The Story of a Family Business
FLEXFORM’s history is a family history. Now at the third generation, FLEXFORM was founded in the furniture manufacturing district of Brianza, in Northern Italy. This is where the unique worldwide phenomenon of design Made in Italy began, in the 1960s. A territory where the history of many small crafts workshops working with wood, metal and upholstery since the early 1900s intertwines with that of the great masters of Italian design, trained in the School of Architecture in nearby Milan. The FLEXFORM story is part of this historical context. In 1959 the Galimberti brothers started a crafts workshop, which they called “Flexform di Galimberti.” They opened their first streetfront showroom, displaying sofas and armchairs that found their way, in the postwar era, into elegant buildings in Milan, villas overlooking Lake Como, and even the foyer of Teatro alla Scala. Their sons transformed the workshop into an industrial facility, and in 1967 FLEXFORM became a joint-stock company. Intuition prompted the family to work with the leading designers of the time: Joe Colombo, Asnago-Vender, Cini Boeri, Rodolfo Bonetto and many others. With the young architect Antonio Citterio, during those same years FLEXFORM embarked on a path of professional growth that has continued without interruption to the present, for over forty years. The decade of the 1970s marks a decisive turning point in the firm’s conception of products. Avoiding repetition of past styles, the production became increasingly original and contemporary.
“The family is a great value, an important legacy of resources, stimuli, knowledge. Roots allow us to look to the future. Without awareness of our history we cannot imagine future scenarios. It is true that only he who knows where he comes from can know where he is heading. It is an honor and a commitment for all of us in the third generation to continue the work of our predecessors. To keep alive what we like to call the “we attitude,” i.e. the awareness that it is the team – and therefore the brand – that is the real player, not the individual. No soloists, but a group that thinks in the first-person plural, never the singular. The challenge is to keep intact that “expedition behavior” – to use a term borrowed from Jeff Ashby, the Space Shuttle commander – namely the altruistic and generous behavior typical of mountain climbing expeditions, where valuing the team above all other concerns is the key to success. So continuing to think in collective terms for the benefit of the brand is the most important challenge for our family business.”
In the 1970s the family understood the importance of exploring new markets, beyond the national borders. They approached Europe, where the German-speaking countries, in particular, demonstrated great interest in their understated, elegant and comfortable sofas, especially in Germany. Overseas growth was also constant and unstoppable, as Flexform gained visibility in the most exclusive furniture stores in America, Asia and Australia. With the advent of the new millennium, the company launched a program of internationalization through the opening of exclusive FLEXFORM flagship stores. From a Russian dacha to a villa in Santa Monica, a hotel in the Arab Emirates to a penthouse in Shanghai, FLEXFORM seduces both mature and emerging markets, and its products are sold in almost one hundred countries around the world. The upper distribution echelon is represented by over twenty monobrand stores on five continents, places of full immersion in the unique style and taste of the living room according to FLEXFORM.
Made in Italy
An identity of total Italian value. A totally Italian success story. A single country, Italy, where products are “thought & made.” A single production plant, in Meda, where everything is produced with the most local resources possible. Everything is Made in Italy, everything is Made in Meda.
The safeguarding of Made in Italy also depends on the supply chain. Leather, fabrics, woods, metals, upholstery materials are selected with the most severe criteria. Since Flexform is world famous for its sofas with soft, large cushions, representing its stylistic signature, great care goes into the quality of the feathers and down they contain. These materials bring precious lightness, warmth and softness, and are of guaranteed, certified origin. The world wants Italian things. Italian design stands out for the lifestyle it suggests, for expertise and intellectual honesty. While the excellence of the products has to do with manufacturing quality, it is equally true that the great competitive advantage of Italy is beauty. And beauty generates beauty, as in the evolution of the Flexform collections. Beauty lasts in time and never goes out of style. This is the Italian style of Flexform. Light, measured, aimed at a market not driven by mere necessity, but by the desire an object is able to attract.
FLEXFORM offers a large collection of home furnishings focusing on the production of sofas, the company’s core business. Though the firm is internationally renowned for its products for the living area, its range also covers the dining room and the bedroom zone. There is one constant: elegance. The boundaries that establish the values of a brand and define the spirit of its collections are subtle. The term luxury understood as redundancy, as useless abundance and excess, certainly does not apply to FLEXFORM. The company’s aesthetic is better represented by the concept of sober elegance that translates into essential forms and soft, never gaudy materials. The Flexform world is made of good manners and good taste, a gentle aesthetic. A Flexform sofa is like a blue blazer in the world of clothing: simple, deconstructed, refined down to the smallest details.
With a forceful synergic relationship between design and production, FLEXFORM has a long
history of fertile interaction with more than one generation of great designers. Since the 1960s the company has worked with outstanding talents: Asnago-Vender, Sergio Asti, Cini Boeri, Joe Colombo, Paolo Nava, Rodolfo Bonetto, William Lansing Plumb, Gigi Radice, Guido Rosati, Carlo Colombo, Giulio Manzoni.
Of all the names, however, for forty years Antonio Citterio has been the designer who has contributed most to write the history of the firm and to translate its values into objects, coordinating all the collections. An architect, director, deus ex machina, Citterio is the designer who has given a soul to the product. With a design approach that starts with
study of the space that surrounds objects, and of the architecture in which that space is inserted, Antonio Citterio has an overall project vision ranging from the large to the small scale. As a designer he reasons in terms of product families, not individual items. Today he is a precious counterpart, in dialogue with the ongoing enlightened initiative of the company, fostering a path of sharing and exchange.
"Talking about my relationship with Flexform means talking about a group of friends who have shared visions and experiences. It also means talking about a big part of my life, given the fact that we have been getting together for over forty years." Antonio Citterio