Charles and Ray Eames began their relationship with Vitra and its founding family, the Fehlbaums, in 1957.
Willi Fehlbaum, Charles Eames, and Rolf Fehlbaum.
Vitra is a Swiss company dedicated to improving the quality of homes, offices, and public spaces through the power of design.
Initially founded by Willi and Erika Fehlbaum as a shopfitting business, Vitra entered the furniture market in 1957 with the licensed production of furniture from the Herman Miller Collection—primarily designs by Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson—for the European market. In 1967 the company introduced the Panton Chair by Verner Panton—the first cantilever chair out of plastic. In 1977, Rolf Fehlbaum took over the management of Vitra, and in 1984, Herman Miller and Vitra terminated their partnership by mutual consent. Subsequently, Vitra obtained the rights to designs by Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, and Alexander Girard for Europe and the Middle East.
In 1981 a major fire strongly affected the development of the company. The reconstruction of the production facilities in Weil am Rhein led to the Vitra Campus. After the redevelopment of the site, the first public building on the campus was the Vitra Design Museum. Founded in 1989 and housed in a building by Frank Gehry, the museum is partly based on its broad collection of 20th-century furniture as well as a host of visiting exhibitions.
Initiated in 1993, the research and exhibition Citizen Office: Ideas and Notes on a New Office World, led to an internationally traveling exhibition of the Vitra Design Museum. A new vision for the office evolved in cooperation with Andrea Branzi, Michele De Lucchi, Ettore Sottsass, and James Irvine, based on the premise that an office is not only a workspace but also a living space. The vision led to the logical conclusion that the design of an office should take the emotional and social needs of employees into account, which has since had a lasting effect on the formulation of design ideas linked to contemporary offices. From the 1970s until the late 1990s, Vitra focused on the office furniture sector.
In 2002, Fehlbaum initiated a new direction for the company, which also considered the realm of domestic living. In this sense, within the framework of discussions with Jasper Morrison and the brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, the basic concept of the Vitra Home Collection was developed. Launched in 2004, the Home Collection includes Vitra Classics as well as contemporary designs.
Vitra believes in the importance of sustainability and integrates it into their work. Fehlbaum once said, “Sustainability is just like morals: one should live by them and not just talk about them. Our roots in modern design make the first step easy: We make products that avoid the superfluous and last for a very long time.”
In 2014, Rolf Fehlbaum became Chairman Emeritus and an active member of the Board of Directors of Vitra, and his niece Nora Fehlbaum took the reigns as CEO.
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