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Inside Flos

A bright idea

At the origin of Flos there is a bright thought: the idea of giving birth to objects suitable to change the way of living, not only of Italians. So at the beginning of the 60s a certain Mr Gavina, with the small producer of Merano Eisenkeil, gets in the lead - after having created many new furniture (with the brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, Afra and Tobia Scarpa and other masters of design) - that it is also time to create new lamps. So the Castiglioni and the Scarpa, with the cocoon technique, conceived in the USA and experimented by Eisenkeil, begin to make lamps such as the Taraxacum or the Fantasma. Many other lamps, beautiful and surprising, follow these first ones: so already from its prehistory Flos (Fiore, in Latin, name that Pier Giacomo Castiglioni chooses for her) finds himself reinventing the idea of artificial lighting.

1962 Gianfranco Frattini and Dino Gavina
Sergio Gandini with Afra and Tobia Scarpa
Sergio Gandini with Afra and Tobia Scarpa
1962 A. & P.G. Castiglioni with M. Breuer
1960 Fantasma by Tobia Scarpa

Becoming Flos

How does an industry become a laboratory where the idea of "lamp" is revolutionized? For Sergio Gandini, who began to manage Flos in 1963, there is no contradiction between the business project and creative imagination: combined they will lead his company to success. The industrial infrastructure of Brescia is perfect for giving designers maximum freedom of action, be it the Jucker lamp by Tobia Scarpa - inspired by the Bauhaus - or the revolutionary Arco dei Castiglioni. First and for a long time unique among the Italian design industries, Flos bases its strategies on what today would be called a Think Tank. Gandini and his exclusive designers (Castiglioni, Scarpa) decide together products, communication, image... Together they trace the lines of their desires, the design lines that will lead to the creation of the most iconic lamps in the history of lighting.

A. Castiglioni original drawing for Arco
Original shot for Taccia_Flos catalogue_ 1962
1962 Taccia by A. & P.G. Castiglioni
Arco lamp manufacturing in the Flos factory in Nave
1969 first window set up of the Flos store in Milan by A. Castiglioni

From MoMA to the world

The 1972 exhibition “Italy The New Domestic Landscape” at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York, the most important contemporary art museum in America, reveals to the world an unprecedented popular italian phenomenon in industrial and artistic culture. Flos appears in the exhibition with many lamps, especially by the Castiglioni brothers: this is its international consecration as an avant-garde enterprise and since then the popularity and development of the company go hand in hand. Production (with new factories), the market (with the first foreign fsubsidiaries) and the catalogue of products, also with the acquisition of Gino Sarfatti’s Arteluce, grew between the 1970s and the 1980s. And it is yet another exhibition, the great solo exhibition of Achille Castiglioni that since 1984 has been held in museums of eight European capitals, from Vienna to Madrid, to confirm that the Flos experience is unique, unrepeatable and unpredictable in its continuous evolution.

1972 advertising page. Graphic design by Pino Tovaglia
1972 opening of the Flos store in Turin
The new Flos factory in Bovezzo (Brescia)
1984 Achille Castiglioni installation at the MAK museum in Vienna
Achille Castiglioni hand sketch for Parentesi

Miss Sissi and Mister Gandini

Every great success comes from the courage of a bet. Already in the mid-80s Sergio Gandini meets the still young Philippe Starck and starts the production of his fairy-tale lamp Arà. His son Piero develops it industrially, He sensed the genius of the most postmodern of the new designers and decided to mass-produce a plastic object for a hotel in New York: a sort of icon of the lamp, the lamp Miss Sissi. "What everyone unconsciously thinks is a lamp," Starck will say, when it turns out to be a resounding success (8,000 pieces sold in the first 10 days, 100,000 in a year). It is the first of a long series of iconic best-sellers generated with Starck or Castiglioni, which with new technologies and materials update the Flos image and open up other avenues of research and development.

