Xavier Pauchard was born in 1880 in Le Morvan, known as the green heart of France. Unsurprisingly wood was the most important construction material but despite that, he and his father and grandfather before him were zinc roofers.
We owe the revival of the brand Tolix to Chantal Andriot. It was with passion and loyality for the company that this, ex Financial Directrice, launched into the adventure, along with a handful of employees, and bought back Tolix. The only woman in a man’s world and with her knowledge she was able to give back a new vitality, in perpetuating the dual standards of quality and innovation to an industry skilled in the making of functional furniture. Today, half of Tolix’s annual turnover is for export, half of which, is for the United States.
In 1907, Pauchard discovered that he could protect sheet metal from rusting by dipping it in molten zinc, or galvanising it. Ten years later, he set up a factory making steel household items and eventually registered his trademark symbol as Tolix, by which name the company is still known.
You can buy them new from the Conran shop for £195 or you can hunt about for a vintage one and prices will vary. The modern ones come in around 50 colours, while the vintage are more classically red or their natural steel colour.
And just as the Panton S chair was famously featured on the cover of Vogue magazine (with Kate Moss wrapped around it, admittedly. Oh, and she was naked), so the Tolix has just reached the dizzy heights of fame featuring in Agent Provocateur’s spring-summer 2011 campaign, though it’s just possible that some of you might not be looking at the chair.
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All merit goes to Xavier Pauchard (1880-1948) who was a pioneer of galvanisation in France. Shortly after World War 1, based in Autun, Burgundy, he found himself (a visionary and inventive entrepreneur) in charge of a flourishing manufacture of galvanised sheet-metal domesic items, which at the time, embodied household comfort. It was in 1927 that he registered the trademark TOLIX, at the same time converting to the «production of chairs, armchairs, stools and metal furnitures».The different models (rustproof, robust and stackable) conceived by Xavier Pauchard found their place directly inside factories, offices and hospitals, as well as outside, on cafe terraces and in public parks. Embarked aboard the ship, Normandie, in 1935, these chairs also filled the aisles of the 1937 Exposition Internationale –Arts et Techniques. Furniture for children was created in 1935 under the mark of « La Mouette ». At the end of the 50’s, with the succession of his son, Jean, Tolix and it’s 80 workers produced about 60 000 units annually. This prosperous company remained in the same family until 2004.
They were immediately popular, not just in cafés, where right up until the 1970s they were often given out by breweries in return for the owner stocking their brand, but also in factories, offices and hospitals.
Today this enterprise is endowed with the latest technology which accompanies it’s numerous inherited manual processes and equipement.
The Model A chair has become an icon of industrial esthetics. It’s unfailing popularity since 1934 has enabled to enter the Collections of the Vitra Design Museum, MOMA and the Pompidou Center. This mythical chair, crafted of sheet metal, has been assured by «it’s fool-proof solidity, it’s unequalled lightness, it’s easy maintenance» advantages of which can be included «inexpensive».
By the end of the 1950s, the factory had about 80 workers and produced some 60,000 units annually. The company remained in the family until 2004. Now, the chair is part of the collections of the MoMA in New York, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Vitra design collection in Weil am Rhein in Germany.
Sir Terence Conran is one of several influential fans of this simple-looking chair, which, nevertheless, takes around 100 manual operations to create. “Over the years, this chair has come to symbolise what I like to term democratic excellence, meaning that it’s mass-produced and universally acceptable,” he says.
…Moreover, it’s with real legitimacy that Tolix received the label, «A Living Heritage Enterprise» awarded by the Ministry of Economics, Finance and Industry, in 2006. The production of the new 2010 catalogue coincides with the launching of a new children’s range drawn up by Normal Studio and the tandem Sébastien Cordoléani & Franck Fontana, as well as to announce the re-edition of the small armchair «La Mouette».
To assist in the artistic direction, Chantal Andriot has chosen the designers Jean-François Dingjian et Eloi Chafaï alias Normal Studio. Their design questions industrial workmanship, freeing it from the past in order to valorise the workshop’s legendary know-how.
That classic chair, a favourite of cafés and retro kitchens all over the world, was designed in 1934. It was meant to be outside in all weathers, which is why there are holes in the seats – to allow the rain to drain off. But café owners were quick to complain that the chairs wouldn’t stack properly and Pauchard had to tweak his design. By 1956, the classic Tolix was finally created. With its slimmer frame, you could now stack 25 chairs to a height of 2.3 metres.