Emeco’s Latest Chair Is Virtually Indestructible

The American furniture brand enlists Barber & Osgerby to create a lightweight yet incredibly durable chair from recycled plastics.

On & On chairs by Barber & Osgerby for Emeco.

At this point, you may know a thing or two about the circular economy. A copy of Michael Braungart and William McDonough’s seminal classic Cradle to Cradle likely occupies a dusty corner of your bookshelf—perhaps you referenced it in a college term paper. But how often does your day-to-day make use of products that embody regenerative design principles? It’s a question that Emeco has investigated for nearly a decade—especially as single-use plastics continue to pile up in landfills.

Emeco is renowned for using a proprietary process to hand-build durable chairs without sacrificing style. In recent years, however, the brand has been turning its attention to sustainability. They first experimented with recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) for the 111 Navy Chair, released in 2010, but has since improved the material for even greater longevity. Enter Barber & Osgerby—the world-renowned designers behind the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Torch and pieces for B&B Italia, Swarovski, and Cappellini—who helped Emeco put their material innovations into action with On & On, a collection of chairs and stools that recently launched at Salone del Mobile in Milan.

On & On chairs by Barber & Osgerby for Emeco.

It just so happens that Barber & Osgerby previously experimented with rPET in textiles, but never for a piece of furniture. They were immediately ripe for the challenge of revisiting the material for furniture that “goes on and on,” explains Jay Osgerby, in reference to the collection’s name. “We wanted to revisit familiar archetypes, like the classic bistro chair, and reappraise [them] with this new materiality.” Typical restaurant seating, he says, is not optimized for seamless indoor-outdoor use—the chairs weather rain poorly and aren’t the most comfortable. This collection, on the other hand, has some staying power.

While Barber & Osgerby ideated On & On principally for use alfresco, the chair’s agile, elegant form suits an intimate dining room just as well. It also stacks six high, making for easy storage, reduced shipping costs, and playful visuals when mixing its six colorways.

On & On chairs by Barber & Osgerby for Emeco.

Emeco’s ultimate goal for On & On? Create a recycling program in which customers can return old chairs so the brand can create new chairs with recycled materials. Green innovation aside, the chair’s incredible strength belies its sprightly figure. “We were worried it would be too thin,” explains Edward Barber, “but it’s actually the strongest chair Emeco has. It’s indestructible, basically. You could throw it out of a plane.” See for yourself:

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