Written by 10:27 am The Makers

FLOS: Icons + Innovations

Exploring the history of iconic lighting brand, FLOS, by highlighting some of its iconic designs fr…

Few can compare to legendary design brand FLOS when speaking of style and lighting of the 1960s. And yet, the brand continues to create contemporary classics that are just as revered as their vintage designs. A delicate balance, the Italian-based lighting company maintains their status as a leading design innovator while simultaneously creating some of the most iconic pieces of the past.  

By recruiting forward-thinking designers and utilizing the latest technology, FLOS continues to design and produce captivating fixtures that inspire and lead the industry. Using high quality, innovative materials to their best advantage, the brand creates pieces that shine, even when they aren’t turned ‘on.’ Innovation is a clear value in FLOS’ origin, the story of a company that, in their own words, came out of a cocoon.  

From the Cocoon, They Fly  

Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni.
Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, courtesy of FLOS.

Italian importer Arturo Eisenkeil contacted designers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, sons of the famed Italian sculptor Giannino Castiglioni, about an as-yet-unknown spray-on plastic he’d stumbled upon that formed a cocoon-like capsule when applied to a frame.  

A savvy marketer, Eisenkeil knew the substance could be used to make something intriguing. With the help of the Castiglionis, the group was inspired to coat a metal frame with the substance and place a light inside. These so-called cocoon lamps were the birth of FLOS, and pieces like FLOS’ Viscontea Suspension Light are still sold to this day. While a spray-on polymer seems far from glamorous, the unique application set an important precedent for the company: To utilize cutting-edge technology and top-of-the-line materials to craft their singular creations.  

A Very Snoopy Story  

After the new team’s great success with cocoon style lighting, including the Taraxacum Pendant Light, their ambitions to create a full range of interior lighting progressed. Four years after the release of cocoon lighting came another instant classic: The Snoopy Table Lamp, born in 1967, with an entirely different material makeup than past FLOS creations.  

Snoopy Table Lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni.
Snoopy Table Lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for FLOS

In stark contrast to the light, cloud-like iterations of cocoon lighting, the Snoopy was made of sleek, solid materials—marble and darkened glass. While these sophisticated building elements might seem incongruous with the goofy, beloved cartoon, the design bears a whimsical likeness to a certain animated dog.  

An oblong, dark glass dome sits atop a tilted marble column, not unlike Snoopy’s comically large head. Its minimalistic design and oversized proportions made it a welcome contribution to sixties-era style. Even more recently, FLOS has re-introduced Snoopy to a contemporary public that has become enamored with the design of the sixties.  

Aim LED 3 Light Pendants above a kitchen island.
Aim LED 3 Light Pendant by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for FLOS

Designers Who Look Forward 

After the cocoon series and the Snoopy lamp, FLOS’ ongoing commitment to a bold design aesthetic continued with innovative designers that were attracted to the brand. Perhaps because of the legacy of their high-profile originators, Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, FLOS is never short on forward-thinking designers.  

In recent years, FLOS has fostered the talents of creatives like Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, who launched their Aim Pendant Light in 2010 to much acclaim. Awarded Interior Design Magazine’s “Best of the Year” in 2013, this dynamic ceiling fixture features an oversized shade with a loose cable that can be arranged to hang or loop around from the ceiling. By playing with dimensions and installations, the Bouroullecs designed a quiet but dramatic piece that works in contemporary homes just as well as it does in a fashionable retail space or restaurant.  

Antonio Citterio working on Kelvin Table Lamp designs.
Antonio Citterio with his Kelvin design, courtesy of FLOS.

Other creations, including the Kelvin LED Table Lamp designed by Antonio Citterio, espouse more practical features, but remain in steadfast line with FLOS’ signature bold design choices and evolved technology. Their latest iteration of the Kelvin is “Green Mode,” a feature that adjusts the brightness of the bulbs throughout the day, based on a room’s light. Citterio, another Italian mastermind, has pieces of his work on display in New York’s MoMA and Centre Pompidou. Even with a design as rudimentary as a desk lamp, FLOS’ star-studded team continues to create ahead of the curve.  

A Brand with Longevity 

The success of FLOS, no matter the era, goes to show that well-designed, quality pieces never lose their significance. From the origins of the company’s first cocoon lanterns to the reintroduction of the classic Snoopy, to today’s design favorites like Aim and Kelvin, FLOS is a beacon of innovative, yet timeless design.  

Zeppelin Suspensions in a hotel lobby.
Zeppelin Suspension, IC Lights S Pendant and IC Wall/Ceiling Light

FLOS believes that “light is more than just a basic need. It makes sense of the past, it brightens our present and it lends brilliance to the future.” With their attention to detail and desire to push the envelopes of creativity and innovation, FLOS’ reputation is both far-reaching and well-earned, and keeps the design world captivated to see what brilliance they produce next.  

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