For inspiration for the future, where better to look than the past? For Expormim, the drive for innovation and refinement is rooted in respect for history and heritage. Case in point? The iconic Lapala chair, which marks its 25th anniversary with a standout new edition that epitomizes the renowned Spanish company’s reverence for tradition, craft and sustainability.
Designed by Lievore Altherr Molina, the Lapala chair was first introduced in 1998 for a company belonging to the Expormim group. For the trio of Alberto Lievore, Jeannette Altherr and Manel Molina, a collaboration with Expormim offered a rare chance to merge traditional craft and modern manufacturing. Originally an indoor chair with a woven wicker seat and back, the streamlined design was a versatile blend of clean, contemporary lines and handmade production. “In those days, it was not common in industrial design to work with traditional techniques, so it was a challenge,” recalls Manel Molina. “The design of the Lapala chair is very attractive but at that time it was challenging to find a company capable of mass producing a design that requires such high craft technique.”
Fortunately, the designers’ interest in merging heritage and contemporary design was complemented by Expormim’s drive to reimagine historical craftsmanship for a new context. It’s a sentiment echoed by Alberto Ales, Product Manager at the Expormim Design Department: “The Lapala chair had it all – a very high traditional craftsmanship, but at the same time masterfully resolved in an industrial way,” says Ales. “A simple, modest and humble chair, which had aged very well. The chair matched our philosophy very well. At that time, Expormim was on the way to recovering all its ‘know how,’ going back to the roots of working in rattan furniture with the help of architects and designers such as Oscar Tusquets Blanca, Benedetta Tagliabue and Jaime Hayon. The Lapala chair had a clear Mediterranean aesthetic — and it was a good representation of our basket-making tradition, our culture, what we were and what we wanted to be.”
The result spoke for itself — Lapala became an understated icon. And in 2015, the design was rescued from the archives, with a new outdoor edition introduced. Nautical rope and stainless ensured an exceptionally durable design, translating the streamlined aesthetic into a new range of uses. And this year — which also marks the 10th anniversary of Expormim USA — an artfully updated indoor version introduces subtly adapted ergonomics and modernized fabrication. “The new 25th Anniversary version is more sophisticated than its predecessor,” explains Molina. “Ergonomics has also improved, taking inspiration from the outdoor edition of Lapala made of nautical rope. Technology has also been incorporated into its manufacturing, so that small aesthetic details improve its final appearance.”
A precisely contoured metal frame meets the rattan’s soft, gentle curves, which are crafted with meticulous precision. For every chair, eight hours are required to weave the shell, using only the highest quality, sustainably sourced natural wicker. Simple yet sophisticated, it is a design that allows the material to express its quality. “It is wonderful in itself, breathable, structured and has a unique colour that cannot be compared to a textile material,” says Jeannette Altherr.
And while the light yet highly durable wicker seat exemplifies the sustainable potential of natural materials, the design itself is a testament to enduring quality. “The main vindication of the sustainable qualities of Lapala is the timelessness of the design,” says Molina. “Its handmade nature contributes greatly to enhancing this timelessness.” Here’s to the next 25 years — and then some.
This content was published by Azure on behalf of Expormim.
Studio Lievore Altherr Molina revisits a 1998 classic, complementing a timeless design with improved ergonomics and precision fabrication.