Sitting Pretty: Virgil Abloh Remixes a Beloved French Armchair
Jean Prouvé’s “Antony” chair, first produced in 1954, gets a very 2019 update.
Virgil Abloh, the multi-disciplinary designer who has built his prodigious career on the notion of “remixing” existing ideas, often aided by plastisol ink and quotation marks, has teamed up with the legendary furniture company Vitra on a limited-edition, three-object collection. One of those objects is a loud and modernist variation of Jean Prouve’s “Antony” chair, a beloved armchair that was first produced back in 1954. And like much of Abloh’s handiwork, he’s transformed the chair into something that is certain to turn some heads, or at the very least, get you to double-tap when you see it on Instagram.
This isn’t Abloh’s first time partnering with a titan of the furniture industry. His Ikea collection—one that includes rugs with cumbersome slogans and a Paul McCobb-“inspired” chair with a plastic zip-tie—is slowly starting to trickle out this year. But Vitra is vastly different than Ikea. The family-owned company opts for quality, not quantity and has worked with some of the most prolific industrial designers to ever live: Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Gehry, George Nelson, Isamu Noguchi—and of course, Jean Prouvé.
Like Abloh, Prouvé was a bit of a cross-disciplinary man himself. The Frenchman was originally trained as a metal artisan and spent nearly two decades running his own workshop before evolving to focus on furniture design. (Abloh was trained as an architect before becoming a creative director and fashion designer.) Metal would remain a key material of his work and he would eventually establish his own furniture company, too. During the later years of his life, Prouvé served as a consultant on a number of high-profile architectural projects in Paris. His vast and unique skill set led the revered Le Corbusier to give him the nickname of “constructeur”, for his ability to blend creative architectural thinking with technical engineering skills.
The Antony chair is emblematic of Prouvé’s work, a precise silhouette with a harmonic balance of metal and wood. The dynamically curved wooden shell skews more artful than some of his other chairs, like the simplicity of the “Standard” chair or the straightforwardness of the “Direction” chair. The mid-1950s-era armchair was also one of the French designer's last furniture creations before focusing on architecture and lecturing. With close cooperation from the Prouvé family, Vitra began producing re-editions of his designs back in 2002.
Now, in 2019, Abloh has updated the design with a clear plexiglass shell that reveals the supporting metal structure. Instead of the usual dull base, the metal has been powder coated with a bright orange lacquer finish. If the original Antony chair commanded the attention of the room it was placed in, Abloh’s version is sure to command the attention of all scrolling his Instagram feed—which is exactly what Vitra was likely hoping for.