There is general consensus that sustainability is a ‘plus’ word, and to many, it is essentially synonymous with organic materials, degradability and minimizing CO2 – in short: production methods that result in a lighter footprint on our shared planet. It is meaningful, however, to see the concept as broader in scope – not least in the design industry, where one of the most responsible approaches may be to create products with extreme durability.
In a world where 95% of all furniture is scrapped within eight years of the purchase, CEO Jacob Holm of the design company Fritz Hansen argues that the key is to produce durable designs that will stand up to generations of both visual and physical wear.
‘Fritz Hansen’s furniture lasts generations, and if you look at supply and demand – and, not least , the price level – of our used design furniture at various auction houses, there’s every indication that our products remain in a dynamic cycle,’ says Jacob Holm, who thinks that customers are not only attracted to good design and optimal quality but are also looking for a good story and the right identity marker.
‘That’s not to say that we don’t care about production conditions and materials. We’re always searching for new and more sustainable procedures and approaches, but we can never let that get in the way of optimal design and good quality – and, thus, durability,’ says Jacob Holm, who is continuously involved in exploring new materials and techniques in cooperation with external designers and the company’s own innovation team.
Fritz Hansen is responsible for managing and reinterpreting a very important part of the Danish design legacy, including most of Arne Jacobsen’s and Poul Kjærholm’s designs, and the company has successfully managed to increase awareness of the iconic furniture – not least internationally, where the interest in the golden age of Danish design has far from peaked.
‘We have an unparalleled collection, which we strive to keep alive and relevant in a modern context. At the same time, we’re quite aware of the need to add new designers and designs in order to maintain our edge. Naturally, these designs have to have the same level of quality and craftsmanship to ensure that our furniture continues to preserve its longevity,’ says Jacob Holm, who points to the company’s collaboration with the Spanish designer Jaime Hayon as a successful example of this forward-looking strategy.
‘Hayon has an expressive approach to design, and his sculptural idiom is a natural extension of the expression of the Egg, the Swan and other Arne Jacobsen designs. Hayon’s furniture also possesses a certain gravity that lends it durability,’ Jacob Holm concludes.
In many regards, Jacob Holm’s perception of sustainability matches the views of Niels Jørgensen, managing director of the furniture company Erik Jørgensen, which is similarly responsible for an important design legacy with designs by Hans J. Wegner, Poul M. Volther and other iconic names. The company’s beautiful classic furniture selection, which continues to appeal to quality-conscious buyers today, is continuously expanded with new striking models, created by a loyal team of designers who over the years have embraced the fundamental philosophy behind Erik Jørgensen.
‘In my mind, the more dedicated the designer and the manufacturer are in their combined efforts to develop an idiom that has real staying power over time, the more you can speak of sustainability. The key is to create furniture in quality materials with a long life cycle. It’s like a sculptor striving to coax the best possible expression out of the stone,’ says Niels Jørgensen, who categorically rejects the idea of chasing fleeting trends.
‘For many years, we have worked with a handful of designers, and it’s like a long marriage, where, for better and worse, you don’t need to say much. Each person knows what the other is thinking. In practice, this means that the creative people we work with know our values and have a sense of what it is we’re looking for. That lends our collection a sense of continuity as well as a reliable level of quality,’ says Niels Jørgensen, who is never afraid to challenge the classic expression. The latest example is the new Hector sofa, designed by the Norwegian design duo Anderssen & Voll, who reinterpreted a classic Erik Jørgensen design, or the elegant Savannah sofa, created by the Swedish designer Monica Förster.
At Erik Jørgensen, the concept of linking quality and sustainability is also reflected in the choice of materials and functional solutions. This involves, for example, the upholstery fabric, where the primary choice is wool, a strong material that can be dry-cleaned.
‘Our furniture lasts a long time, and therefore it makes sense to include features such as turnable seat cushions and removable covers that can be dry-cleaned or replaced. We also offer to re-upholster our chairs and sofas, which means that we can reuse the frame and the foam material,’ says Niels Jørgensen, underscoring the broad scope of the concept of sustainability.