Italian excellence operating internationally, Flos is a successful business case based on innovation, design and the flexible business model that has made Italy a heaven for international designers since the 1980s.

Flos today represents Italian excellence, an internationally recognised actor in the residential and contract lighting sector, but above all it is the story of a successful business case, developed from the role of innovation, a fundamental element both in the original creation of the company and in the subsequent development of the brand. Besides product quality, Flos immediately grasped the importance of a flexible business model, the central role of distribution and the balance between the creativity of the designers and overall entrepreneurial quality, investing not only in the image of the product, entrusted to professionals, but also in the corporate image, collaborating with famous names such as Pino Tovaglia, Max Huber and Italo Lupi, to name but a few.

Founded in Meran in 1962 by two great protagonists of Made in Italy – Dino Gavina and Cesare Cassina with Sergio Biliotti – the company passed to the Gandini family in 1964, who moved the headquarters to the Brescia area where Sergio Gandini already owned a furniture shop, Stile. Cocoon, a plastic material (spray polymer), used in the USA during World War II to protect tanks during transfers, was imported to Germany in 1959, and then to Italy, in Meran, by Arturo Eiseinkeil with the intention of applying it to the production of lighting fixtures. With its vast expressive potential, cocoon became, in the expert hands of the Castiglioni brothers and Tobia Scarpa, who were immediately called upon to experiment with it, the distinctive material of the first fixtures in the catalogue, destined to become design icons: the Viscontea and Taraxacum models (1960) and, immediately afterwards, Gatto and Fantasma (Tobia Scarpa), some of which are now part of the permanent collection of the MoMa in New York.

This was just the beginning of a path marked by the creation of formal archetypes that, while interpreting very different expressive languages, characterised the company by their innovative capacity. Those were the years of Foglio (1966), a “minimal sculpture” in bent steel, or Biagio (1968), designed by Tobia Scarpa and conceived for mass reproduction even though it was made from a traditional block of marble; or of the typological innovation introduced with the Arco lamp (a versatile replacement for pendant lamps) and the Parentesi lamp (Castiglioni brothers+Pio Manzù), of only apparent simplicity: a lighting bulb mounted on a joint that slides on a cable stretched between the ceiling and the ground, which won the Compasso d’Oro in 1979. Just last year, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the company, with Calvi and Brambilla, philologically reinterpreted its essence through colour: two versions, one in turquoise (very dear to Achille Castiglioni) and the other in Signal Orange, the colour Manzù used for his car design prototypes.

At the end of the 1980s, when Sergio’s son Piero Gandini joined the company (Managing Director in 1996 and Chairman in 1999), the exclusive collaboration with Philippe Starck, an emerging designer on the international scene, opened the way for the internationalisation of the company and the entry of a second generation of designers including Antonio Citterio, Piero Lissoni, Jasper Morrison, Konstantin Grcic, Patricia Urquiola, Marcel Wanders, Ron Gilad, the Bouroullec brothers, Michael Anastassiades, Vincent Van Duysen, Nendo and Formafantasma. The Compasso d’Oro Career Prize (1994) – with the following motivation: “Flos has successfully adopted a policy of advanced exploration, building a coherent offer that testifies to how the same entrepreneurial objectives can be translated into cultural factors” – was followed, in the 1990s, by the creation of the Light Contract division (1996) – recently renamed Flos Bespoke – which decreed the company’s success also in the custom lighting sector. Links with other international companies, and the production and commercial expansion of the company (Flos Architectural and Flos Outdoor divisions), characterised the course of the 2000s, leading Flos to play a leading role today in offering integrated solutions in the lighting sector, distributed in more than 90 countries worldwide. With Roberta Silva, appointed CEO of Flos in 2019, the company since 2018, together with other European companies, has joined one of the largest global groups in the high-end interior design sector, The Design Holding.

Among its most recent achievements, Flos has signed the lighting design for the exhibition Realismo Magico at Palazzo Reale in Milan, curated by Gabriella Belli and Valerio Terraroli and set up on a project by Mario Bellini, with the inclusion of a high-tech product: Camera, a universal LED track projector system, equipped with state-of-the-art optics and silicone lenses, which allows the light to be optimally calibrated so as not to damage the works on display. Together with Knud Holscher’s minimalist design, Flos will be presenting a special installation in the temporary bookshop of the exhibition, featuring the iconic Chiara lamp designed in 1969 by Mario Bellini. Characterized by the economy of the process, the Chiara lamp, produced using a sheet of polished stainless steel, cut and rolled up to form a cylinder, was reissued in 2020 with new details and new dimensions and finishes

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