Last evening, two icons of Italian design, Poltrona Frau and Ferrari, came together to launch the limited-edition Cockpit chair, which embodies the best attributes of both the brands. Inspired by the fluid curves of the auto marque and the leather craftsmanship of the furniture manufacturer, the office chair produced in a limited collection of just 11 numbers for Dubai, comes in two versions, the highback President, and the lowback Executive. Commercial Interior Design spoke to Nicola Coropulis (pictured below), brand director and general manager, Poltrona Frau, on the sidelines of the event.
Poltrona Frau and Ferrari have had a long-standing history of collaboration. What is special about this particular chair – Cockpit, and how does it add value to a workspace?
Poltrona Frau started upholstering the interiors of Ferrari cars since the early '90s. In 2017 to celebrate Ferrari's 70th anniversary, Poltrona Frau took on a new complex challenge: developing and producing an object like Cockpit, that is neither a car seat nor a pure piece of furniture or design. It is a contemporary hybrid that brings together two brands, two imaginations, two industrial philosophies.
Cockpit is an office chair that captures the excitement, speed and dynamism of the driver’s seat, as well as the passion for racing. And that transmits a pleasant sensation because the backrest and seat support movements and posture. A blend of automotive know-how and the culture of living, it was conceived and designed by the design team overseen by Flavio Manzoni, which designed the recent Ferrari models (including the LaFerrari Aperta, the GTC4Lusso and the 812 Superfast).
It's a 3D structure, an amalgam of aesthetic beauty and ergonomic perfection applied to seats for workspaces. In a piece like Cockpit, you can admire the excellent craftsmanship that our company has acquired in over 100 years coupled with the most advanced technological innovations, through which we continuously redefine our tradition.
The swivel device sports the same design and mechanical elements as the steering wheel, the 5-spoke base comes in the two polished or powder-coated aluminium finishes in matt racing grey.
How do you reckon the brand has evolved in the past 10 years, and specifically since its acquisition by American firm Haworth five years ago?
Over the past 10 years, Poltrona Frau has started a journey that has brought the brand to evolve from being a great excellence just in leather upholstered furniture of traditional style to an international luxury lifestyle brand with a more extensive offering and a contemporary touch, targeted to the most exclusive clients over the world, that appreciate our unique mix of Italian elegance and craftmanship.
Aesthetically, Poltrona Frau has evolved greatly expanding its offering to new product categories like case goods, accessories, rugs, decorative objects, thanks to important collaborations with some award-winning designers such as Jean Marie Massaud and Roberto Lazzeroni, but also with younger designers like Neri&Hu and GamFratesi.
The acquisition by Haworth in 2014 has marked an important step for the growth of the company, allowing us to pursue our worldwide expansion strategy and enhancing our approach to craftmanship and high quality. Moreover, being part of one of the major global players in office furniture has helped our brand to better exploit business synergies with the widespread Haworth network, particularly in the US market. Finally, thanks to other acquisitions by the organisation in the recent years, Poltrona Frau is now part of larger furniture and lifestyle group and when entering a new market this can be a great leverage.
The Lifestyle Design Group comprises of Poltrona Frau, Cassina, Cappellini, Janus Et Cie (acquired in 2016), Luminairie (a US design retailer acquired in 2017) and Ceccotti Collezioni (acquired in 2018).
The central band on the seat takes its cue from racing seats. The materials are the same as those used in Ferrari cars. The external shell is moulded from carbon or alutex.
Do you still keep all your manufacturing process in Italy?
We are proud to still keep all manufacturing process in the Tolentino area, in the Marche region of Italy, an area that has a heritage in leather craftsmanship that dates back to the Middle Ages. Our 40,000m2 factory, fully powered by a sophisticated solar panel system, combines traditional hand craftsmanship with the most sophisticated technologies and meticulous quality control, where a tireless innovative spirit explores the diverse aesthetic and functional values of the highest quality leathers.
The plant complex also hosts the Poltrona Frau Museum, designed by Michele De Lucchi and inaugurated in 2012 to celebrate the first 100 years of our history, a 1,400m2 space where visitors can discover archive documents, original designs, prototypes, historic products and materials never before displayed. A fascinating journey into the history and the many souls of Poltrona Frau.
How do heritage brands such as Poltrona Frau remain true to their past, yet evolve with the times?
While the brand is introducing new ways of experiencing home environment, workspaces, public spaces and seating for theatres, auditoriums and convention centres, we are respecting the heritage and the DNA of a historic company.
Poltrona Frau sees tradition as the essential legacy of experience and expertise to link consistently past, present and future. Tradition is a solid base that continues to grow and offers the freedom to conceive new ideas and enables us to work both with established designers as well as new talents.
The real magic of Poltrona Frau consists in being always contemporary to its times, remaining fully consistent with its identity made of excellent craftmanship, exclusive materials, sober Italian elegance, attention to details, functional design and utmost comfort.
The armchair has an architectural and modular structure, and offers expansion possibilities. The President is the managerial model with a high backrest inspired by the ergonomics of competitive racing seats. The Executive model has a deliberately low and narrow backrest to ensure freedom of movement.
What are your plans for the Middle East market, especially with Saudi Arabia presenting huge opportunities to the design industry?
In spite of uncertainty connected to economic and political factors, the Middle East market holds a strong and solid potential of growth for the years to come and has always represented a bridge between the East and the West. Moreover, the spirit of sober elegance and intimate luxury that distinguishes our brand matches perfectly the taste, the needs and the aspiration of the demanding and sophisticated clients of the Middle East. Therefore, Poltrona Frau looks at the Middle East with a lot of attention and the decision of opening a mono-brand store in Dubai, managed by our subsidiary Poltrona Frau Group Middle East is a clear step in a strategy that we intend to deploy throughout the area with the help of local partners. Saudi Arabia is certainly one of the most interesting markets in the area for its potential in both private and public projects and we are going to increase our attention and efforts towards this country.
For the leather upholstery, the Ferrari Design Centre team has chosen shades and finishes inspired by the trim of the three Tailor-Made service lines, which allow for the customised configuration of the car: Scuderia, Classica and Inedita. The colours and materials can also be customised.
What is the driving force behind Poltrona’s Frau design direction?
The ability of keeping our heritage in leather craftsmanship always alive by exploring living solutions that fulfill the needs, the expectations and the dreams of demanding contemporary clients all over the world in search of luxury and exclusivity.