It probably won’t have escaped your notice that the 70s are creeping back into fashion. The high street is full of earthy tones and corduroy fabric and, as I have observed many times before, where the catwalk leads the cushions will follow. Only in this case I think it’s come full circle from the cushions of nearly five decades ago via the high street and back round to the cushions again.
But if there is one piece of furniture that sums up the spirit of the 1970s it has to be the Togo by Ligne Roset, the first all foam sofa that is still as much in demand now as it was when it was invented in 1973.
Described by its creator Michel Ducaroy, as “a tube of toothpaste folded over on itself like a stovepipe and closed at both ends”, the Togo has been the company’s uncontested best seller for nearly five decades, but at the trade show Maison et Object in Paris last January, the company unveiled its Togo for the 21st century. Or, to put it another way, the Togo for those who grew up with the famously low level sofa and would now like something a little higher and easier to get up from.
Meet the Phileas (named for the explorer Fogg of Around The World in 80 Days) which is the Togo for the new generation. Or should that be the old generation? It’s basically an updated version of the Togo but with legs.
The original Togo, which has won many awards for its innovative all foam construction, was very much a product of French society in the 70s, as Ligne Roset’s Creative Director, Michel Roset explains:
“The 70s were a time of innocence, but also daring. May ‘68 changed our whole society, in so many different ways. It was a world of new possibilities: travelling, finding independence, exploring identity and individuality. For Ligne Roset, it was a tremendous time of conquest, an explosion of creativity and energy.
“We were early in recognising the increased purchasing power of the new generation and we responded to it with great enthusiasm and an intense spirit of innovation. This new social democracy became the DNA of Ligne Roset as we know it: the arrival of the all-foam Togo and its revolutionary way of living encouraged people to explore new directions for their homes.
“Ducaroy was on a quest to create new seating concepts encouraged by the changes in social attitudes as well as the arrival of new materials and the new possibilities they opened up. The Togo was an instant success.”
Now 46 years later, a new designer, Philippe Nigro, has created a new sofa for the Togo generation, and says the panelling stitching was inspired by the elegance of the Orient Express which he saw at La Gare du Nord as a boy.
“It’s like an old-fashioned luxury banquette,” he said at the Paris trade show Maison et Object in January. “And also all French boys like Jules Verne, it’s part of our culture and so I named the sofa after that character. The sofa is both classic and modern.”
Ligne Roset is the only French furniture brand who still make everything in France. If they don’t have the skills in-house they will hire people do it looking first in France and then in Europe as whole.
The company loves to collaborate with designers and receives around 400 ideas every month. Michel Roset said the idea always comes first and the technique follows. Other companies will ask a designer to make something that works with their methods of production, Ligne Roset (which has over 800 distributors) will pick the design they like and work out how to make it afterwards. Each new product, of which there may be 100 in a year, may need a different method of production but the company is unphased by this. If it likes the idea it will work to make it work.
So it was with the Ploum (pictured above), which took three years to get to market and now feature a new material called Appa – short for the French word for clothing Apparel, which has outlines of patterns from clothes on it.
It’s all a long way from the origins of this company which began making parasols and walking sticks before diversifying into chairs and cabinets. Now, like the fashions of the 70s which have come full circle, so this company which began making things out of wood has evolved to make furniture with no wood at all.
From 5 April there is 10 per cent off all furniture at Ligne Roset should you fancy. The Phileas and Appa fabric will be out in September.
For disclosure: this post was not paid for but I wanted to write something after the company invited me to Paris earlier in the year to have a look at their stand and their new products.