Fredericia Furniture celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Trinidad chair by breathing new life into Nanna Ditzel’s timeless design icon. But what makes a design timeless, and how do you keep a design that is more than 25 years old relevant? We explore these questions in this first article within our March theme ‘Branding in Design and Architecture’. Stay tuned for further insights in later articles.
A Nordic design icon
Inspired by the so-called Gingerbread Facades commonly seen on houses in Trinidad, Nana Ditzel’s chair immediately caught the public’s attention after its launch in 1993. With a distinctively curved shell back that gives the chair a light but strong look, the Trinidad chair quickly became popular both in private homes and public spaces and has since achieved the status of a modern classic.
“This can happen when a product (in this case a chair) strikes a chord with the public and rather than just resting on their laurels with a popular design, the manufacturer is able to successfully reframe the essential qualities and design of the product to fit new trends and lifestyles to appeal to a new generation, so that the product doesn’t go out of fashion and is kept in the public’s mind across generations,” explains John K. Christiansen, professor at Copenhagen Business School, who has for the past ten years driven research programmes within product development and portfolio management at the business school.
“A good manufacturer understands that keeping a product’s appeal and making it an icon doesn’t happen by itself and that they need to actively help consumers to understand how a product can support their needs and the lifestyle that they want to participate in,” adds John K. Christensen.
Originally the chair came in different sorts of wood, like beech and maple. But after 25 years, Fredericia Furniture felt it was time to give it a new fresh look, adding three natural subdued nuances that highlight the structure of the wood. To mark this change, Fredericia Furniture invited the popular Swedish interior stylist and blogger Pella Hedeby over to the showroom in Copenhagen, so that she could learn about the history of the chair. As part of the demo, they hung up a piece of the back of the Trinidad chair, so that the structure of the wood became even more visible.
In a video-interview with ELLE Decoration (see below) she elaborates on this experience: “This feather-like piece was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”
How does a design maintain its relevance?
Pella Hedeby is one of Scandinavia’s most acknowledged interior bloggers and champions the Scandinavian style, combining simplicity with natural colours and materials. Being fascinated by the aesthetics of Danish design classics, like the Trinidad chair, she mentions both materials and the handcrafts as something unique. She finds the new nuances of the Trinidad chair very appealing and explains that the design goes very well with the Swedish style and adds to the Scandinavian look.
John K. Christiansen, on the other hand, is fascinated by the way some products instantly resonate with the public, as the Trinidad chair did when it was first launched. But also how, to maintain its relevance and timeless feel through the decades, it was reinterpreted and thought of in new contexts.
“Many manufacturers try to actively articulate and frame their products in different ways to maintain their relevance so that new meaning and different qualities are added to the products. That can be done by putting them in relation to a certain way of relating to the world, different lifestyles and other artefacts that are seen as “modern” or in – here we look for both classical features but also trendsetters and people with a public appeal”, says John K. Christensen.
He doesn’t conclude in saying whether he believes Fredericia Furniture succeeded in this particular case, but looking at their merits and long history of breathing new life into design classics from the likes of Børge Mogensen and Hans J. Wegner, they seem to know what they’re doing.