In 1947 Carlo Barass, engineer of Pirelli, together with Renato Teani, in the financial dpt. Pirelli, Pio Reggiani and Aldo Bai, founded the company Ar-flex (flexible furniture) that became later arflex.
They went on with the experiments made before the war from other people, together with the young architect Marzo Zanuso, began to experiment the use of foam rubber and elastic tapes for the furniture brand.
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 separated from commercial 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.Arflex is constantly focused on cultural experimentation, that allows to impose new, technological products, that were totally new at that time, as, for example, four models of Marco Zanuso : Lady armchair (1951, award Medaglia d’oro at IX Triennale), sleep-o-matic sofa (also in 1951, award Medaglia d’oro at X Triennale), Martingala armchair (1952), Fourline armchair (1964, award Medaglia d’oro at XIII Triennale), then Fiorenza armchair (Franco Albini, 1952), Lucania chair (De Carlo 1954), Delfino armchair (Barboni, first example of animal-design), Cubo armchair (Castiglioni 1957).
Cubo was made on occasion of the event in Como “colors and shapes of the today’s home”, realized as prototype and never put in production.
Elettra and Neptunia chairs (1953 and 1954) designed by BBPR or Hall seat (Menghi, 1958) and the first furniture directional pieces designed by Roberto Menghi in 1961, allow to extend the production to the office furniture or for public spaces, together with the home spaceBetween 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 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 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).