In 1947 a post-war Italy gave way to a group of Pirelli technicians including Carlo Barassi, Aldo Bai, Pio Reggiani, along with a young architect whose name was Marco Zanuso. These innovators began to experiment with the use of exciting new materials that included foam rubber and elastic tape, with the hopes of creating comfortable furniture for Italian soldiers who had returned home from the war. Ar-flex, which translates to flexible furniture from Italian, was born.
Only in Milan's Corso di Porta Vittoria’s modest premises was the first sales and manufacturing team formation. However, Arflex as a company was not officially presented to the public until the IX Triennale in Milan in 1951, and only after two years of experimentations. At the IX Triennale, the "Lady armchair," designed by Marco Zanuso, was awarded the Medaglia d’oro.
From 1951 to 1954, Arflex began producing various car seats that could be fitted into a motor vehicle instead of standard production seats and offered unremarkable comfort. The two most successful of these seats were the "Sedile Lettino" and "MilleMiglia," a chair that could be turned into a makeshift bed. These car seats were both designed for the Fiat Topolino.
Between 1955 and 1960, Arflex began venturing into manufacturing and sales on an international scale in Benelux, France, Switzerland, and Spain. During this time, the company expanded and collaborated with various Italian designers, including Carlo Bartoli, Maurizio Calzavara, Joe Colombo, and Sergio Mazza till Cini Boeri.
Over the decades, especially throughout the late 1960s, Arflex revolutionized the worlds of engineering, automotive production, and furniture design with its use of innovative materials, including fiberglass, polyester resins, and polyurethane foam. These out-of-the-box designs and technical skills are what set Arflex apart from the rest. Today, an Arflex armchair or sofa is a highly sought-after piece by designers and collectors across the globe.
It is no wonder that this groundbreaking designer has won multiple design awards like the Medaglia d’oro at IX Triennale, Medaglia d’oro at X Triennale, and Medaglia d’oro at XIII Triennale, just to name a few. Some of Arflex’s modern Italian design pieces have been featured in some of the most notable museums around the world, including displays at the Chicago Athenaeum, the Milan Triennale, the Tokyo Triennale, and the contemporary furniture museum in Ravenna. The award-winning "Lady armchair"; a piece that is still in production today, nearly seventy years after its inception, can be viewed as part of a permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.