PORTRAIT of FREDRICIA 

Fredericia Furniture represents empathetic designs
Since 1911, Fredericia Furniture represents empathetic designs that put their users at the center thru every step of the production: from conception to crafting.

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It's something they learned from the iconic Børge Mogensen – who was head of design for the brand in its early years. The furniture mogul imprinted some of Fredericia's main ideals, such as applying smart usability hacks & materials that age nicely – like wood & premium leathers – to their key pieces, so the human factor would be the #1 priority. And that never goes out of style. From that moment on, Fredericia’s furniture became about emotion. About expression. About creating stories that evolve, generation after generation. That’s why the brand turned into an expert of timeless aesthetics wrapped in everlasting quality – so their pieces can be a part of their clients' lives for years on end, adapting to different lifestyles, matching various settings & adding a warm character to any room. Like a canvas ready to hold people’s unwritten stories.

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Fredericia’s main allies to put those values into practice are their go-to materials: hardwood that guarantees strong & durable pieces ++ Scandinavian bull hide leather with special vegetable-tanning processes to ensure extra quality, comfort & a greener approach to the material. This specific use of natural elements plays an important role in the brand’s concepts and, from Graversen’s point-of-view, encourages people to take even better care of their furniture. Those ideas also empower Fredericia’s dedication to sustainability – that has been going on since the beginning, before it was such a hot topic. Working in the most environmentally friendly way possible, they make sure to source their leather directly from tanneries  and also to use recycled polypropylene in plastic-made pieces. All that to create sustainable furniture that lasts longer so people don’t have to replace it at all.

 

- Now we know why experience comes with age. 

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To get a piece of the centenary wisdom behind Fredericia Furniture, scroll down & read all about our interview with Rasmus Graversen, the brand’s designer
& product manager. 

 

Fredericia prides itself on its heritage and it’s clear how your background influences your brand’s purpose. How do you maintain that influence in the modern world?

At Fredericia, we have always evolved our design heritage by introducing new furniture in tune with the changing ways in which people live their lives. At the same time, it is important for us to bridge our new designs with our heritage. This keeps our heritage relevant yet also transforms our values into a modern context. It is our privilege that many designers find inspiration in our heritage and our values when creating new designs. 


The foundation of your practice is constructed from a strong backbone of quality that guides all of your designs. In what ways do factors such as simplicity, functionality & dedication to perfection help you create everlasting products?

We are very keen on the idea that every product should have a strong identity in order to survive the times. It is not only about making a design as simple as possible or even minimal. In fact, this is not so important in the end. However, a design should have a certain clarity, resulting in a consequent use of the materials involved and the design ethos it represents. We don’t believe we can foresee what will be an everlasting design, only time can prove that. But, when a design is made with character and clarity, our experience is that it has the personality to stand in the same room as our classics – and this is where the magic happens. 


On that note, from Fredericia’s perspective, what's the connection between long-lasting design & the industry’s role in sustainability? 

We are very pleased with the increasing appreciation of a more conscious way of consumption – because this is at the core of our original values and it is what we have been championing for decades. We continue to focus largely on not only making strong products, but also products that are made well for the human body, and products that age with beauty and grace. These values, which were seen as old fashioned for years, are now being celebrated as the most sustainable approach to furniture design. 

We think our main responsibility is to keep creating well-made and long-lasting products, and to make sure that every material is sourced sustainably.

At the end of the day, we all live from bio-diversity. It is important that the entire industry adapts and demands control over where their resources are coming from, especially when it comes to foresting and the use of chemicals in the tanning and welding processes. 

Tell us about the materials behind your craftsmanship. How do they influence your work process & keep it sustainable?

Our main material, wood, is a wonderful material because it ages well and, when used correctly, it makes sturdy chairs that can also be repaired if needed. The fact that the chairs can be repaired or reupholstered is as important as ensuring that they are well made to begin with.
We source our leather directly from the tanneries because we want to be able to control and monitor the entire supply chain.  

