Willi Fehlbaum takes over a shop fitting business in Birsfelden, Basel at the age of 20. Together with his wife Erika, he continuously expanded the business into a furniture construction company whose production was relocated to the German town of Weil am Rhein after the end of the war. Fehlbaum gave the company its name. A trip to the USA in 1953 was decisive: Willi Fehlbaum discovered the exhibits of Charles and Ray Eames. The furniture inspired him and he immediately and spontaneously made an effort to obtain the distribution licenses. He finally received these from the furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, who was already very successful and respected in the USA at the time.
The founders Willi and Erika Fehlbaum began to produce Eames furniture exclusively for the European market after acquiring the licence in 1953. The Lounge Chair and the associated Ottoman are among the most important and best-known designs. To this day, the designer furniture is one of the most successful products in the company's history.
Only a few years later, in 1957, Vitra's success story continued with the acquisition of further licences: these included above all the European rights for the furniture of the designers George Nelson, Alexander Girard and Isamu Noguchi.
The first product developed by Vitra - the Vitramat office chair - appeared in 1976.
Since its introduction, the shape of the Vitramat has set standards in the form and design of office chairs. Its unique and ingenious appearance made the Vitramat an icon of designer chairs: it received numerous awards and the Federal Prize for Good Form in 1979. It was also selected for the Design-Zentrum Stuttgart and the Design-Zentrum NRW.
Charles and Ray Eames
The works of Charles and Ray Eames occupy a very special place in the history of Vitra.
Many Eames designs have become design icons of the 20th century. In our shop we stock almost all furniture. Many are immediately available.
The production of the designer couple's furniture designs marks the beginning of Vitra's history. Among the legendary designs are the Plastic Chairs, the Lounge Chair, Aluminium Chairs and many others. The famous Eames House and the exhibition of their furniture in many renowned museums and institutions contribute to making Vitra one of the most important personalities in the history of design.
Excerpt from exhibitions and prizes: First place "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" of the Museum of Modern Art, New York 1940, exhibition of designs with deformed plywood in the Museum of Modern Art, NY 1946, competition "Low Cost Furntiure" of the Musem of Modern Art, NY 1948, construction of the Eames-House 1949, "Qu'est-ce que le design? Exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs 1969 in Paris, "Furniture by Charles Eames" Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, NY 1973.
At the beginning of the 1960s Vitra succeeded in another coup: a cooperation with Verner Panton, one of the most important and influential designers of the 20th century. It was through him that Pop Art entered the world of furniture. Panton had a penchant for artificial materials and with Vitra he finally succeeded in the previously unthinkable, the production of a chair from one piece: in 1967 Willi Fehlbaum produced the Danish designer's Panton chair in series, the first cantilever chair from a single casting. The Panton Chair became known worldwide.
Verner Panton was fascinated by the possibilities offered to him when new plastics came onto the market. He experimented with different shapes and used a clear palette of rainbow colours. His works appear sculptural, the design is unconventional, playful and daring. His works include numerous special pieces. He was significantly involved in the design of the chair "The Ant", one of Arne Jacobsen's masterpieces. The Wire Cone Chair finally drew the attention of the world to Verner Panton's design language.
The collaboration with Vitra brought to light the realisation of the legendary Panton Chair. A chair made from a single piece of plastic. A design icon and a timeless chair that Vitra continues to manufacture and market. The Panton Chair can of course also be found here in the shop, in radiant colours and also as a junior version.
The designer and architect is regarded as one of the most important architects in the USA. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Gehry Tower in Hanover are famous examples of his deconstructivist architecture. In the course of his career, Gehry repeatedly limited himself to "simple" materials such as cardboard, sheet metal or plywood. Fascinating buildings and furniture were created. Last but not least, the Wiggle Stool and the Wiggle Side Chair should be mentioned here. Vitra offers these and other extraordinary products to this day.
He is a key figure in the history of design. As design director he brought design greats such as Isamu Noguchi, Alexander Girard and Charles & Ray Eames to Herman Miller. His collaboration with Vitra began in 1957. Numerous furniture icons are still available today. Not to forget the numerous watches in various designs, such as the Sunflower Clock, the Polygon Clock or the series of colorful timepieces with animal motifs, such as Fernando the Fish or Omar the Owl.
Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec
The two brothers have been working together in their design studio in Paris since 1999. Their field of work is not limited to furniture design alone. They prove their versatility with all sorts of different objects of daily use and projects in the field of architecture. Vitra has implemented a large number of designs ranging from decorative wooden figures to cosy lounge chairs. In our shop you will find the unusual and practical Algues and the organically shaped Vegetal chair.
Vitra Campus and Design-Museum
Rolf Fehlbaum expanded the production site in Weil am Rhein, Germany into the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein. Prior to this, the production site was almost completely destroyed in 1981 after a major fire.
These include the Vitra Design Museum opened in 1989 and the VitraHaus (2010) which he dedicated to his mother Erika Fehlbaum.
Rolf Fehlbaum commissioned well-known architects such as Zaha Hadid, Nicolas Grimshaw, Frank O. Gehry, Tadao Ando and others to build the Vitra Campus. The Design Museum was founded in 1989 by Vitra and its owner Rolf Fehlbaum. After smaller exhibitions in the early years, the museum gained international attention in the 1990s through larger exhibitions on Eames furniture, Louis Barragán and other architects.
The museum offers travelling exhibitions and has its own product lines. The Vitra Miniature Collection deserves special mention here. The faithful replicas of famous furniture designs in miniature format have been produced by the Design Museum for over 20 years. Today, the museum is one of the leading museums in the field of design. At the beginning of June 2016, the Design Museum opened an exhibition depot. There the museum presents the central objects of its extensive collection to the public.
More about Vitra
This is how you recognize a Vitra Original
In the search for Vitra furniture, one almost inevitably comes across a large market of replicas. What at first sight tries to tempt as a real bargain, at second glance reveals clear differences. Material and workmanship of the Vitra replicas are not comparable with the originals.
The Eames Plastic Chair is a good example. Numerous suppliers offer replicas of this furniture icon at low prices. The labeling as replica is not always obvious for the visitor and the purchase of the alleged bargain leads to disappointment on closer inspection. The missing Vitra marking under the seat shell is a clear indication of a plagiarism.
In addition there are inferior material quality and workmanship. If the Vitra Original shines with clean cut-outs and edges, the counterfeits often show an unclean finish that catches the eye.
The used material, like plain wood, looks inferior in contrast to the original. Instead of high-quality and durable maple wood from sustainable forestry, simple beech wood is used.
Further indications of counterfeits can be lower weight and reduced seating comfort. Another indication of plagiarism is when you have to assemble parts of the chair yourself. The Vitra Original is only supplied fully assembled.
At pro office we only offer original Vitra furniture. You can be sure of receiving durable, high-quality furniture that you will enjoy for a long time.