The Polypropylene side chair and armchair, 1960s British design classics by Robin Day, will be re-launched in the John Lewis Oxford Street redesigned Home Department to celebrate Robin Day’s centenary.
Robin Day, one of the most significant British furniture designers of the 20th Century, pioneered the use of the new plastic Polypropylene with furniture company Hille to produce the world’s first mass-produced, injection-moulded Polypropylene chair (1963). The ground-breaking Polypropylene chair represented a major breakthrough in furniture design technology and sold in tens of millions all over the world.
The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation has collaborated with the Hille Educational Products to re-launch the Polypropylene side chair and armchair in the iconic original colours – light grey, charcoal and the flame orange. The side chair is fitted with Robin Day’s original elegant P5 stacking frame, with a single neat weld on each side where the front and back legs meet. This frame had been dropped in the 1980s and successive poor productions had eroded the presentation of the classic designs. The Polypropylene side chair and armchair will now return to the market with all the freshness and authority they had when they were first launched in the 1960s.
Robin Day commented on the 1963 design: ‘this chair arose from the need for a multi-purpose side chair at very low cost. Some of the uses we had in mind were cafés and canteens, chairs for working at a table, seating in lecture halls and assembly halls, and high chairs for use at bars and benches.’
The Architect’s Journal described the Polypropylene chair as ‘the most significant development in British mass produced chair design since the war’, and in 1965 it received the British design establishment’s seal of approval in the form of a Design Centre Award.
Paula Day, daughter of Robin and Lucienne recalls the original launch: ‘There was a big display of the chairs in Hille’s showroom in Albemarle Street, with a sign saying that the year was ’63 and the chairs cost 63 shillings. Now as then, there’s probably no other chair with such high design status selling at such a low price. This was something my father passionately believed in – good design that was accessible to everyone.’
Brian Foster, Managing Director of Hille Educational Products Ltd comments, ‘Working with The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation to bring this design classic back to its former glory was a challenge and a learning experience, from matching the original colours to finding the perfect steel frame, we persevered and I really feel we have manufactured a Polypropylene side chair and Polypropylene armchair that Robin Day would have been very proud of.’
Robin and Lucienne Day greatly admired the John Lewis ethos and as Design Consultants from 1962 – 1987 they enjoyed a long and productive relationship with the company. The Polypropylene side chair and armchair collection will be re-launched in the redesigned Home department of John Lewis Oxford Street, as part of the Robin and Lucienne Day range at John Lewis.
Following the launch the Polypropylene side chair, armchair and 675 chair by Robin Day will be included in the John Lewis Design Icons department nationwide.
Robin Day believed that good design should be accessible to everyone, and John Lewis carries forward that principle by offering the Polypropylene side chair at £49 and the armchair at £59. Available from John Lewis.
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Notes to Editors
About Robin and Lucienne Day
After graduating from the RCA and working in exhibition and graphic design, Robin Day’s big break came when he and fellow design lecturer Clive Latimer won the 1948 International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. This heralded the start of his career in furniture design and his collaboration with the furniture manufacturer Hille. He was commissioned to design all the seating for London’s Royal Festival Hall, which opened at the Festival of Britain in 1951. His prolific work for Hille included the groundbreaking 1963 Polypropylene chair, which sold in tens of millions worldwide. Designs for other clients included televisions and radios for Pye, aircraft interiors for BOAC and seating for the Barbican centre, London. Robin Day was loved for his kindness and humour, and earnestly believed in the power of good design to improve everyone’s lives. 2015 is the centenary of Robin Day’s birth.
Lucienne Day, best known for her textiles, was a virtuoso pattern designer and colourist in a variety of media. Like her husband, she made her career breakthrough at The Festival of Britain when she launched her uncompromisingly modern textile ‘Calyx’. She went on to design over sixty outstanding furnishing fabrics for the seminal British retailer Heal’s, as well as dress fabrics, wallpapers, tea towels, carpets and china tableware for many other companies in Britain and overseas. In the mid-1970s, Day changed direction; developing a new medium she called ‘Silk Mosaics’. These one-off wall-hangings, hand stitched by her assistants in tiny squares of richly coloured silk, were exhibited and sold around the world. Her design style is characterised by a balance of delicacy and strength, and her personal determination and organizational ability underpinned both the Days’ design careers.
Though Robin and Lucienne Day mostly worked separately, John Lewis engaged them as joint Design Consultants. During their 25 years’ relationship with the company they initiated a transformation of every aspect of the house style. Lucienne’s largest silk mosaic ‘Aspects of the Sun’ was designed for a John Lewis coffee shop.
Robin and Lucienne Day were both awarded the OBE and were the first married couple both to be appointed Royal Designer for Industry.
The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation – registered charity number 1147979