The trend towards re-releasing vintage and new modern classics has become a well-established one within the furniture sector. The next imm cologne will again showcase several new editions.
Whether the subject is computer games, cameras, fashion or furniture – the success of trade fairs depends in large part on the new products and concepts that their exhibitors present. Trade fairs are places for trading the colours currently on trend, celebrating technological innovations and ideas or presenting new interior design concepts. The pressure for innovation is particularly pronounced in places where trendsetters, the media and manufacturers continually try out or introduce new products for individual lifestyles. For this reason, each year, imm cologne predominantly features products that have been newly created by designers and interior designers who develop things in new forms and materials, alternative product concepts and new subject matter. Every year, the ingredients are mixed together again and everything is recombined.
Or so one might think. But over the past several years, a countermovement has taken hold at the international interiors show. In many corners of the Cologne exhibition halls – especially in the design segment “Pure” – there they are again: the old furniture classics from the Bauhaus, from Eileen Gray and Ray Eames. And the “usual suspects” among the furniture éditeurs are not the only ones referring to old designs. Names like Vitra, Classicon or Thonet – which once rose above trendy product ranges like islands above the sea – are associated more and more with furniture and accessories that either owe their forms to design precedents – keywords: vintage, fifties or classic contemporary – or else are true re-editions.
There is no shortage of current examples. One of them is the “Thonet All Seasons” outdoor collection, which is bringing a whole range of tubular steel classics from the Bauhaus era out-of-doors, including cantilever chairs S 33 and S 34 by Mart Stam, side table B 9 and lounge chair S 35 by Marcel Breuer and cantilever chair S 533 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. They have been given a fresh coat of paint and are elegant and weatherproof companions even outdoors, thanks to a special treatment. The convenient pieces of furniture, which will be on show for the first time at imm cologne 2016, provide for flexibility in use and a wide range of possible combinations, beginning with the extensive colour palette available for the frames and fabric.
e15 is demonstrating historical awareness as well; its Ferdinand Kramer Collection restores access to an entire series of furniture by one of the most important Modernist German architects and designers. Working closely with Kramer’s family and referring to the archives, e15 produced twelve iconic designs from the German architect’s various creative periods between 1925 and 1959.
As an extension of its successful cooperation with Dutch fashion label G-Star Raw, Vitra is kitting out the cult denim brand’s new headquarters, designed by Rem Koolhaas, with updated versions of furniture originally created by French designer-architect Jean Prouvé and now re-edited especially for this occasion. It is likely that some of the Prouvé designs used here will go into serial production and appear at Vitra as limited editions.
Though not exactly new, the “Berlin chair” by Walter Knoll has been reissued and beautifully smartened up with the addition of gleaming chrome steel and soft leather. Walter Knoll is relaunching this icon of design history, which was created by Meinhard von Gerkan in 1975 for the VIP lounge at Tegel Airport in Berlin.
What is the source of this fascination with “modern” classics? Is it simply a growing desire for quality that has brought more and more enthusiasts to favour objects which unite a seemingly conservative love of detail with a design statement that was often revolutionary in its time? Is it the good feeling that quality stands the test of time and trends? Are there certain designs that lead us to believe in the existence of some timeless absolute?
Given how ubiquitous “throwaway” consumerism has become, furniture can be intriguing for its solidity and its historicity. Here, a longing for simplicity meets a fascination with the original. Even as re-editions, classics are simply authentic. What counts is the original concept, not the original materialisation. The concept stands for a particular era as well as for timelessness. This furniture – the originals in their time and the re-editions in the present – is also an expression of individuality. “The ongoing trend towards re-editions owes its intensity to the fact that both elements are present in these objects simultaneously: the expression of individuality and the commitment to a cultural tradition”, says Dick Spierenburg, Creative Director of imm cologne, “and these elements constitute the source of motivation for collectors of design and art.”
In fact, the first people to liberate design from a banal context and view it from a different perspective were the collectors of designer furniture, from nearly forgotten Bauhaus stools to cantilever chairs and from flea market finds to eBay purchases. Often “true” classics, not unlike art, are not about providing perfect functionality, but about reflecting an individual way of looking at life or some manner of experimentation. This is consistent with the growing desire, shared by many, for the improvised, for the imperfect, for authentic materials and individual designs. Perhaps one of the next imm cologne events will feature not only the classical re-editions, but also alternative editions of classics – as an assembly kit for DIY fans, for example. When it comes to the furniture of yesterday, who knows what the future will hold?