A. Castiglioni with Luminator. Ph J.B. Mondino
Achille Castiglioni with Brera. Advertising by J.B. Mondino
Philippe Starck e Ara
Philippe Starck with Arà
1988 Achille Castiglioni with Taraxacum 88

From one millennium to the next

Even with Piero Gandini, Flos focuses on the harmony between iconic shapes, craftsmanship and technology for the series: but the decisive step for change is to accept that there are so many languages of the contemporary object, at least as the languages of the World. Thus Flos enlisted the most promising talents of international design: from the Australian "futuribile" Marc Newson, with the Helice Lamp (1993), the English prophet of minimalist design Jasper Morrison, up to Konstantin Grcic, the most refined and eclectic of German designers. International talents such as the advertising superstar Bruno Le Moult and the famous photographer Jean Baptiste Mondino, who creates unusual and fascinating images for historical and new products, are also present in the communication. When the founder Sergio Gandini passed away at the turn of the millennium, Flos was already a well-equipped industry to face the challenges of globalization.

Sketch for Milan Flos Flagship store by Bruno Le Moult
1994 Milano Flos Flagship store window setup by Bruno Le Moult
2001 Konstantin Grcic with Mayday
Arco by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. Advertising by J.B. Mondino
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Flos Bespoke project at La Pelota

Avant-garde and the contemporary

Developing a new reality and identity Flos also means the courage of radical choices. Facing the challenge of the invasion of LEDs on the planet Light is the first act of a second revolution in production, which begins early, in the early 2000s, when Flos acquires from Federico Martinez the Spanish company Antares, to become Flos Architectural lighting, dedicated to professional lighting for large areas, public spaces and environments. Piero Gandini discovers and hires new designers, who imagine openings, additions, autonomous lighting elements. These new designs become architecture of light, with the use of the most advanced technology. But the same technology can generate real works of art, like the sculpture lamps Ohhh!!! and Ahhh!!! by Starck in crystal Baccarat, animated by phrases (Truisms) of the American artist Jenny Holzer that flow on LED: critical statements on the values of consumerism, paradoxical because grafted on objects of luxury and desire. Thus begins - between art and technology - the path of a production that goes beyond schemes and conventions, an adventurous exploration from which we will never go back.

Antares showroom in Valencia (Spain)
Product assembling in Antares
Flos Professional Space in Milan, designed by Jasper Morrison
Palazzo Grazzi
2010 Wallpiercing by Ron Gilad

For a new lighting culture

If the future is already today, what is the artificial light of tomorrow? Flos advances in these years with the full awareness that there are and will be more and more types of lighting, radically new. They must be studied, developed and produced with an attitude of rupture towards the existing state of the art and, at the same time, of following the rigourous design culture on which the company was founded. All the artificial environments must be redefined in their lighting condition: from the house, with the historic Decorative division, to the places of work, entertainment and even the "non-places" of consumption, with Flos Architectural: and the spaces of nature - gardens, parks, landscapes - with Flos Outdoor. As Philippe Starck says: "There is no difference between artificial and natural light. It’s just a matter of transmission, ions and photons are always the same." For a technical/ industrial program like this, however, you need to be able to work with new authors, designers and artists: as in the case of Michael Anastassiades, who even combines the two roles and with his collaboration has created very successful Flos products, precisely because they establish different and higher aesthetic and functional standards which this company will never refrain from developing.

Designers at Work_Euroluce 2011©Fabio Lovino
Designers at Work Ph. Fabio Lovino for Euroluce 2011 stand
2009_Belvedere_design Antonio Citteri_ph
Belvedere by Antonio Citterio
Life01 by Paul Cocksedge
2012_Light Photon (8)_design Philippe Starck
2012 Light Photon by Philippe Starck. Limited edition for Flos 50th anniversary
2620led_Ron Gilad_credits Frank Huelsboemer
2013 2620Led by Ron Gilard
Al Zorah
The Oberoi Hotel Al Zorah by Lissoni Associati
2014 String Light by Michael Anastassiades

