Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby
LEAD DESIGNERS, BARBER & OSGERBY
Osgerby discusses the duo’s ongoing collaborations with Swiss furniture company Vitra, and how they started working with brands like Knoll, B&B Italia, and Flos:
We’ve been talking to Vitra about projects for roughly 10 years, but it’s only really been in the last four or five that we’ve been working heavily with them. We have a number of very serious things going on with them in the backroom right now. It was a slightly more relaxing time developing the new Mariposa range—“relaxing” in the sense that we were actually designing stuff that’s super comfortable—than our current projects. So much work for the Mariposa line went into changing, evolving, and developing what happens under the fabric: the foam density, the feathers, the springs, the logistics of being able to take something to pieces and ship it around the world.
The relationship with Vitra started in a quite unconventional way. Most of the time, when we work for the company, they have a product in mind, or we have a sketch of something we’ve already thought through. Our relationship with Vitra actually started almost in an academic way, in that we had a project that had been built up like a research program. We discovered there was a need for something, so we called a meeting with [Vitra chairman emeritus] Rolf Fehlbaum and basically presented a synopsis of what was needed. That written document became the basis of a brief. There was no sketching involved.
I would say we approached Vitra, but in truth, we first had a meeting with them in 2004, and we left it that we would wait for the right product to come about until we worked together. Then we had this product idea that became the Tip Ton chair. It’s been a huge hit. It has taken us all by surprise, really, because we didn’t think it would have quite as much demand as it has. It’s quite an unconventional thing, a two-position rocking chair.
Vitra, Knoll, B&B Italia, and Flos are our main clients. It wasn’t always this way. We waited and waited and waited and waited and waited, and couldn’t pay the rent for years and years and years. We just waited. We didn’t want to bugger it up by working with the wrong people, doing crap products. For a while, we just hung out. It was like trying to get a girlfriend. Just the two of us, after the same girls.” —As told to Spencer Bailey