Kiwi chairs con­quer US bot­toms

Taranaki Daily News - - Business -

A Welling­ton com­pany’s chair de­sign has re­cently won gold in the mar­quee event at the ‘‘Olympics’’ of commercial in­te­rior de­sign in the United States.

Lower-Hutt based Formway De­sign, orig­i­nally es­tab­lished in 1956 as Pe­tone En­gi­neer­ing, won the award at the Neo­Con trade show in Chicago this month.

Neo­Con was at­tended by more than 40,000 ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign pro­fes­sion­als, and is con­sid­ered North Amer­ica’s largest con­fer­ence of its type. En­tries were made by 700 ex­hibitors in 39 cat­e­gories, rang­ing from de­sk­ing to light­ing and chairs.

Formway De­sign’s Remix of­fice chair won gold in the task seat­ing cat­e­gory, which com­pany co­gen­eral man­ager Kent Parker de­scribed as equiv­a­lent to win­ning the 100 me­tre sprint at the Olympics. ‘‘If you win this one, you’ve got a pretty good foun­da­tion for the up­com­ing pe­riod. You’re ba­si­cally win­ning the game against the big com­pa­nies of the Amer­ica.’’

This was the sixth time Form- way De­sign had won the award, fol­low­ing its Life and Be chairs.

The Life chair was the first chair Formway De­sign cre­ated for the global mar­ket and more than a mil­lion have been sold since its launch in 2002. It be­came the seat of choice for for­mer US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and Ap­ple boss Steve Jobs.

Formway’s Be chair was launched in 2009 and be­came the fastest sell­ing seat­ing prod­uct in the his­tory of Knoll, the com­pany’s United States part­ner.

It was last year worth about $60m in sales to Knoll on sales of more than 100,000 chairs, just in the United States.

Parker said they hoped the Re- mix chair, to be avail­able from Oc­to­ber in the US, and next year in New Zealand, would match the suc­cess of its ear­lier chairs.

Formway’s busi­ness model is based on iden­ti­fy­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties or niches in the mar­ket, de­sign­ing a so­lu­tion, and part­ner­ing with a man­u­fac­turer to make it avail­able for sale.

It li­censes the prod­ucts to man­u­fac­tur­ers for a fee, be­fore earn­ing roy­al­ties on chairs sold there­after.

Co-gen­eral man­ager Paul Wilkin­son said the Remix chair was a new take on the up­hol­stered end of the mar­ket, which had had very lit­tle in­no­va­tion be­fore.

‘‘It’s new tech­nol­ogy and a very fa­mil­iar form.’’

Win­ning de­sign: The Remix fam­ily of chairs in the Knoll show­room at the Neo­con fair in Chicago. Welling­ton-based Formway Fur­ni­ture re­cently won Gold at the fair for its Remix fam­ily of chairs.

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