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Design Classics

Design Classics #7: The Panton S Chair

17th February 2012
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The first cantilevered chair made from a single piece of plastic, the Panton Stacking or S is also perhaps the sexiest chair ever made. It has appeared on the cover of Vogue (well Kate Moss was in the picture too. Well all right she was naked) but it was also in a feature in the 1970s in which a model demonstrated how to undress in front of your husband.

The S is such an iconic piece of furniture that has been so widely copied that it’s hard to understand how revolutionary it was when it first appeared. It was the first chair with no back legs and was formed from a single piece of plastic. Verner Panton had the idea in 1960 but it was several years before he could find a manufacturer who was able to mass produce it. It went on to win several awards.

Panton was a master of the futuristic 1960s design which became known as the Pop movement. Born in Denmark, he joined the resistance during the War and spent several months in hiding after a cache of weapons was found in his room.

After studying with that other legend of design Arne Jacobsen, Panton designed the Cone chair in 1959. So many people gathered to see it in a New York shop window that the police ordered it be removed. He then went on to make the first inflatable furniture and in 1967, the S was born.

The story goes that he had the idea for the S in 1960 on a visit to a factory making safety helmets and buckets. History doesn’t relate how he made the leap from one to the other but we do know that eventually he teamed up with Herman Miller and the S went into production.

Panton fell out of fashion during the 70s when his optimistic Pop style looked out of place and rather than reach out to new and younger collaborators he remained in self-imposed exile.

Then in the 90s, the S was in Vogue – literally – as mid-century modern became fashionable again. He won more awards and the chair was put back into production. He was invited to design an exhibition in his honour in Copenhagen in 1998 but died 12 days before it opened.

Today the Swiss company, Vitra has the licence to manufacture the Panton chair and it comes in a rainbow of colours although purists will say it looks best in white, black or red. In 2003, Vitra started making a perfectly scaled down mini version for children.

 

www.vitra.com

https://www.johnlewis.com/230948105/Product.aspx?source=63258

First published in The Independent

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