British talk shows had a particularly loose spirit in the 1990s. “People were just smoking away, having a kind of gaudy, drunken chat on the sofa,” says Alex Holloway, creative director of London design firm Holloway Li. Hoping to capture this playful energy, Holloway and his studio co-founder, Na Li, set out to create a similarly cheeky furniture collection.
The result is T4, a series of modular seating in vibrant colours and blown-up proportions. Indeed, Holloway and Li were also inspired by the inflatable armchairs from their childhood bedrooms, and sought to develop something that looked “amorphous and chubby” but was deceptively lightweight.
To achieve this desired airiness, the duo enlisted Turkish manufacturer Uma, which specializes in fibreglass auto parts and had previously collaborated with Holloway Li on resin panels for a London showroom project. “They know how to deal with complex geometries and they have a really exacting level of detail in production,” Holloway says.
After he and Li perfected the design’s curvatures using a 3D CAD program, Uma’s engineering department made a CNC-machined pattern to create moulds that form the chair’s various fibreglass components. First produced as custom one-offs for a few select Holloway Li projects (including Holloway’s own apartment), T4 officially launched for purchase at London Design Festival this past fall. The modular design allows for both individual armchairs as well as sofas or chaise configurations. Fabric options range from a chenille linen blend to a bouclé wool mix upholstery, all manufactured in Turkey to keep production in one place.
T4’s playful palette is another big part of its appeal. Rather than spray-coating the chairs, moulds are instead gel-coated and then laminated to ensure a durable surface that won’t scratch or fade over time. Each of the collection’s four tones represents a personal, often era-specific story. Holloway describes Cream Soda as “a murky, white, dirty, yellowy plastic colour” that you’d find on ’90s computer monitors, while Overground Orange nods to London’s above-ground Tube line.
The chair’s side profile holds a final, slightly surrealist twist. “It’s almost like a set of lips bursting out from the fibreglass chassis,” says Holloway, citing Salvador Dalí’s 1938 Mae West Lips sofa as a latent influence. How appropriate for a chair designed to act as the ultimate conversation piece.
The ’90s are alive and well in the London design studio’s modular seating collection.