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Expormim's manufacturing process continues to use hand craftsmanship, adding to the sustainability of their furniture pieces

As design disciplines have become increasingly concerned about their effect on the environment over the last decade, many practitioners have taken a technocratic approach to minimizing their environmental impact. While it is certainly a problem that requires innovation and new materials and ways of working, it equally requires looking back to traditional forms of design, low-polluting fabrication techniques and vernacular materials.

Though many designers and manufacturers are starting to think about sustainability given the urgency of the climate crisis, sustainability has been a core company value for Expormim through its many iterations. Founded in 1960 under the name La Exportadora del Mimbre, as a furniture brand Expormim has a wealth of design, fabrication and material knowledge and expertise that it puts to use to create furniture pieces that forward sustainability.

© Mariluz Vidal

Founder of La Exportadora del Mimbre, Miguel Laso Tortosa decided to start the company following his travels through Europe, which were characterized by the emergence of industrial manufacturing. Upon returning to his hometown of Moixent, Laso Tortosa was struck by the lack of modernization that had taken place in the largely agricultural town. To export small wicker goods required first developing manufacturing processes that would be able to meet the scale of the demand. Thus, Laso Tortosa married the knowledge of local artisans in his hometown with the processes of industrial fabrication to create a manufacturing plant for wicker products in Moixent.

© Mariluz Vidal
© Mariluz Vidal

Following the conversion of the manufacturing plant in 1964 to produce larger pieces, La Exportadora quickly became an industry leader in wicker furniture. As the company’s success led to international recognition, La Exportadora was renamed Expormim in the 1980s to reflect the diversity of its new consumer markets.

Expormim’s Fontal chair designed by Oscar Tusquets Blanca

The brand has always maintained its core values of sustainable production and thoughtful craftsmanship and this continues to be the case today for Expormim, even as consumption habits have become more and more compulsive. More, specifically in furniture design, it has resulted in quickly changing trends (think fast fashion for interiors) and a lesser focus on quality, durability and timelessness.

Even in this new consumer climate, Expormim, which is still a family company — led by Mercedes Laso, Laso Tortosa’s granddaughter — has been steadfast in upholding the values that have been central to the company since its founding. Though the extent of modern industrialization could not have been foreseen at the time of Laso Tortosa starting La Exportadora del Mimbre, the need to employ traditional production techniques and to work with natural, renewable materials is now more pressing than ever in the context of the climate crisis.

Expormim’s Tina armchair designed by Benedetta Tagliabue
Expormim’s Frames chair by Jaime Hayon © Meritxell Aralaguer

Today, Expormim is the last operational industrial manufacturer of rattan furniture in Europe. Whereas most tree species need at least 50 years to mature and intensive harvesting methods to become usable lumber, rattan can easily be harvested with low-polluting methods after less than 10 years of growth. The manufacturing process also has a low-carbon footprint: primarily done by hand, the process makes use of a steam furnace to prepare and shape the material and recyclable nails and bolts and formaldehyde-free glue to affix pieces, which are finished with water-based dyes and varnishes. (Expormim is even working toward making their manufacturing process self-sufficient with the installation of a photovoltaic power plant.)

Apart from rattan, Expormim uses eco-friendly materials throughout their indoor and outdoor collections: natural materials, like wood, come from responsibly managed forests — ones that are certified through the PEFC Chain-of-Custody system; the aluminum they employ is an alloy made up of a high percentage of recycled material; as do their textiles give a second life to previously used acrylic fibres.

Expormim’s Pepe Loveseat designed by Benedetta Tagliabue

Their mode of production and choices of material take into account the full lifecycle of Expormim’s pieces. The materials and fabrication are made resistant to high-usage. Rattan’s low density and structural integrity makes for furniture that is strong but easy transport, making for shipping emissions that are much lower relative to comparable pieces crafted primarily from woods or metals. The products arrive to consumers packed in cardboard — 70 per cent of which is recycled. And when a piece’s lifespan eventually comes to an end, consumers can rest easy, knowing that the materials are wholly recyclable and won’t introduce additional waste into the environment.

Expormim’s Cask chair designed by Norm Architects © Meritxell Arjalaguer
Expormim’s Armadillo chair and ottoman designed by MUT Design © Meritxell Arjalaguer

This ethos and focus on the environment has earned Expormim the title of Sustainable Brand of the Year, as awarded by German Design. Not only does Expormim’s generational knowledge make for eco-conscious ways of producing, so does their attention to quality and craftsmanship. With a focus on creating well-made pieces with high-quality materials in timeless designs, Expormim’s collection is durable and will have longevity in any design scheme.

Expormim’s Livit lounger designed by Lievore Altherr Molina

This content was published by Azure on behalf of Expormim.

Expormim Looks to Vernacular Fabrication Techniques to Create Sustainable Furniture

Using knowledge that has been passed down through generations, furniture manufacturer Expormim creates eco-conscious pieces.

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