Been there, done that.— Global


Instead of investing in new designs and manufacturing processes, increasing numbers of design firms are raiding their archives. Monocle visits two companies to find out why they’re looking backwards not forward.

Architectmade, Herman Miller

There’s an increasing sense of déjà vu in the design world. The number of companies dipping into their archives to bring back designs that have fallen off production lines is growing. Cassina, Poltrona Frau, Tacchini, Agape, Ligne Roset, Vitra, Artek, Knoll – these are just a few bigger brands that have reissued designs of late.

When brands devote much of their money, marketing and stand space to products that were designed 60, 70, even 80 years ago, it prompts the question of what’s happening to an industry that has progress, innovation and dev…

Paddles and Motorboards

Two areas directly affected by reissued designs are the auction market and graduate designers. “It’s our job to make collectors aware of the difference between an original and a reissue. Though the prices fetched for the originals tend not to be affected when a design object is reissued, collectors find it frustrating that the market is diluted,” says Alexander Payne, global design director of Phillips de Pury.

The prognosis for the graduate is more severe. “When companies start to rely on the same group of contemporary designers and products from their own archives, the opportunities open to graduates quickly dry up,” says Gareth Williams, senior tutor of design products at the RCA. “Companies forget that it was investment in young designers and their creative ideas that spawned revolutionary designs first time round. Can these products really be considered radical and innovative when they appear on the market for a second time?”

Japanese classics

Fifteen years ago, mid-century furniture in Japan meant Charles Eames and Hans Wegner. That’s all changed now and appreciation for homegrown design has soared.

The 60Vision project founded by Kenmei Nagaoka of D&Department kick-started Japan’s reissue boom. Nagaoka’s mission was to reintroduce great Japanese designs, working with old furniture companies such as Karimoku and Maruni, to unearth outstanding pieces and bring them to a new audience.

Tendo Mokko, the furniture company where Sori Yanagi produced his iconic Butterfly Stool, has dozens of design gems on its books. Tendo enthusiast Arata Tamura set up Tendo Ply, a Tokyo offshoot of the company, picking some of the best pieces and giving them a new lease of life.

Hakusan Porcelain, whose tableware is used in homes up and down Japan, also has dozens of everyday classics in production, many designed by the late Masahiro Mori.

Top five reissued designs


Ottagonale coffee set by Carlo Alessi

Designed: 1935
Reissued: 2010 by Alessi

“The normalcy of these household objects has always struck me,” says Alberto Alessi, president of Alessi and Carlo’s son.“ They were heavily influenced by an obsessive attention to function, proper manufacturing methods and production costs.” This stainless steel coffee set was one of the first Italian mass manufactured designs.


Potence wall lamp by Jean Prouvé

Designed: 1950
Reissued: 2002 by Vitra

This lamp was originally designed for Prouvé’s Maison Tropicale concept prefab houses. Eckart Maise, Vitra’s chief design operator, says: “We added it to our collection because it is a great wall lamp and sculpture at the same time.”


Mole sofa by Sergio Rodriguez

Designed: 1961
Reissued: 2010 by ClassiCon

Still the ultimate lounge sofa, the curved tauari wood frame supports a piece of upholstered leather, which drapes over the arms. It’s now having a second life thanks to German manufacturers ClassiCon. “Mole is the most comfortable piece of furniture on the market,” says Oliver Holy, CEO of ClassiCon.


Minikitchen by Joe Colombo

Designed: 1963
Reissued: 2006 by Boffi

Just half a cubic metre in size, the original Minikitchen was on wheels and had one power socket. Boffi relaunched the design, upscaling it but keeping the original features. “We realised this was a very modern project – a small kitchen, suitable for our times, as houses get smaller and space has to be properly organised,” says Boffi’s CEO Roberto Gavazzi.


Aoba Mon series by Masahiro Mori

Designed: 1965
Reissued: 2006 by Hakusan

When Masahiro Mori designed his Aoba Mon (Blue Leaf pattern) series for Hakusan Porcelain in 1965, the intricate design proved tricky to reproduce and the prototypes were left to languish in a warehouse. Forty years later Hakusan revived the design and it is now a firm favourite.


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