The Italian powerhouse formed successful partnerships with lighting greats Castiglioni, Scarpa and Starck
In 1962, an exciting new chapter in Italian lighting began when visionary entrepreneur Dino Gavina and Cesare Cassina, co-founder of furniture brand Cassina, set up Flos in Merano, northern Italy. Their mission? To dream up radically innovative lighting designs. The catalyst for this was a meeting with Arturo Eisenkeil, an inventor seeking applications for a technique called ‘cocoon’, whereby polymer fibres were sprayed on skeletal metal frames. The US army had deployed the technique for packaging and for protecting their Jeeps from adverse weather conditions. Recognising that it could be used for lighting, Gavina and Cassina manufactured several unusual, otherworldly lamps, including the pod-like ‘Taraxacum’ (1960) by brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, and Tobia Scarpa’s ‘Fantasma’ (1961), which resembles a huge chrysalis.
Flos’s unconventional incorporation of utilitarian elements into its designs, such as the Castiglioni brothers’ 1962 ‘Toio’ lamp, crowned by a car headlight, soon became its hallmark. In the 1960s, businessman Sergio Gandini and his wife Piera became partners in the firm: their son Piero has been Flos’s CEO since 1996. He has initiated collaborations with illustrious international designers, encouraging them to push the envelope in terms of materials and forms. Memorable examples include Philippe Starck’s ‘Miss Sissi’ of 1991, shaped like a table light but made of polycarbonate in a blackcurrant hue, and Konstantin Grcic’s frosted plastic ‘May Day’ lamp (2000), topped by a hook that acts as a cable winder.
More recently, Flos has launched Jasper Morrison’s ‘Superloon’ floor lamp with a swivelling disc that emits a silver glow inspired by moonlight, and Patricia Urquiola’s leaf-shaped ‘Serena’ table lamp. By collaborating with such a diverse roster of designers, Flos ensures that its product range is exciting and unpredictable (flos.com).
FLOS BECAME FAMOUS IN THE 1960S FOR ITS UNCONVENTIONAL USE OF UTILITARIAN ELEMENTS
From top ‘ Viscontea’ pendant lights by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni (1960) hang at the Atrium showroom in London. ‘IC’ wall light by Michael Anastassiades (2014). ‘Superloon’ floor light by Jasper Morrison (2015). ‘Toio’ floor light by the...