In 1947 a group of technicians and among them Aldo Bai, Pio Reggiani, Aldo Barassi, coming from Pirelli and a young architect named Marco Zanuso began to experiment the use of foam rubber and elastic tapes for the furniture brand. Inspirer of this operation is Marco Zanuso, for sure one of the very first architects involved with the systems of products industrialization, from application of new materials to new technologies.
Delfino I Sleep-o-matic
In history and life of a company there are events and moment of special meaning, which are awards for merit acknowledged by anybody. Those first memorable moments in the history of arflex coincide with the company’s creation, in modest premises in Milan’s Corso di Porta Vittoria. It was there that the first manufacturing and sales team was formed, but the arflex company was only presented to the public for the first time in 1951, at the IX Triennale in Milan after two years of experimentations. This early contact with a wider audience in the context of an avant-garde artistic event is intensely significant in the company’s history, because right this experimental interest, if not separate fromcommercial purposes, shows the will of creating high technological and esthetical level products, based on deep research and experimentation. The gold medal atthe IX Triennale assigned to Lady armchair was above all recognition of arflex manufacturing philosophy.
Attention of arflex is constantly directed to cultural experimentation, succeeding in imposing new technological products, very uncommon for that time: such as Lady armchair (Zanuso 1951Gold medal at IX Triennale), Sleep-o-matic sofa (Zanuso 1951 Gold medal at X Triennale), Martingala armchair (Zanuso 1952 first example of dressing design), Fiorenza armchair (Franco Albini, 1952), Fourline armchair (Zanuso 1964, Gold medal at XIII Triennale), Lucania chair (De Carlo 1954), Delfino armchair (Carboni, among first experiments of animal-design), Elettra and Neptunia chairs (1953 and '54) designed by studio BBPR or seat Hall (Manghi, 1958) and the first managerial office furniture designed by Roberto Manghi in 1961, allow to enlarge production to office- and public-spaces furniture besides home furniture.
Between 1950 and 1960 arflex involves in its researches those architects who during the years after the war restarted the debate on redefinition of Modern Movement in design and architecture (BBPR, Albini, Zanuso, De Carlo, Castiglioni brothers).
Between 1951 and 1954 arflex produced various models of car seat designed by Carlo Barassi (‘MilleMiglia’ and ‘Sedile Lettino’ suitable for ‘Fiat Topolino’). These could be fitted into the vehicle instead of standard production seats and offered outstanding comfort, thanks to the use of foam rubber and elastic tapes. The covers could be removed and the seatbacks were adjustable. Arflex strove to make its contribution to the comfort of those Italians who were beginning to travel.
Between 1955 and 1960 arflex began its diffusion on international markets with creation of consociated societies for manufacturing and sales in Benelux, France, Switzerland and Spain.
The rose of designers collaborating with the company enlarges during those years, including several components of Italian design and projecting managers of new generations: just to quote Carlo Bartoli, Maurizio Calzavara, JoeColombo, Sergio Mazza till Cini Boeri.
Very innovative, both on technological and formal side, are the products starting from second half of the 60es: Gaia (Bartoli, 1965) is an armchair in polyester resins and glass-fibre; Bobo (Boeri, 1967) is the first mono-block seat in polyurethane foam without internal structure; Serpentone (Boeri, 1971) is a revolutionary sofa in polyurethane assuming winding shapes for an endless length. Immediately after comes the Strips series (Boeri 1972 Compasso d’Oro in 1979) perfect testimonials of a new way of being totally unbound to traditional ‘labels‘, lived as a liberating attitude, to be treated like sleeping-bags, or soft wind-jacket to wear.
While collaboration with architects and designers becomes larger, towards end of the 60es arflex gives birth to further consociated companies (arflex Japan was founded in 1969, arflex du Brasil in 1970) a sort of arflex-look coming out few years later all over the world. In 1969 the new factory in Limbiate was built and show-room were renewed, form the one in Rome to the historical seat in Milan’s Via Borgogna.
In 1966 arflex with Cassina, Tecno and Bernini found the magazine Ottagono, which became one of the most important architectural magazines.
In the 80es arflex under leadership of new property keeps on maintaining the engagement to collaborate with architects, from Luca Meda, Michele De Lucchi, Anna Castelli Ferrieri, Paolo Nava to Fabrizio Ballardini (Ribalta sofa 1993 awarded in Cologne with prize Top Ten), to international architects Tusquets Oscar, Burkhard Voghterr, Isao Hosoe.
In 1995 the trademark becomes property of seven salotti spa, who reopens the show-room in Milan’s CorsoEuropa (cured by Pierluigi Cerri 2001), restarts production of a series of products belonging to the historical archive not only for mere re-edition, but also because of its still very modern line, functionality, their surprising actuality and their being unique.
New property keeps on the collaboration with international architects: Studio Cerri, Studio Sottsass, Michele De Lucchi, Isao Hosoe (Dune, 1995 The Design Distinction Award), Hannes Wettstein (Spline International Design Award 2002), Prospero Rasulo, Carlo Colombo, Christophe Pillet, Vincent Van Duysen, Cini Boeri, Carlo Ferrando, Mauro Lipparini, Burkard Vogtherr, and restarts collaborating with young designers as Monica Graffeo producing the Mints chair (Young&Design award 2004).
arflex restarts the ‘experimentation-research’ created by Zanuso-arflex in 1950 where the shape of the object was given by used materials and technologies, examples of this are the table designed by Stefano Gallizioli in 2002, its shape is bound to innovative registered technology for production and assemblage of the top; or the seats for airports designed by Mangiarotti in 1998, where the marble-base was produced with a new cutting technology. These products just remained prototypes, while shelves Live designed by Giuseppe Vigano in 2004 were put in production, the designer adapted the shape of the shelf to the utility-patent invented by the company.
arflex restarts not only products and experimentations, but also the engagement in spreading culture, the path was traced in 1960 with Domus and Gio Ponti (first international Design contest), giving life to a series of cultural initiatives:
- with 3 Italian Universities, contests in 1999 (’Sedute per comunita’ = seats for community) and in 2004 (‘Il gusto del bello ed il piacere di abitare ’ = taste of beauty and pleasure in living).
