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Frédéric Sofia, design practitioner

As a nod to the well-known proverb, it was by designing that Frédéric Sofia became a designer: an accomplished self-taught, his career is an example of tenacity. and proves that it is not just academic paths that lead to success. From March 24 to 28, he signs the scenography of the Intramuros Café at Maison & Objet: an opportunity to look back on his collaboration with Fermob, and to exhibit some of his work characterized by the desire to include in a history of marks deeply timeless products.

Nathalie Degardin

Creative and handyman since childhood, it was as a young adult that Frédéric discovered the world of design, and understood, above all, that he was really made for it. Sa rencontre avec Andrée Putman est un déclencheur : « Elle a pris le temps de me recevoir et de regarder attentivement mon portfolio, avec des projets qui partaient dans tous les sens ! Elle m’a conseillé. Nous étions en 1993 et j’ai compris avec Andrée Putman que mon avenir immédiat de designer était plus chez les Trois Suisses ou Tati qu’à la galerie En attendant les Barbares. Même si les choses ont bien changées depuis, cette prise de conscience a été déterminante.» He joins to create Wombat, which will have a certain success of esteem. Then joined the agency Cent Degrees, where he worked on development for industrial projects of medical equipment as well as on perfume bottles. Since 2000, designs products for the home, indoor and outdoor, as a freelancer.

Rodet, Kawa collection made for the contract, design Frédéric Sofia.
Ligne Roset, 35H relaxation armchair, design Frédéric Sofia.

The meeting with Fermob


At the same time in 2001, he worked for Fermob on the reinterpretation and adaptation of the mythical foundations of the Luxembourg garden. He reviews and transforms everything from top to bottom on the Senate models present in the “luco” since 1923. By designing wing-shaped armrests and triple-curved seat slats, he signs an original adaptation, which required intense observation and detail work. “It’s the same but it’s different” he likes to say on Senate and Luxembourg in reference to a Volkswagen advertisement for the New Beatle.

Thus, and this before its very first launch in 2003, the Luxembourg low chair/footstool set was exhibited at the “Placenta” exhibition organized in Paris by the BETC Euro RSCG agency. Presented in candy pink, the object has a resounding, new and subversive effect in the world of garden furniture. Its welcome encourages Fermob to include several shades of pink in its own color range.

The Luxembourg armchair will be the first element of a long collection: today, counting the additions of pieces (tables of different sizes, stools, rocking chair, etc., updates, the range has around thirty pieces! And a best-selling collection for the French manufacturer, which has become an international reference in garden furniture.

Fermob, Luxemburg collection.

Trust and complicity


Fermob has had a strong impact on Frédéric Sofia’s career: ” With Bernard Reybier – Chairman of Fermob – s At the outset, a collaboration very much linked to a strong industrial entrepreneurial spirit that we have in common. During the 2000s we were building something, it was exciting. I drew on the deep identity of the brand that I developed by creating 5 collections today. I like to be “at the service of”, it’s part of my approach, it’s important to me. » In contact with the manufacturer, over the years, the designer has developed significant skills in the design of furniture with aluminum: “ Its plastic and recycling capacities are exceptional, and also its unique possibilities in terms of finishing. “I’m a happy designer with Fermob, my creations are designed and produced industrially, that’s all I love about my job, industrial design”.

After Luxembourg, he signed Sixties the first the brand’s woven range, then the innovative Ultrasofa, designed as a rest area.

Fermob, Ultra Sofa daybed.
Fermob, Sixties collection © Philippe Frisée

Next will come Lorette, a long work on the identity of the seat:”I developed a pattern, a graphic design, which associates nature (the flower) and architecture (the diamond). Lorette is a hybrid object at the crossroads of archetypes “I wanted to create a steel chair that evokes the spirit of the French countryside in a light and sophisticated version . This project has matured for years, it is the result of a lot of ruminations. »

Fermob, Conversation bench © Philippe Frisée
Fermob, Lorette Chair © Philippe Frisée

Products with meaning and history


Frédéric Sofia defines himself as a design practitioner: “I am a designer but my way of designing is classic. I don’t “think” the design, that’s not a problem for me. For me the challenge is to do design, it’s like a question of survival. » He likes to anchor objects in a story: “Making durable objects is a major challenge today. I don’t try to make a design that is remarkably new or trendy, but that is a kind of subjective and personal update of a typology that is dear to me”

Thereby, the Luxembourg collection, is the result of a readaptation of the Luxembourg garden chair : “I adapted it, redesigned it, transformed it to industrial needs, to today’s codes. The Lorette chair is an urban vision of the country chair with a medallion. I like to share with people the perception of this continuity in the history of objects. »

He thus designs Airloop as a pure product of the history of Fermob: the manufacturer has always designed wire chairs, such as the 1900 chair, and Pascal Mourgue’s Lune d’Argent: “the first is inspired by Arts Deco, the second is an icon of the 80s. I have long been looking for a design that would merge these two clearly identified Fermob typologies. Airlooop is round, in wire, like the 1900 chair, it has the same type of base as the Lune d’argent chair, and the wires of the backrest and armrests are joined together by two hand-forged rings. It’s a detail that reveals Fermob’s deep identity and history. And I’m proud of it: in a corner of the industrial workshop, there was a craftsman. It’s not just a concept, or a stylistic effect, it’s part of a story. »

A Habitat collection in perspective


First of all Frédéric Sofia likes to register his collaborations over time. In 2002, a collection was released which is the fruit of a long-standing collaboration with Habitat: ” J’ai started with a table, and for two years, I have had carte blanche to create a whole range of furniture, lighting, rugs, tableware accessories, around the dining room. » The furniture is in solid oak, timeless and slightly rustic, just like the brand.

Current collection for Habitat, design Frédéric Sofia

The designer has also worked on color duos that are both soft and pop, for a series of table lamps.

Current collection for Habitat, design Frédéric Sofia

In his research, Frédéric Sofia has also worked on research around the arts of the table, by questioning our practices and our food uses, even if it means hybridizing bowls and plates, rethinking the design of cutlery.

An idea still lodged in a corner of the head, pencil at the end of his fingers, he gradually matures his sketches in an obsessive way, while taking time as an ally.

You will soon find the full portrait in issue 211 of Intramuros.

Discover the scenography of the Intramuros Café at Maison & Objet, from March 24 to 28, Hall 7, Villepintes Exhibition Center.