‘English Folk with Italian Horsepower’: Faye Toogood and Poltrona Frau unveil their collaboration

Poltrona Frau unveils 'Squash', its new collaboration with Faye Toogood, presented during Salone del Mobile 2024 as part of the Italian furniture company's 'Imagine' collection

 Poltrona Frau and Faye Toogood collaboration and portrait
Left, Faye Toogood photographed at her studio in Camden, in north London, in February 2024. Right, The ‘Squash’ armchair, long mirror, rug and footstool
(Image credit: Courtesy of Faye Toogood and Poltrona Frau)

Poltrona Frau unveils a new collaboration with British designer Faye Toogood; comprising furniture as well as interior accessories, the collection marks Toogood’s debut in leather and upholstered forms. The collaboration is part of Poltrona Frau’s Imagine collection, presented during Salone del Mobile 2024 at the company’s Milan showroom. 

‘We've dedicated this collection to the concept of imagination, a notion close to our hearts,’ says Poltrona Frau CEO, Nicola Coropulis. ‘Imagination serves as the driving force in our domain, breathing life into the nonexistent, transcending mere logic, and fostering the birth of fresh ideas and perspectives.’ Toogood’s work for Poltrona Frau exemplifies this ethos, ‘by seamlessly transforming objects into sculptural artefacts.’

Poltrona Frau and Faye Toogood: the ‘Squash’ collection

Poltrona Frau and Faye Toogood collaboration

Maquettes made by Studio Toogood of the ‘Squash’ armchair, footstool and rug, which are formed from painted cardboard and clay, on a ‘Squash’ rug

(Image credit: Courtesy of Faye Toogood and Poltrona Frau)

Toogood’s first visit to Poltrona Frau left a lasting impression on the designer, for the company’s rigorous approach to craftsmanship, but also for their incredible history. ‘Visiting the showroom shows you a kind of quality and craftsmanship that are out of this world,’ she says. ‘And then they have this beautiful museum [in Tolentino], where they keep an archive of the heritage pieces. I was just blown away by some of the 1970s designs, which were just really courageous in their form, their approach, their attitude.’ And so she set herself the challenge to bring that attitude back, ‘but also to add the female softness that I felt lacked from their collections. A lot of them felt quite angular, masculine in a traditional sense; fewer curves, less expression.’

Expression is a distinctive trait of Toogood’s. Her work is sculptural with soft edges, inspired by three-dimensional artworks and informed by nature, with a nod to ancient artefacts and folk. And the exploration of the archives, paired with Toogood’s own universe, resulted in what she describes as ‘English Folk with Italian Horsepower.’ She explains: ‘visiting the [Poltrona Frau] manufacturing facilities felt like walking into an Italian sports car factory.’ It’s a parallel that is not too far off, given that Poltrona Frau also works on the interiors of Ferrari sports cars. ‘And here I am, this English girl, who designed a lot of wooden chairs and has this slightly more folksy attitude.’ Improbably, it was precisely in folk art that she found some similarities between her and Poltrona Frau’s worlds, with many English folk pieces being made of leather, a narrative that helped her bridge the gap between their heritages.

The collection features mirrors (in sizes ranging from freestanding to pocket), which were informed by old English folk leather mirrors, and a rug referencing an early folk game. ‘I wanted to bring this naivete and human folksy element to the collection,’ she explains. The hero piece of this collaboration so far is undoubtedly the Squash chair. ‘To me, this piece encapsulates everything that characterises Toogood's refined and visionary art; an exuberant creation that transcends time, seemingly belonging to a future era that defies definition,’ says Coropulis. ‘It effortlessly evokes feelings of comfort, innovation, and forward-thinking creativity, all ensconced in a cocoon of leather, epitomising the essence of a Poltrona Frau armchair.’

Poltrona Frau and Faye Toogood collaboration

(Image credit: Courtesy of Faye Toogood and Poltrona Frau)

The chair is defined by voluptuous, ballooning forms erupting from a rigid yet curved structure. Toogood’s first upholstered piece, it offered an opportunity for her to tinker with Poltrona Frau’s pristine leather manufacturing (what the company calls ‘Leathership’, drawing from a tradition dating back to the company’s founding in 1912). ‘They allowed me to be expressive, and to let myself loose in the factory,’ she says. ‘I wanted to create something that was really comfortable, really soft, retained all the sculptural nature of my own work, but had that immediate softness about it, which is one of the reasons why I called it “Squash”, I wanted to achieve that really squashy feel, which I saw a lot in early 70s Poltrona Frau designs.’

Among the collection’s colours (which include brown and blue) is a bold red hue, a shade that feels unusual across Toogood’s usually more composed palettes (and achieved through Poltrona Frau’s 21-step tanning process that dyes the leather through, maintaining the colour even if scratched). ‘Somehow, the attitude of the red combined with the shape just felt right. Maybe I just wanted to disturb the politeness of it all.’

Poltrona Frau and Faye Toogood collaboration

(Image credit: Courtesy of Faye Toogood and Poltrona Frau)

Her presence at the Poltrona Frau’s manufacturing facilities must have certainly felt disruptive, as she tried to push her sculptural approach to the extreme for a result that is expressive, rather than rigorous. ‘With the first prototype, they wanted to reduce, clean up the design, if the leather was wrinkling a bit they wanted to fix that,’ she recalls. ‘But I insisted that I didn’t want the leather to be stretched and perfect, I want to give the feeling that you can sink into it, to look like it’s already been sat on, like it's already had a life. To me this is the beauty of this material.’

Having started her career as magazine editor and stylist, Toogood founded her studio in 2008, over time experimenting with a variety of creative disciplines, from furniture and interior design to fashion, also launching a fashion label and a furniture and accessories collection under her name. ‘Faye stands out as one of the most captivating figures in contemporary creativity, distinguished by her unparalleled and curious multidisciplinary approach to the art of design,’ says Coropulis. ‘And it was precisely this expansive perspective, also expressed in her works within fashion, that resonated with our vision at Poltrona Frau.’

Poltrona Frau and Faye Toogood collaboration

(Image credit: Courtesy of Faye Toogood and Poltrona Frau)

Toogood feels that this collection might offer a turning point for her practice. ‘I'm at a very interesting moment in my career where I'm neither emerging nor fully [part of the] establishment, I would say I am in a sort of limbo,’ she observes. ‘And once you have a heavyweight Italian manufacturing company come to you, as a designer who essentially didn't train and design, who is female, who works in fashion and art, that does feel like I potentially pushed down a barrier. ‘The world doesn't necessarily need any more chairs, but if I'm going to do something, then I hope that it will help push down barriers for myself, but also for others that are coming up behind me.’

Faye Toogood’s collaboration with Poltrona Frau, part of the company’s Imagine collection, will be presented during Salone del Mobile 2024, 16-21 April

Poltrona Frau
Via Alessandro Manzoni, 30


Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.