Aside from natural materials, for some products, it is necessary to combine our demands for high quality with better recycling technology, for instance, our plastic chair, which we are changing from virgin to recycled polypropylene. In order to do this, we go to great lengths to make sure that the new way of using a material does not decrease the quality and recyclability. If, in your search for recycle-able materials, you just create a new and slightly less polluting mass consumption system, then, in our opinion, it is not truly sustainable.


All that raises questions about leather. How does this eternal material relate to your sustainability beliefs?

We also continue to use leather because it creates very long-lasting products. As a result, you end up taking better care of the product. And because the material ages well, it is the perfect companion to wood.

Because of its long-lasting character, leather allows your products to age nicely. Now, how do you manage to keep your leather designs contemporary & original through the generations they're constructed to endure? 
 

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Take our Spanish Chair, for example. As the thick saddle leather seat expands from use during the chair’s lifetime, it has a feature that allows you to tighten the buckles, thus prolonging the perfect use of the chair and its appearance. With upholstered furniture, the key is to make sure that the internal construction of the cushions, etc. will not wear out, and that every stitch is well placed and well made – often we do it with piping, which is both beautiful and strong.

However, with leather, as with wood, there is also a responsibility on users to keep their furniture well maintained – to condition them from time to time, not leave them outside, etc. Because you can tell from the materials and the construction details that a lot of effort was put into the furniture, people also tend to do this, compared to a cheaper product that you would be more likely to store poorly or throw away rather than resell. As our CEO from 1955-1995, Andreas Graversen, said: 

“You can maintain our furniture forever – as long as you do it.”


Since leather furniture lasts a lifetime, it can carry a lot of sentimental value & emotional associations. Having worked with furniture & leather for so long, what is your experience with these kinds of connections?

You mature your own leather furniture in your own way, so to speak. That spot where you unintentionally left a drop of red wine, that shine that comes from your particular use of the furniture. 

Our furniture is born with a long design history, but after years of use, it represents your own history. We often speak with people who have had a sofa for over 30 years and who have passed it on to their grandchildren. 

We also reupholster very worn sofas with new leather when customers want to keep their original sofa, even though they could have resold it at an auction and bought a new sofa for less money. Even if you can only tell from the legs of the sofa, they want to keep their original sofa as it carries their memories. 


Your brand features a lot of leather designs that can create this kind of long-lasting emotional attachment, too, right? Tell us about the construction (& emotions) behind the Hunting Chair & the Spanish Chair.

The Hunting Chair and the Spanish Chair represent Børge Mogensen’s unique approach to modern design. They are made with saddle leather and, as such, they actually feature a saddle with buckles and all, wrapped around a sturdy solid wood construction. The saddlery we use is a one-of-a-kind leathermaker in Sweden, which also makes the horse harnesses for the Swedish Royal family. More than anything, these chairs must be used and lived with in order to attain their most beautiful appearance – they simply get better with age! And as I previously mentioned, you can tighten the straps underneath as the leather expands, which allows you to keep the chairs and infuse your own story into them, so to speak. They are quite quirky, actually, from a design point of view, but because of the material combination you can use them in almost any setting. The material speaks so loudly and creates this sense of earthly connection, even in the most high-tech interiors. 


We can’t talk about these pieces without mentioning Børge Mogensen. What would you say the biggest influence his legacy left on Fredericia’s ethos is – after working as Head of Design for so many years?

Børge Mogensen pioneered the idea that good design is made with human empathy – in which every design is perfectly useful in daily life. That good design is made from rich materials, that the materiality and the right combination of materials is in itself a big part of the design. That furniture should be crafted to last and mature with beauty. And that clarity in the design language and construction makes furniture that you can comprehend – your mind can understand intuitively how it is built and what the different parts of the construction are indented for. This creates furniture that has a calming effect. Furniture that creates a good atmosphere and puts people at the center, instead of overtaking the room. That allows you to live your life unpretentiously and encourages your personal spirit, rather than making you an accessory on the designer’s stage. These are values that are still profoundly part of everything we do at Fredericia Furniture today.
 

WORDS By Metcha

Images ARK & Fredericia Furtiture

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