with pedal machines but they quickly innovated. They equipped their small workshop with a steam engine which could power several traditional "Flemish wheels".

Years of hard work, clever technical innovations and shrewd investments followed and in 1928 they had earned enough money to build a new mill with scutching machines.

The same year a limited liability company was set up with the 3 brothers plus their sister’s husband , Jules Capelle.

At that time, they needed 300 hectares of flax to supply the mill.


1929 : In spite of economic difficulties, they went ahead and invested in new machines and sufficient raw materials.

The money from the selling of the scutched flax was directly used for the buying of a new stock of flax which allowed an uninterrupted production and job security for the workers.

The expansion could now start...

1934 : Two shifts were set up and the mill started to work day and night.

1939 : The Compagny develops its purchases in culture until Normandy. A second mill is bought in Quesnoy sur Deûle.

1940 : Gilbert Capelle, son of Jules Capelle and Marie Van Robaeys joined the company.

De 1939 à 1945 : The activity slowed down during the second world war but the mills kept on working , thus providing a livelihood for 450 people.

At the end of the war, the company employs 450 persons: 300 in Killem and 150 in Quesnoy-Sur-Deûle.

1967 : Gilbert Capelle succeeded Julien Van Robaeys as manager of the firm which became a (public) limited company in 1972.

1978 : The first machine to refine flax was experimented.

Evolution of the mill

1982-1983 : The society has really encouraging for the refined flax in the Extrem-Orient countries. Theses countries are news consumer and adopt flax step-by-step.

1987 : Jean-Pierre d’Arras is appointed CEO.

1995 : Creation of an unity « CARDING » which has 2 goals:
Textile Indutry (Tows put into fin cards) and technical products (Tows put into high-productivity cards) : the nonwovens.
Their markets : Accessories for automotive and isolation

2000 : Creation of a third team for the scutching in order to grant the Textile Industry’s request, particularly for clothing.

2003 : Carding is certified ISO 9001.

2015 : European Flax Certification.

2016 : Pierre d’Arras is appointed CEO.

2016-2017 : The second mill move from Quesnoy sur Deule to Fortel-en-Artois.


The new industrial site in Fortel-en-Artois is replacing the one in Quesnoy-sur-Deûle. The industrial project includes a tiling unit and storage buildings for a total area of : 8400m².

This new modern production unit in Fortel-en-Artois makes it possible to optimize working conditions and above all to retain all the production capacities of the company.

The ambitions of the Compagny project are to get closer to farmers and producers of flax and to place themselves at their disposal a modern tool to work in the best conditions of productivity and quality.