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The Original is by Vitra: an exclusive interview with Stine Liv Buur, Design Manager Classics

Vitra is one of the few brands in the world that looks at things differently. For Vitra, the pieces of furniture that see the light of day are the result of a fruitful collaboration with the designers who become close friends of the brand. Each collaboration varies due to the personal world view and creative skills of the designer. The collaborations have developed over many years, for some several decades, for others several generations. Every concept launched by Vitra has such a strong history behind it that it unfolds its story for decades – starting as an idea, developing as a product, and becoming over time an iconic object, an original.

We wanted to find out more about the philosophy behind this concept, which Vitra is so proud of: The Original. Stine Liv Buur, the architect who holds the position of Design Manager Classics at Vitra, revealed to us the extent to which this approach is in fact a promise of loyalty and trust between the brand and the designer.

What does “The Original is by Vitra” stand for? Which Vitra models are considered The originals and why?

Stine: All designs produced by Vitra are originals, and here is why: A product can only be called an original when it has been authorised by the designer. In terms of its status as an original, it does not matter whether an authorised product was produced in large quantities or in a limited series, or if it was manufactured many years ago or only recently.

Originals by Vitra are developed, manufactured and communicated in close collaboration with the designer or his or her legitimate heirs to ensure that the product is fabricated in accordance with the specific ideas and wishes of its author and is thus authentic. As a result, an Eames Lounge Chair from 1956 and a Lounge Chair produced today are both originals.

The author behind the design – what role does he play in shaping the story of the piece of furniture?

Stine: The author plays a great role. Each design in the Vitra portfolio represents a part of the designer’s DNA, his or her way of thinking design solutions. At Vitra we believe that the world still can learn a lot from the classics. They are not only a great part of the Vitra history and identity, the classics are also a kind of guides for the Vitra contemporary designers.

A product can only be called an original when it has been authorised by the designer.

What would be the three most important values that you think have guided Vitra from day one, being just as strong in the brand culture even today?

Stine: High Quality, Innovation and Sustainability are three important values that have been with Vitra and its authors from the very beginning. A design that lasts in quality, in its use and beauty, proofs to last for generations. Sustainability depends on a responsible manufacturing, naturally, and also highly depends on the product longevity, the fact that it can be passed to the next generation or re-sold at an auction house.

The power of the original – how much does the emotion weigh in relation to an original product, in which you invest precisely because you understand its value?

Stine: Emotion weighs a lot. The best way to recognize the weight of emotion, which I here would translate to cultural understanding, is to visit the archive at the Vitra Design Museum which is one of the greatest chair collections in the world. Among others, here are the world’s largest Eames collection, and the most complete Jean Prouvé collection.

The Vitra Design Museum chair collection, which can be seen at the Vitra Schaudepot, is not only open for Vitra Campus visitors, but is actively being used for any development concerning the Vitra classics. At Vitra we always ask ourselves: What would Charles (Eames) say? What would Jean Prouvé say? And due to our cultural understanding, and the close cooperation with their legitimate heirs, we mostly know the answers.

Where do you think classic and original pieces find their place in today’s world, which increasingly capitalizes on the sustainability, recycling and reuse of old objects?

Stine: I believe they are more relevant than ever. Sustainability has always been a part of Vitra’s industrial culture. The Vitra classics have already proven their value for decades. At Vitra the manufacturing of sustainable products means the use of high-quality materials that are being tested to simulate 15 years of use, but finally proves to last much longer. For the Eames Aluminium Group, for example, this means that Vitra is able to offer a 30-year guarantee.

It is also important that individual components are easily replaced and recycled. Recently Vitra has initiated a customized take-back program that gives corporate clients to deliver back old products and Vitra makes sure they are being reused or recycled properly.

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