Italian furniture manufacturing company Arflex was originally founded in Milan 1947 by a team of engineers—Carlo Barassi, Renato Teani, Pio Reggiani, and Aldo Bai—from Italian tire company Pirelli. While exploring new technologies in rubber production, they developed a new polyurethane foam and elastic tape that held great potential for modernist furniture design. Italian architect-designer Marco Zanuso (1916-2001) was brought in to create the first collections, guided by the principle that the new materials would inform the aesthetic result.
In 1951, Arflex unveiled its first piece, Zanuso’s Lady Armchair, which won the gold medal at Milan’s IX Triennale and helped catapult Arflex to international acclaim. Other successful designs by Zanuso were introduced over the years, such as the Sleep-o-matic Sofa (1951), the Martingala Armchair (1952), and the Fourline Armchair (1964).
Starting in 1952, Arflex began to work with other Italian architect-designers to broaden their product line. Standouts from the postwar era include the Fiorenza Armchair (1952) by Franco Albini, the Neptunia (1953) and Elettra (1954) collections by BBPR, the Delfino collection (1954) by Erberto Carboni, and the Bobo Lounge (1967) and Serpentone Lounge (1971) by Cini Boeri. Through the decades, Arflex has worked with an astounding roster of influential talents: Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, Roberto Manghi, , Joe Colombo, Tito Agnoli, Carlo Mollino, Michele De Lucchi, Yaacov Kaufman, Ettore Sottsass, and Angelo Mangiarotti.
Between 1951 and 1954, Arflex also produced car seats for Fiat. These seats, designed by Barassi, were adjustable and offered superior comfort thanks to the suppleness of the polyurethane foam rubber. In 1966—in collaboration with Italian furniture brands Cassina, Tecno, and Bernini—Arflex created the legendary design magazine Ottagono, which is still in publication today. In 1969, Arflex Japan was founded, followed by Arflex du Brazil in 1970.
The company trademark was bought by Seven Salotti Spa in 1995, and a number of discontinued designs were put back into production. In 2007, Arflex celebrated its 60th anniversary with a large-scale exhibition of works from the brand’s historical mounted in Milan during Salone del Mobile.
Arflex is celebrated for its incredible legacy working with iconic designers who have won numerous awards, and Arflex designs can be found in museums around the world, like the Triennale Museum in Milan, the Triennale Museum in Tokyo, the MoMa in New York, and the Chicago Athenaeum.
*All images courtesy of Arflex