To coincide with the significant milestone of 60 years of Salone del Mobile, the world’s most important furniture fair, B&B Italia focused on two significant historical pieces from their existing collection and reinvented their material make-up while being true to their original form.
Le Bambole, which means Doll in Italian, came into being in the early 70s. The invention of architect Mario Bellini, the collection of armchairs, sofas, poufs and a double bed was a startling shift from conventional furniture. The absence of any external structure, a uniformly soft appearance and enveloping comfort were perfect for the revolutionary spirit of the times. Aided by a racy marketing campaign shot by Oliviero Toscani, featuring model Donna Jordan (a regular at Andy Warhol’s Factory) draped topless over the Le Bambole’s soft curves, the design embodied the post 60’s desire for a casual and carefree approach to modern life.
Produced in partnership with Space Furniture, the exclusive retailer of B&B Italia in Australia
Stay tuned for est’s extensive coverage of Milan Design Week 2023, currently scheduled for 18-23 April.
An instant success, Le Bambole continued to be popular for many decades, eventually becoming a collector’s item by the start of the new millennium. In 2007 at the age of 35, the collection was re-launched as Le Bambole ’07 with a 100 per cent polyurethane foam interior and an array of modern stretch knit fabrics. Mario’s revolutionary design turned 50 this year, and to reinvigorate the concept with a fresh new look, B&B Italia approached British fashion designer Stella McCartney.
Rather than the brightly coloured stretch knits of the 2007 version, Stella’s interpretation brings a quintessentially French look to the collection with large format floral fabrics and delicate Toile de Jouy.
The vitality of the contemporary form is cheekily enveloped in modern takes on traditional botanical fabrics, allowing Le Bambole to find its way into an entirely new group of interiors while injecting a softer, more feminine feel when used in contemporary spaces.
But it didn’t stop there. Rather than just delivering a visual makeover, B&B Italia’s ongoing commitment to innovation and the reduction of environmental impact led to the collection being completely re-designed from the ground up using the latest technologies and recycled materials.
The sustainability improvements are staggering comparing the original design with its 2022 counterpart. The original Le Bambole had a 17 per cent product circularity (product circularity meaning it could serve as raw materials for new products once it reached the end of its lifespan). This year’s version has a 77 per cent product circularity; all parts were re-designed to aid in disassembly, repair and end-of-life recycling of materials.
Despite all of these radical changes in the interests of sustainability, the overall comfort of the collection has been improved–particularly the three-seater sofa Granbambola, which has been redesigned with a deeper seat for a more inviting and inviting and enveloping experience. “I feel the pleasure of revisiting this family, because it confirms to me that it is anything but aged; on the contrary, it is enjoying a thriving and promising second life, a rebirth done in a big way, done with enthusiasm, with breadth, with decorations and with the original flourishes,” Mario Bellini says.
Although it perhaps hasn’t quite achieved the levels of fame of Mario’s classic, Barber Osgerby’s Tobi-Ishi table is certainly heading in that direction and has been an important part of the B&B collection since it was first launched a decade ago.
Inspired by the flat rounded stepping-stones found in Japanese gardens, the Tobi-Ishi table has always had a strength implied by the simplicity of its three-part form. The latest iteration of the table takes a two-tone approach that recalls Romanesque and Italian Gothic buildings such as the Orvieto Cathedral in Umbria. Strips of white Carrara and green Alpi marble are stacked in layers and then carved to create the design’s beautifully soft curves. The result is more luxurious and decorative, but the quiet power of the shape comes through regardless.
Embracing timeless appeal and craftsmanship, B&B Italia also released four new collections during Milan Design Week 2022 – three of them by Piero Lissoni, the master of reducing furniture to its absolute essentials.
Piero Lissoni’s Pochette armchair is a generous leather armchair with swooping tubular arms wrapped in handstitched leather. Soft and elegant like a favourite handbag, the chair is all about restraint and Italian craftsmanship.
By contrast, the Planck coffee and side tables take an altogether more playful approach, with Piero choosing a glossy lacquered finish to highlight a structure that gently widens as it descends from the top to the base. The subtle truncated cone shape is replicated across the collection, with the tables lowering as the diameter increases. The smallest and tallest table features a hidden LED to generate soft light through its opaline glass top.
Described as embodying Nordic precision with an oriental spirit, the Cordoba armchair by Foster + Partners is as stylistically different to Mario’s Le Bambole as one can get. Featuring an open oak structure made with turned wood components and paddle-shaped arms, the chair utilises a high-quality leather sling to deliver a casual but impeccably crafted look.
With its presentation during Milan Design Week in June, B&B Italia deftly balanced the art of maintaining and improving historically important designs while developing exciting new products that keep the brand fresh and inspiring. Their commitment to innovation is unwavering, and sustainability, perhaps today’s biggest challenge, is now a permanent part of this ongoing process.