Design and sustainability for a cultural industry

It is in the universal nature of Flos products the design DNA that leads it to assume a leadership function in the global lighting market. To support a catalogue of so many iconic products, even a historic industry must equip itself with more powerful tools, starting with financial ones. From the first alliance with Investindustrial in 2014, the global identity of Flos matures since 2018 with the foundation of Design Holding, where Investindustrial joins the Carlyle Group, to create a production center that goes from furniture (B&B Italia, Maxalto, Azucena, Arclinea) to lighting (Louis Poulsen, Flos). With the appointment of Roberta Silva as CEO in 2019 and the most recent (2021) appointment of Daniel Lalonde as CEO of Design Holding, Flos is growing its drive for global market expansion, digitalization and innovation in all industrial processes. Special attention is paid to the issues of circular economy and sustainability, addressed under the “Flos for Planet” flag.

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Flos & B&B Italia
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Flos & B&B Italia

Resistance and innovation even in global crises

The CV19 pandemic was not only a major blow to the world economy but also a test bed for Industry 4.0 on how to survive a substantial blockage of planetary physical communications, which until the arrival of the virus could only seem science fiction. Even in this very difficult circumstance, Flos has reacted with a strong push to the development of digital dialogue with its audience and partners, through original projects and contents for e-commerce as in the creation of tools and events that a wider audience - from professional to consumer - could use and live. For example, Local Connections - physical or digital product presentations on key local markets - and Digital Conversations, remote meetings between Flos designers and followers and users.

Digital Conversation with Formafantasma (1)
Digital Conversation with Formafantasma
Local Connections_Flos Professional Space_Milan (3)
Local Connection, Flos Professional Space Milan
Digital Conversation with Michael Anastassiades
Parentesi 50 launch at Flagship Store Corso Monforte, Milan
Parentesi 50 launch at Flagship Store Corso Monforte, Milan
Schermata 2023-12-06 alle 11
Talking to the Universe by Sophie Usnier with C41

Digital experience, analogic reality

The mechanisms of mass communication which have become increasingly complex with the break-in of the social media on the market make it strategic to focus strongly on their integration in digital customer experience strategies, marketing and e-commerce, in the years strongly strengthened by Flos. This process developed without sacrificing physical spaces calibrated instead to give maximum visibility to products to the public: from large exhibitions such as See the Stars Again set up at the Orobia factory for the 60th anniversary of the company - that has dramatically redefined its public image for the audience -to Flos Design Spaces and new monobrand shops, integrated marketing solutions where followers become users and make the real experience of sustainable products and materials. Whether the limited edition of Arco with lead-free crystal base, or the Almendra suspension by Patricia Urquiola with a natural polycarbonate structure, residue of other industrial processes, Flos products - historic or new - address the public with the language of a heartfelt sustainability.

©Francesco Caredda (1)
Flos Orobia, 60th Anniversary
©Francesco Caredda (14)
©Francesco Caredda (11)
Arco K 2022 Limited Edition
2022 Almendra by Patricia Urquiola

Research, design and mass creativity

For Flos, design research continues, transforms and is increasingly integrated with industrial programming and the creation of cultural values, both through products and media, from the press to social: then the decision to replace the classic printed catalogues with the magazine Flos Stories and, for the target contract and b2b, to publish the annual book Flos Experiences: without renouncing to participate in the great tradition of fairs like Euroluce in Milan, renewed after the pandemic to perform its important commercial and “business entertainement” function. In line with this program of creative reorganization of production and communication is also the appointment of Barbara Corti as Chief Creative Officer, in charge of jointly developing the creative strategy of design for all Flos divisions, and the content creation program through all media. Among the goals of this original approach are the best coherence between ideas and achievements, as well as bringing to the center of the product development the role of the designers, who in the Creative & Design Team have all the support and facilities to bring to reality more and more avant-garde design, in tune with the sophisticated needs of lighting. Thus artificial light and its equipment become the great environment of a well-lived daily human life, preserved and renewed under the guidance of the spirit of Flos design.

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Flos_MDW_stand_2023 29
Flos stand Euroluce 2023
Flos Stories, Issue 1,2,3
Flos Stories, Issue 3
Flos Experiences, Issue 1