- an itinerant museum of masters (Zanuso, Boeri, Carboni and Albini) touching Countries as Belgium, Japan, Great Britain, Holland, Brasil and Germany.
- realization of two books ‘Tempi Moderni‘ (=modern times) 1997 by Franco Mirenzi and ‘Design dei Tempi Moderni’ (= design of modern times) 2004 by Franco Mirenzi the content of which involves research, inedited photos and the experiments conduced by arflex and Zanuso on products that made the history of Italian design.
- April 2007 on occasion of its 60th anniversary arflex presented in Via Savona an exhibition of its historical archive, making it visible to public for the first time (more than 42.000 visitors).
Marketing & Communication
arflex always give extreme care to this aspect of its promotional activity from windows of its show-room to advertising campaign and catalogues.
Windows of show-room have always been for arflex the first and direct contact between production and public, the window not only as presentation tool of new models, but also as space where objects are placed outside their usual background, from the windows of Daniela Usellini to the ones realized by Pierluigi Cerri, Hannes Wettstein to Carlo Colombo.
Advertising campaign of arflex was always developed on two directions: the one concerning the sales and the prestigious one. An example of this are the advertising campaigns by Giancarlo Illiprandi in the past and the ones by Franco Mirenzi, Francesco Messina, Pierluigi Cerri and Carlo Colombo today.
For the photo shooting art direction of arflex always engaged the best professional operators: Erberto Carboni, Gonfalonieri, Pintori, Michele Provinciali, Michele Spera, Alber Steiner, Grignani, Bruno Munari, Vitale, Iliprandi, Tovaglia, Aldo Ballo, Edoardo Sancassani, Oliviero Toscani, Tiziana Violano, Salvati & Salvati, Francesco Messina, Franco Mirenzi, Patrizia Scarsella, Pierluigi Cerri, Hannes Wettstein, Carlo Colombo.
Architects who contributed through the years to arflex success: Marco Zanuso, Franco Albini, Castiglioni brothers, Carlo Pagani, Belgiojoso, Peressutti, Rogers, Erberto Carboni, Giancarlo De Carlo, BBPR, Gustavo Pulitzer, Alberto Rosselli, Roberto Manghi, Chiaia and Napolitano, Andrè Vandenbeuck, Illum Wikkelsoe, Francesco Berarducci, Martin Grierson, Casati and Hybsch, Carlo Bartoli, Calzavara and Maioli, Anning Sarian, Cini Boeri, Joe Colombo, Pierluigi Spadolini, Tito Agnoli, Antonio A. Colombo, Mario Marenco, Carla Venosta and Guido Zimmerman, M. Umeda, Carlo Mollino, Marcello Cuneo, Carlo Santi, Herbert Ohl, Fumio Okura, C. Casati and E. Ponzio, Alberto Cannetta and Fiorella Spinelli, Laura Grizziotti, Roberto Pamio, Renato Toso, Motomi Kawakami, Burkhard Vogtherr, Peppe di Giuli, Adolfo Natalizi, Isao Hosoe, Nilo Gioacchini, Paolo Nava, Guido Rosati, Luca Meda, Marco Romanelli, Anna Castelli Ferrieri, Michele De Lucchi, Yaacov Kaufman, Roberto Lera, Franco Bettoni, Oscar Tosquets, Anna de Plano, Antonello Mosca, Prospero Rasulo, Mauro Lipparini, Franco Mirenzi, Studio Sigla, Carlo Ferrando, Studio Cerri & associati, Guido Rosati, studio Sottsass, Marco Landi, Monica Graffeo, Fabrizio Ballardini, Giuseppe Viganò, Stefano Galizzioli, Angelo Mangiarotti, Marco Piva, Daniela Puppa, Hannes Wettstein, Carlo Colombo, Christophe Pillet, Vincent Van Duysen.
Compasso d’oro ( Strips 1979)
Gold medals at Triennale ( Lady 1951, X Triennale 1951, Sleep-o-matic 1951, Fourline,
1952 Martingala )
11 covers Domus, between 1953 and 1965
Top Ten Award ( Ribalta 1993 )
International Design Award Chicago ( Dune 1994 )
Award for image Emu 1995 ( stand arflex)
Stamp ‘ Design Italiano’ Italian Posts 2000 ( Fourline )
International Design Award Genova ( Spline 2002 )
Award Gioia casa Best design 2007 ( Femme )
DesignAwards 2007 wallpaper jaguar Best shelving 'Twist' by Carlo Colombo for Arflex
DesignAwards 2007 wallpaper jaguar Best reissues 'Marenco' sofa, designed 1970, by Mario Marenco, for Arflex
Permanent museums where arflex-products are exposed
MoMa / New York ( Gaia, Lady )
Permanent collection The Chicago Athenaeum ( Dune )
Triennale / Milan ( Fiorenza, Martingala, Strips, Fourline, Tripoltrona, Boborelax, Lady, Antropus, Bicia )
Triennale / Tokyo permanent museum ( Lady, Fiorenza )
Museum of contemporary furniture in Ravenna ( Lady, Martingala, Fiorenza, Antropus, Tripoltrona, T-line, Felix, Privè, O-line, Triennale, Strips, Bicia )