Very little biographical information is available for German furniture producer Alfred Kill—or his legendary firm Kill International—even though Kill’s collaborations with renowned designers like Preben Fabricius and Jørgen Kastholm resulted in a number of highly successful designs, many of which are now considered to be classics of midcentury modernism.
Sometime in the mid-20th century, Alfred Kill established Kill International in Stuttgart-Fellbach, Germany. It is conjectured that Kill added “International” to the firm’s name in imitation of his extremely successful and popular competitor, Knoll International. And like other companies in the market, such as Walter Knoll and Herman Miller, Kill began to develop collaborations with innovative designers who would create high-end, modernist furniture lines. In the early 1960s, he discovered the work of Kastholm (1931-2007) and Fabricius (1931-1984) at the Fredericia furniture fair. Not keen on having their furniture mass-produced, the duo finally agreed to work with Kill after he promised them total control over production and hefty salaries. This partnership would eventually secure a place for Kastholm and Fabricius, as well as Kill International, in design history.
Kastholm and Fabricius favored a functionalist approach and a minimalist aesthetic, always aimed at simplicity and timelessness. Their lounge chairs and sofas were made almost exclusively in leather and steel—in contrast to many of their contemporaries, who preferred to work with wood. Before the duo parted ways in the late 1960s, they designed numerous pieces for Kill, including important designs like the Scimitar Chair (1962); Bo-562 Sofa and Bo-562 Chair (1963); Scimitar Table (1964); X Chair (1968), which bears a striking resemblance to Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair (1947); and FK 710 Skater Chair (1968). Both the FK 6725 "Tulip" Chair (1965)—which was the first winner of the Germany’s Gute Form prize in 1969—and the Grasshopper Chaise Lounge (1968) have become modernist icons.
In addition to Fabricius and Kastholm, German industrial designer Horst Brüning (b. 1934) also designed minimalist yet functional furniture for Kill. Brüning’s designs include the 6910 Sofa (1967), 6915 Daybed, and 128 Bar Cart (both 1968). In 2008, forty-one years after its inception, the 6910 Sofa was awarded the “Best of the Best” design prize at the IMM Cologne.
During its heyday, Kill International was one of Germany’s most important furniture manufacturers, influencing an entire future generation of architects and furniture designers. The circumstances of the company’s eventual closing are unknown, but the surviving work has become highly collectible.