Vitra and G-Star RAW Relaunching 1940s Jean Prouvé Office Furniture

Gabrielle Golenda Gabrielle Golenda

Prouvé RAW: Office Edition — Vitra and G-Star RAW’s second furniture collection of updated designs by the French architect and designer — launches next month at the Milan Furniture Fair. Included in the collection are revamped versions of furniture and lighting fixtures that were originally designed for 1940s French industrial company offices.

Catherine Prouvé at center. All images courtesy G-Star Raw.

As the story goes, G-Star wanted furniture for their new OMA-designed headquarters in Amsterdam, built in 2014. Being fans of Prouvé, they decided to develop an office system out of his office furniture. As one thing led to another, Vitra and G-Star RAW were asked to make the whole collection and given drawings from the Centre Pompidou, the Met, and Jean Prouvé’s granddaughter Catherine.

The Swiss manufacturer and Dutch denim brand collaborated with Prouvé’s family to update his designs, developing the ten-piece range, which includes desks, chairs, tables, cabinets, desk lamps, and wall-mounted reading lights. The updates also include a new palette of materials and colored finishes.

Desks with wooden tops and steel legs were given modular adaptation with addition of small drawers beneath the work surface, plus gutters for computer cables and concealed power plugs, as well as adjustable legs.

And that is exactly what ties the collection together: All of the pieces are primarily constructed from either steel, solid timber, or a combination of the two. Woven throughout the collection, the strands of steel are coated in three layers of muted greens (with a subtly glossy finish), which smartly reference burly old industrial machinery. Like the wooden elements woven throughout the collection, the dark leather and grey fabric upholstery unites the softness associated with those materials with the coolness associated with the machine aesthetic.

The updates to the furniture are not only aesthetic, but also ergonomic and economic. As 21st-century human beings (especially Dutch 21st-century human beings) are rather taller than their 1940’s counterparts, ergonomic changes were made to extend pieces for the use of the contemporary-sized man or woman. Vitra will retail individual pieces at the $2,000 price level, making Prouvé more accessible than ever before. And that was intentionally part of the design specification, as he wanted his designs to be democratic, it doesn’t deviate far from his original vision.

A wheeled swivel desk chair that was given a new base with five struts at the bottom to make it more stable.

Jean Prouvé is mainly associated with the achievement of transferring industrial manufacturing technology into architecture without the loss of aesthetic sensibility. Like other Post-WWII designers, Prouvé was inspired by a renewed optimism and the new materials, manufacturing techniques, colors, and forms that became available in the decade after the war. The architect-engineer pioneered the use of lightweight folded steel in both furniture and architecture. So in a contemporary context, this collection is a sort of homage to the new techniques and materials of the more relaxed, affordable, and easily mass-produced designs that came out of Mid-Century Modern.

In a sense, Vitra and G-Star Raw made high-brow accessible and translatable to all brows: high, middle, and low. Whether you’re a fan of the jeans or you’re looking for something a little different from, say, a Panton Chair, the Prouvé RAW collection is a chance to get your hands on iconic design at a reasonable price.

Following the launch in Milan, the collection with be available online from G-Star RAW.

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