When it comes to 1960s style and lighting, few brands can compare to the legacy of FLOS. Yet, while some design houses of the past have gone out of favor, the company continues to create contemporary classics that are just as beloved as their vintage designs. How has FLOS been able to maintain their status as a leading design innovator in the lighting world, while simultaneously creating some of the most iconic pieces of the past?
In short, because they’ve consistently recruited forward-thinking designers, and utilized the latest in technology as they design and produce beautiful pieces. FLOS uses high quality, innovative materials to their best advantage to create pieces that shine, even when they aren’t turned “on.” These values are clear in FLOS’s origin: the story of the company that, in their own words, came out of a cocoon.
From Out of a Cocoon
FLOS’s beginnings were far from humble; however, its story begins with a cocoon. Italian importer Arturo Eisenkeil contacted designers Achille and Pier Giacamo Castiglioni, sons of the famed Italian sculptor Giannino Castiglioni, about a spray-on plastic he had found that formed a cocoon-like capsule when applied to a frame.
A savvy marketer, he knew the substance could be used to make something intriguing. So, with the help of the Castiglionis, they were inspired to coat a metal frame with the substance, with a light inside. These so-called cocoon lamps were the birth of FLOS, and pieces like FLOS’s Viscontea Suspension Light are still sold to this day. While a spray-on polymer seems far from glamorous, it set an important precedent for the company: FLOS has continued to utilize cutting-edge technology and top-of-the-line materials to craft their unique pieces.
…to Re-Branding Snoopy
After the new team’s great success with cocoon style lighting, including the Taraxacum Pendant Light, their ambitions to create a full range of interior lighting progressed. Four years after the release of cocoon lighting came another instant classic. The Snoopy Lamp was born in 1967, with an entirely different material makeup than past FLOS creations.
In stark contrast to the light, cloud-like iterations of cocoon lighting, the Snoopy was made of sleek, solid materials: marble and darkened glass. With these sophisticated building elements, it might be surprising that the piece was named after a beloved cartoon, but the design does bear a whimsical likeness to a certain animated dog.
An oblong, dark glass dome sits atop a tilted marble column, not unlike Snoopy’s comically large head. Its minimalistic design and oversized proportions made it a great contribution to sixties-era style. More recently, FLOS has re-introduced Snoopy to a ’60s design-obsessed public.
Designers Who Look Forward
After the cocoon lamps and Snoopy, FLOS’s ongoing commitment to a bold design aesthetic continued with innovative designers that were attracted to the brand. Perhaps because of the legacy of the high-profile originators, Achille and Pier Giacamo Castiglioni, there has not been a shortage of forward-thinking designers at FLOS.
In more recent history, FLOS has fostered the talents of creatives like Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, who launched the instant classic Aim Pendant Light in 2010. Awarded Interior Design Magazine’s “Best of the Year” in 2013, this dynamic ceiling fixture features an oversized shade with a loose cable that can be arranged to hang or loop around from the ceiling. By playing with dimensions and installation, the Bouroullecs designed a quietly dramatic piece that can work as well in a contemporary home as it can in a fashionable retail space or restaurant.
Other pieces, including the Kelvin LED Table Lamp designed by Antonio Citterio, have more practical features, along with FLOS’ signature bold design choices and evolved technology. Their latest iteration of the Kelvin is “Green Mode,” a feature that adjusts the brightness of the bulbs throughout the day based on the room’s light. Citterio, is another Italian mastermind, who has pieces of his work on display in New York’s MoMA and Centre Pompidou. Even with something as simple as a desk lamp, FLOS’s star-studded design team has managed to create ahead of the curve.
A Brand with Longevity
While 1960’s style is considered a current trend, FLOS’s history shows that well-designed, quality pieces never lose their significance. From the origins of the company’s first cocoon lanterns, to the reintroduction of the classic Snoopy, to today’s design favorites like Aim and Kelvin, FLOS has a track record of creating timeless pieces.
The company’s point of view on lighting extends beyond simply creating “nice” designs; their company philosophy states: “We believe that light is more than just a basic need…. It makes sense of the past, it brightens our present, and it lends brilliance to the future.” With that mindset, it’s no wonder designers and consumers alike can’t wait to see what’s next from FLOS.
Lauren Walters is a freelance writer and marketer who lives in Sacramento. She loves good design, cooking, and antique stores. When she's not writing or moving her furniture around her house, you can find her out hiking Northern California's amazing trails.