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Salone 2017: Barber&Osgerby Talk Vitra’s New Mariposa Club

Narelle Yabuka caught up with dynamic duo Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby at Salone and quizzed them about their new Mariposa Club chairs for Vitra.

  • "Simplicity, serenity and spaciousness set the tone for the Vitra exhibition stand at this year’s Salone del Mobile. We are showing four different scenes in four distinct spatial structures. Our presentation puts the focus on the furnishings, which visitors can try out on site", says Nora Fehlbaum, Vitra CEO.

  • The new Mariposa Club designed by Barber&Osgerby for vitra. Launched at Salone del Mobile 2017.

  • The new Mariposa Club designed by Barber&Osgerby for vitra. Launched at Salone del Mobile 2017.

  • The new Mariposa Club designed by Barber&Osgerby for vitra. Launched at Salone del Mobile 2017.

  • The new Mariposa Club designed by Barber&Osgerby for vitra. Launched at Salone del Mobile 2017.

  • English design duo Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby.

  • On two platforms near the main entrance, visitors are invited to test the new Vitra products at the Hall 20, Stand D09 / E16 location.

  • Natural materials such as linen, wool, solid wood and genuine stone are important elements in the Vitra Home Collection. They serve as the leitmotif of the stand’s design. Slightly reflective aluminium panels enclose the various spatial structures, leaving gaps in the exterior wall that allow partial views and arouse the curiosity of visitors to view the inside of the stand.

Three years ago Vitra launched Mariposa, a sofa collection designed by Barber & Osgerby as ‘an upholstered platform for life’ that can host a slew activities at home. This year, the brand has expanded the Mariposa family with Mariposa Club Sofa and Mariposa Club Armchair. Smaller in size without losing their comfort and flair, these new pieces are suitable for smaller living spaces and for use in lounge and hospitality settings. Narelle Yabuka quizzed Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby at the Vitra stand at the Salone del Mobile.

Why do you enjoy working with Vitra? What makes this an important brand to you?

 Jay Osgerby (JO): Vitra is one of the best companies in the world because they are passionate about investing in products that last a long time, and they use innovative materials and new processes. They don’t rush projects. It has to be right.

Edward Barber (EB): They’re also so open to new ideas. Whatever we throw at them, they never say ‘Oh don’t be stupid.’ They always say, ‘Ok, yes maybe.’ They’re always prepared to make a prototype or to take an idea to a point where either it takes off or we forget about it. Nothing is off the table. Everything is considered in a serious way.

JO: They really listen to what their designers perceive. Often people ask us how our projects come about. Most of the time the projects for Vitra come from us. They’re observations that we’ve made about something – a new requirement for something, a new need. A lot of other manufacturers try to fill their own product pipeline and they think they know what the world needs.

What is the need you’re addressing with the new editions of Mariposa?

 EB: We launched Mariposa three years ago. It’s been very well received. It was an idea to have, as we were calling it at the time, an ‘upholstered platform for life’. So you can watch a movie, you can sleep, you can have two people facing each other on their laptops in the evening; it’s a piece for everything. But with that, with all the flexibility and the movement, it becomes quite a big piece. So for some homes, it’s a little bit too big.

So we considered reducing it in scale. But as we reduced it, we realised that having the movement was really part of the problem for the scale. So we eliminated that and had a very simple compact version of it. And as we developed it we realised it’s probably more suitable for commercial spaces – for hospitality, hotels, airline lounges, reception areas. It’s come out really well – so much so that I want to have the club sofa at home. It’s really comfortable.

Yes it feels so soft. 

 Yes, if we’d designed that for some other companies, it might just have had a block of foam. It would look exactly the same, but when you sit in it, it would feel very different because of the technology that Vitra have developed for upholstery. Inside there’s a lot of complex structure, webbing and injection moulded foam – just to make sure that everything feels really good.

And it looks the way it feels. It looks soft and cartoon like.


Was that an intention?

EB: Not really, but now you say it, it’s kind of good! It does look comfortable, I have to say.

JO: With the big change in people’s working habits, we need to start thinking more about compact seating, small sofas, for people to be able to work on their laptops – even at work in this co-working landscape. So it’s a way of bringing Mariposa to more of a universal market.

What do you think people should be talking about around the Salone and Milan Design Week, but aren’t? Are there issues nobody is talking about but should be?

EB: Yes. There’s too much stuff being produced. And probably, it would make more sense to do the fair every two years – like Orgatec. Things need to calm down a bit. When the fiera started, there were so few things happening. Now, there’s a lot of pressure put on all the companies to produce new things all the time, even when they don’t really need them. This creates a huge amount of wastage in a way. It also compromises the existing product, which you don’t want to do. But if you don’t have something new, everyone’s like, ‘Oh what’s happened to that brand?’ I think that’s something that should be discussed. And I think designers would probably welcome it as well.

JO: I agree. We’re fanning the flames of consumerism for the sake of it. Furniture is a really big purchase. To push it into the world of fashion by having to do this constant churn, devalues it as a profession. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about longevity and producing things that are really appropriate.

Vitra is available in Australia through Space Furniture and Living Edge

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