Graffiti and Italian furniture-making might appear worlds apart, but a new collaboration between Poltrona Frau and Argentine-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone proves that creative cross-pollination knows no boundaries. As part of its 110th anniversary celebrations, the Italian brand has invited Pantone to create a graphic treatment for Jean-Marie Massaud’s 2009 ‘Archibald’ chair, offering a fresh take on what has become a design icon in just over a decade.

This is Poltrona Frau’s first collaboration with an international contemporary artist, and the piece also represents an ongoing move towards sustainable furniture making, specifically in its use of the company’s new Impact Less leather. The collaboration will be unveiled at the upcoming Salone del Mobile 2022 in Milan.  

Impact Less Leather: a Poltrona Frau innovation

Colourful Poltrona Frau leather
Artist Felipe Pantone with samples of Poltrona Frau leather in his Valencia studio

Impact Less is specially developed to reduce leather’s environmental footprint. Poltrona Frau has worked with two local tanneries that avoid the use of heavy metals, reduce the use of water and recycle all water from the production process. The material makes its debut with this project, and by 2025, it will be used on all Poltrona Frau designs.

‘Years of research and development into the most sustainable version of leather have led us to this cutting-edge material,’ says CEO Nicola Coropulis, adding that, while the brand has remained faithful to its historical values, it has adapted to changing times, evolving its product offering and focusing on sustainable production: ‘An important purpose of this collaboration is to shift Poltrona Frau’s perspective. We don’t want to celebrate the past successes, but create a map for the future.’

Poltrona Frau and Felipe Pantone

Artist Felipe Pantone at his studio in Valencia
Felipe Pantone at his studio

The collaboration with Pantone encapsulates this mix of past, present and future. ‘Poltrona Frau wanted me to do something daring with the “Archibald” chair, to mess with the brand a little bit,’ explains the artist, whose pixelated, kaleidoscopic compositions, reminiscent of a heat map, have been applied on different scales, from buildings to cars and watches.

An upcoming collaboration with London’s Greenwich Peninsula will see his artwork wrapped around a public staircase and elevated walkway.

Felipe Pantone working on a printing machine
Pantone working on a printing machine in his studio

For Poltrona Frau, Pantone has created a pixelated pattern based on the company’s ColorSphere colour system, which was conceived in collaboration with Giulio Ridolfo to offer a series of vibrant, emotional shades. Pantone’s artistic intervention is printed on Impact Less leather, and extends to the aluminium structure of the ‘Archibald’, which is given an iridescent treatment. 

Felipe Pantone with colourful leather samples
Pantone with leather samples and the ‘Archibald’s miniature version

Pantone started creating graffiti and computer images as a child, and his artistic world expanded when he later discovered contemporary art and the New York street art scene during his art history studies. ‘What shaped my work the most is the kinetic art movement of the 1960s. To me, it makes a lot of sense: we live in the most kinetic of all times.’

His work responds to the rapid pace of social media, dwindling attention spans, and our thirst for immediately arresting imagery. His studio is set up as a creative factory, with machines for laser cutting and UV printing. ‘When I bought my first machine in 2014, I realised if I wanted to make art of my time, I should use every possible technology of my time,’ he says. 

Felipe Pantone spraying on leather
Pantone working on leather samples

‘Felipe saw that we are a dynamic company with a young team, and this is reflected in the constant dialogue between tradition, craftsmanship, industry, technology, the analogue and the digital,’ concludes Coropulis. ‘The idea of applying this futuristic pattern on one of the most ancient materials feels like the best way to demonstrate Poltrona Frau’s uniqueness.’  §

Archibald chair by Poltrona Frau with colourful motif by Felipe Pantone