Milan Design Week: Customize Your Furniture

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The Brazilian company behind the ever-popular Melissa shoe line launches a collection of chairs, tables and more – by such designers as Philippe Starck and Industrial Facility – that can by tweaked and finessed to the end-user’s whims.

The launch of TOG (short for “All Creators Together”) was live-streamed on the Wallpaper* website last Monday evening. That’s how much hype surrounded the debut of this furniture brand by Brazilian company Grendene, makers of the cult shoe range Melissa and one of the world’s largest manufacturers of injection-moulded plastic footwear.

TOG has a praiseworthy vision: bringing designers, customers and makers closer together. Customers can buy the product online or in-store (the first flagship will open in São Paulo by summer), choosing from a vast range of colours, finishes and materials. They can further customize the piece by sending it to a range of artists, craftspeople and designers – the brand calls them “customizers” – who individualize the product by painting it, carving it or adding woven or other fabric covers and elements. TOG currently boasts 25 customizers (found online and on their just-launched app) but believes that number will soon jump to hundreds and thousands. As Philippe Starck bellowed out theatrically at the launch: “At TOG, everyone can become a creator.”

Its first collection, created by Philippe Starck, Industrial Facility and Sebastian Bergne – to mention some of the biggest names – is by turns ironic, original and intelligent. Above all, the company promises the line will be affordable. London-based Industrial Facility’s Tubo chair exhibits sophisticated yet low-cost engineering, while its desk and trolley range features movable shelf elements and combines powder-coated steel structures with such natural materials as marble and wood. Starck has contributed a folding aluminum and leather chair, Sebastien Bergne a stackable aluminum chair for the outdoors and young Paris designer Ambroise Maggiar a range of children’s desks and stools embellished with imagery of voodoo masks.

At times the products were less inspiring. Some of the pieces, in particular a few of Philippe Starck’s, felt a bit seen-it-before, and the abundance of greenish yellows and pale oranges in the colour palette felt at times cold and drab. Japanese-born, Paris-based Dai Sugasawa’s large injection-moulded bone bench seemed obvious at first, but on closer inspection exuded a certain minimal purity, as well as a sensual yet masculine aura. Sugasawa only wants it to be produced in one colour: white.

What was undeniable, however, was the energy and relatively ego-free buzz around the brand at the launch. With no art director (instead, Italian designer Nicola Rapetti acts as its design, research and development director), it aims to be all about creative freedom. As Sebastien Bergne enthusiastically explained, “The idea is to bring together the best of industry with the best of individual creativity.”

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