June 8, 2012

The Herman Miller Collection reintroduces Textiles Designed by Alexander Girard—celebrating beauty and pragmatism

The Herman Miller Collection will proudly unveil at NeoCon 2012 the re-editions of five textile designs from its rich archival history with Alexander Girard, one of the 20th century’s most gifted and celebrated design visionaries. Woven in environmentally optimized materials and reflecting Girard’s vision for ‘aesthetic functionalism,’ the upholstery fabrics celebrate his prolific genius for inspiring and durable designs that bring unique warmth and delight to the office, home and public spaces.

As a further visual treat to Herman Miller’s Chicago showroom guests, both during and following the show for the next year, the company will also share an extensive vintage exhibition of Girard’s remarkable range of work in textiles, graphics, furniture and interiors, along with personal artifacts. The exhibit was assembled from Herman Miller’s corporate archives and private collections, including significant contributions from Bright Lyons, the Brooklyn NY retailer of vintage art and furniture.

Born in New York City, raised in Florence, Italy, and trained in London and Rome, Girard's early years exposed him to diverse cultures and a broad spectrum of history. This serves in part to explain how he could both curate 1949's For Modern Living, a landmark exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Art featuring living vignettes from Nelson, the Eameses, Florence Knoll, Alvar Aalto, and Eero Saarinen and 3,200 categorically arranged items demonstrating the "new values" of modernism, and also derive endless pleasure out of "unrefined and unsophisticated" crafts culled from the furthest corners of the globe. This unusual dichotomy speaks to a person somehow capable of bridging sophistication with naivety, technology with craft, austerity with abundance, joy with rigor, fantasy with the day-to-day, and careful planning with complete freedom. As a result, Girard's legacy serves less as a set of historical benchmarks than as a potent and dazzling reminder of what it means to be human.

Trained as an architect, but proficient in all manner of activities, Alexander Girard was introduced to Herman Miller through Charles Eames and George Nelson. He established the Herman Miller Textile Division in 1952, and served as its Director of Design until 1973. From his outpost in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he designed over 300 textiles in multitudes of colorways, multiple collections of wallpaper, decorative prints and wall hangings, an expansive group of furniture, and both decorative and useful objects. His passion for international folk art (or “toys” as he called them) led him around the globe as he amassed a collection of roughly 106,000 pieces, and his many corporate and freelance assignments engendered lavish praise for his diverse skills and unique vision.

With a resolute and reserved personality, Girard believed quality speaks for itself—and he did much to propagate the notion that life could be lived with higher regard for one's surroundings. His uncommon way of seeing and admirably undogmatic approach to each new solution resulted in an unparalleled body of work that stands wholly apart from his contemporaries.

Textiles Designed by Alexander Girard
Epitomizing Girard’s passion for ‘aesthetic functionalism,’ the re-editions are both pragmatic and beautiful. They include the Lanalux, Superweave, Linomix, Colorado Plaid, and Hopsak families of fabrics, featuring two wools, two Climatex wool-ramie blends, and an antimony-free polyester. Offering brilliant, rich color and texture, they are appropriate for any upholstered seating application, from executive office to high traffic group and community settings, to dedicated individual work chairs, to stunning application in the home.

With the bulk of these designs based in wool, a fiber that is resilient, long-lasting, and easy to clean, the fabrics are at the apex of quality, durability and resiliency of appearance. User comfort is also enhanced with both the wool-based and Climatex Lifecycle textiles, through their inherent wicking and moisture transfer properties. All of the designs, including the Climatex and antimony-free polyester fabrics, exceed the Association for Contract Textiles (ACT) standards for heavy duty abrasion resistance.

The re-editions also leverage the latest in sustainable fibers and dye stuffs. Climatex-based fabrics are compostable, while Hopsak’s use of antimony-free polyester is state-of-the-art. The Linomix, Hopsak, and Colorado Plaid meet McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) ‘Cradle-to-Cradle’ Gold certification criteria.

These qualities are achieved in collaboration with smaller artisanal mills which truly respect the Girard designs and contribute their own love of craft to the textiles.  Superweave and Lanalux are sourced through Bute Fabrics, a family-owned company on the Isle of Bute in Scotland and known as one of the UK’s best upholstery fabric manufacturers.  Linomix and the Colorado Plaid textiles will be supplied by Gessner AG, a Swiss firm and source of Climatex, with a long tradition in highest quality Jacquard manufacture. Finally, Hopsak will be produced by the U.S.-based Pendleton Woolen Mills, family-owned and whose fabrics were a personal collecting passion of Girard himself.

The Herman Miller Collection’s textiles designed by Alexander Girard will be offered in a range of prices and will be orderable in the Fall of 2012.

Ben Watson, Herman Miller’s Executive Creative Director, summed up the company’s enthusiasm for this renewal of Girard designs, “The work and life of Alexander Girard brought warmth and delight to every sort of space and community, perhaps especially the office. His dedication to quality, promotion of craft, and appreciation of beauty made us richer as people and as a company. His design vision and values continue to inspire us—and we are delighted to be sharing that with customers again.”

About The Herman Miller Collection
In 1948, George Nelson created the first Herman Miller Collection, with the goal of "a permanent collection designed to meet fully the requirements for modern living.”  He understood that the Collection would evolve as human behavior changed and new materials and manufacturing technologies emerged. Today’s modern living embraces the blending of life and work, with greater appreciation for contemporary design and mobile and ubiquitous technologies offering new freedom of choice in where and how people express their lifestyles and pursue their professions. The Herman Miller Collection welcomes and enriches this new era, as we endeavor to realize Nelson’s vision for the modern home, office, and public spaces. More information can be found at at www.hermanmiller.com/collection.

About Herman Miller, Inc.
Herman Miller works for a better world around you—with inventive designs, technologies and related services that improve the human experience wherever people work, heal, learn, and live. A recipient of the National Design Award from the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the company’s curiosity, ingenuity, and design excellence create award-winning products and services, resulting in more than $1.6 billion in revenue in fiscal 2011. Innovative business practices and a commitment to social responsibility have also established Herman Miller as a recognized global leader. In 2011, Herman Miller again received the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s top rating in its annual Corporate Equality Index and was also cited by FORTUNE as the "Most Admired" company in the contract furniture industry. Herman Miller trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol MLHR.