A chair is not just a chair if it’s by Fritz Hansen

CRAZY QUILT - Tanya T. Lara (The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2015 - 12:00am

Room 606 at the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark has been left untouched for almost 60 years. You can’t check into it, but you can have a look. Called the Arne Jacobsen Suite, it is a repository for some of the most recognizable furniture pieces in the world by the Danish designer Jacobsen.

If there is a golden age in furniture design, it must be the mid 20th century, that period from 1945 to the ‘60s that produced names and furniture that people are still talking about and buying decades later.

Jacobsen, the prolific architect whose chairs are some of the best loved icons  and silhouettes in the world — such as the Egg chair, the Swan chair, the Drop chair and the Series 7 — led this era of efficient, beautiful chairs for everyday use.

These chairs and others produced by the Republic of Fritz Hansen are now available in Manila at the newly opened Republic of Fritz Hansen showroom in partnership with Studio Dimensione.

Dario Reicherl, Fritz Hansen VP for Asia Pacific, explains that the Danish company is the oldest furniture manufacturer in the world at 143 years old. Today, it has over 30 stores in Asia and in his first nine months alone after he joined the company last year, Dario opened 11 new stores in Southeast Asia, South Korea and Australia.

As early as the 1920s, the company was already technologically advanced in furniture manufacturing. They were the only one that had the capability to produce the bent wood chairs of the groundbreaking designer Michael Thonet. In the 1940s, the company invented laminated veneers, the technique that allows wood to be cut very thinly and piled onto each other to create a strong material.

“But it was the 1950s that was the most important decade for Fritz Hansen and for Danish design in general,” Dario says. “That was when we started our expansion into other markets with our main designer Arne Jacobsen, who joined the company in the 1930s.”

Jacobsen designed the SAS Royal Hotel, the first designer hotel in Denmark, and furnished it with the Egg and Swan chairs in 1958.

Today, you can see the Egg, Swan and Series 7 chairs everywhere — from celebrity homes to magazine pictorials and album covers. Even as the world has gone through numerous trends that have ranged from Italian to French to Tropical Asian and minimalist — Scandinavian design, particularly Danish design produced by Fritz Hansen, has remained.

Dario says it’s because the company has always adhered to two philosophies: craftsmanship and timelessness.

“Until today, we do the furniture the same way we did in the 1950s. There is a lot of handwork, we work the wood by hand, we stitch the Egg by hand. Just to do one Egg you need 1,200 stitches and it takes three days for one person to produce one chair. At Fritz Hansen, we are always looking for a design that can last forever. The Egg chair, after 57 years, is still considered one of the coolest lounge chairs in the world. Everybody wants one and no matter how old you are or whatever the style of your home is — you want it.”

Jacobsen’s Egg chair is exhibited in museums around the world including MOMA in New York and the National Art Center in Tokyo.  

“Two weeks ago, I saw a picture of Madonna sitting on an Egg chair, which she posted on Instagram. We didn’t even know about it and we are not surprised that celebrities are using our chairs in their everyday lives or publicity. Maybe another brand will make a lot of noise about it or issue press releases, but we don’t even mention it. It’s impossible to count how many times the Egg, the Swan, the Series 7 and the Drop chairs have been used in movies, TV shows and newspapers and magazines.”  

Being that popular, Jacobsen’s chairs are also some of the most copied in the world, and Dario says once you sit on a knockoff, you immediately know it’s not an original.

 

 

 

 

 “The difference between an original Fritz Hansen and a copy is the quality and the value. You can take a Series 7 chair and put it upside down and I can step on it and the chair won’t break. If you try that with a fake, you don’t need to step on it, just lean back and it will break. There is a restaurant in Melbourne that has been using Series 7 chairs for 36 years and they have never changed them — and that’s a very busy place, open at lunch and dinner seven times a week.”

The Series 7 is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and limited-edition pieces are going to be produced. Some of them will have gold-plated legs and pink shell, and another with dark brown legs and blue shell.

 “We give 10 to 20 years warranty and very few companies are able to do that. We have chairs that are in perfect condition in restaurants and hotel lobbies and houses.”

Dario says Fritz Hansen pieces are an “investment.” In a time when markets are volatile, a chair might give you better returns than bonds. An original Egg chair from 1958 — if you are able to find one — now costs at least 10 times more than what you’d pay for a new one today.

 

Dario Reicherl makes a distinction between a vintage and a timeless piece, saying, “Timeless means you don’t look at the past, you look at the future — that no matter when it was designed it’s still good today as it was 50 years ago and will be in the next 50 years. Vintage is simply looking at the designs of the past.”

Very few companies in the world, he says, have produced furniture that go beyond the designs of the times.

“Many designers are actually afraid to design with us because the brand has such a strong heritage and language,” he says. “But we always ask them to express their own personality and of course there is a common language that is made by curves and fabrics, but their designs are up-to-date.”

Enter Spanish designer Jaime Hayon, an artist who grew up in Madrid immersed in the skateboard culture and graffiti art, which became “the foundation of the detailed, bold-yet-whimsical imagery so imminent in his work today.”

Hayon joined Fritz Hansen four years ago and has become a superstar in such a short time, thanks to two designs that hark back to the “human approach.”

“I wanted to create a form that embraces you, something really organic — that’s why we named it Favn. At the same time I wanted to explore a technique — I always focus on techniques. It looks really simple, but it’s really complex.”

Favn (2011), which means hug or embrace in Danish, is a sofa that is startingly beautiful with its simple elements and curves. And it does look like it is one big embrace.

Hayon says, “Design needs to solve a problem and be long lasting, of course. But it is important to remember that my design is made for humans — to be used by humans. I believe that design should provoke emotions. Design should make you feel good and create happiness.”

His Ro chair (2013) is on its way to becoming an instant classic. It is a lounge chair that is designed as if to shelter you while giving you private space — like a cocoon of tranquility, encasing you in peace.

“It’s a one and a half seat, so you still have space for your baby, your dog or your iPad,” says Dario.

He adds that Ro is one of the bestsellers of Fritz Hansen today, “and it is the first time that one chair is reaching the same amount of sales and popularity as Jacobsen’s Egg chair. This has never happened in the past 58 years.”

The brand also boasts the designs of  Poul Kjaerholm, which consists of the company’s most high-end collection, and Piero Lissoni.

A Fritz Hansen piece, says Dario, is all you need to beautify an entire environment. “We look at our furniture as art — like a painting or a sculpture. For example, you have a very normal space like a living room, and you put one Egg chair in the middle and it will change immediately, the space will become beautiful.”

Yes, just like that.

* * *

Republic of Fritz Hansen showroom is located at Studio Dimensione, Bonifacio High Street, BGC, Taguig.

 

CHAIR CHAIRS DARIO EGG FRITZ FRITZ HANSEN HANSEN JACOBSEN ONE
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