Another global winner for Kiwi firm

Last updated 05:00 30/06/2014
Remix chairs
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WINNER: The Remix family of chairs in the Knoll showroom at the Neocon fair in Chicago.

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A Wellington company's chair design has recently won gold in the marquee event at the "Olympics" of commercial interior design in the United States.

Lower-Hutt based Formway Design, originally established in 1956 as Petone Engineering, won the award at the NeoCon trade show in Chicago this month.

NeoCon was attended by more than 40,000 architecture and design professionals, and is considered North America's largest conference of its type.

Entries were made by 700 exhibitors in 39 different categories, ranging from desking to lighting and chairs.

Formway Design's Remix office chair won gold in the task seating category, which company co-general manager Kent Parker described as equivalent to winning the 100 metre sprint at the Olympics.

"If you win this one, you've got a pretty good foundation for the upcoming period.

"You're basically winning the game against the big companies of the America."

This was the sixth time Formway Design had won the award, following on from its Life and Be chairs.

The Life chair was the first chair Formway Design created for the global market and more than one million have been sold since it was launched in 2002.

It famously became the seat of choice for former United States president Bill Clinton and Apple boss Steve Jobs.

Formway's Be chair was launched in 2009 and became the fastest selling seating product in the history of Knoll, the company's United States partner.

It sells for about US$925 (NZ$1100), and was last year worth about $60m in sales to Knoll on sales of more than 100,000 chairs, just in the United States.

Parker said they hoped the Remix chair, which would be available from October in the US, and next year in New Zealand, would match the success of its earlier chairs.

Formway's business model is based on identifying opportunities or niches in the market, designing a solution, and partnering with a manufacturer to make it available for sale. It licenses the products to manufacturers for a fee, before earning royalties on chairs sold thereafter.

Co-general manager Paul Wilkinson said the Remix chair was a new take on the upholstered end of the market, which had had very little innovation before.

"It's new technology and a very familiar form, something that you understand and look at and go, ‘I get that that's going to be comfortable, I can see that's going to be comfortable.'

"When you sit in it you get a bit of a surprise about the performance."

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Parker said the gold award was validation for three years' work on the chair, the first big performance seating product it had launched since 2009.

"The biggest validation is when they sell in huge volumes.

"It's pretty important to us, we're pretty stoked."

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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