Love is in the… details 

In the world of Vitra, love is one of the strongest sources of inspiration – Alexander Girard and Verner Panton are two of the Vitra designers who used symbols of love in their creations.

The heart shape is recognized all over the world as the main symbol for romantic love. One theory says that the heart shape comes from the leaves of a plant called siphium, which was considered a key component for a love potion used by the romans. The heart shape is also associated with St. Valentine, the saint who continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret, despite the Emperor Claudius II order, with the price of his own life. 

Alexander Girard, known for textile design, but also admired for his work in the areas of furniture design, graphics and interior architecture, used the heart shape as a recurring pattern. Being one of the most frequent symbols in his work, the heart is used on textiles, cushion covers, as a decorative wall element and also as a print on mugs and trays. Alexander Girard’s International Love Heart is a quintessential representation of who he was, both as a designer and as a person.

Originally created in 1961 for the Textiles & Objects shop in New York City, this design speaks to Girard’s passion for typography, graphics, language – and above all, the universal sentiment of love. It strikes a balance of being clean, bold and concise, and at the same time soft, romantic and winsome. Girard constantly wove messages of peace, love and understanding into his work without ever succumbing to kitsch or sentimentality, and the International Love Heart is a perfect example. Comprising the word ‘love’ in many languages, including romanian, this unique heart-shaped design also bears witness to Girard’s lifelong fascination with global dialects.

The motif was part of a larger range of designs that Alexander Girard created for printed pillows made of cotton and linen. The International Love Heart was later displayed in the form of a wooden wall decoration in The Compound restaurant, which Girard designed in 1966. Along with the interior of his private home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, The Compound restaurant was one of just a few local works. Unlike most of Girard’s richly ornamented and sumptuously coloured collages of patterns and objects, the detailing and furnishings in The Compound are characterised by a simpler, more rural charm. With its calligraphic lettering painted in black on a plain white background, this decorative wall object contributes to a lovely, warm atmosphere for the guests who dine there.

In 1967, Alexander Girard further developed the idea of the International Love Heart in his design of a textile that used the same distinctive letters, repeating them in a never-ending love pattern. Other examples of heart motifs by Alexander Girard are his famous Love Heart and a vast variety of double hearts, often referred to as ‘Sansusi’ – the combined nicknames of Girard (Sandro) and his wife Susan.

Another designer inspired by love symbol – the heart, is Vernon Panton. Verner created numerous designs for seating furniture and lighting and is known for his passion for bright colours and geometric patterns. Panton’s collaboration with Vitra began in the early 1960s, when they jointly developed what became his best-known design, the Panton Chair, which was introduced in 1967. This was also the first independently developed product by Vitra. But another iconic chair created by Verner Panton in 1958 is the Heart Cone Chair. This one takes its name from the expressive, heart-shape silhouette of its seat shell. The chair combines a comfortably upholstered seat with an understated elegant base made of satin stainless steel. 

Vitra’s re-edition of designs by Panton, as well as the retrospective of his work mounted by the Vitra Design Museum in 2000, bear witness to the special relationship between Vitra and Verner Panton. 

Love is the energy that makes the world spin around. Find love in everything that surrounds you – Happy Valentine’s day!

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