Arper: Bringing design to life

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Headquartered in the Italian region of Veneto’s furniture district, Arper tells a quintessentially Italian story about family, relationships and the design thinking that ties them all together.

Founded in 1899 by the Feltrin family, the company started as a B2C business, producing a very niche set of modern leather chairs, before it expanded to the contract market and brought into focus the creativity Arper is known for today.

“When the direction of the company changed, it grew from €5m to €75m [from late 1980s to the present],” says Claudio Feltrin, who established Arper with his brother Mauro and his father Luigi (now honorary chairman of Arper).

This shift in priorities from manufacturing to a design-led approach coincided with Feltrin’s chance encounter with Argentinian architect Alberto Lievore.

“The relationship that started with Albert wasn’t just about creating objects, it was about culture,” says Feltrin. “There was an opportunity for us to share our values.”

When asked to describe Arper in one word, Feltrin doesn’t hesitate. “The main word is coherence. There’s a commitment from Arper with the society at large, so it’s important for us to act coherently with our values.”

This coherence permeates all things Arper, from its curated product development to its cultural involvement through collaborations such as with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice – “the overarching theme is passion” and Feltrin himself has it in spades.

With a wide-ranging selection of design collaborations with the likes of Ichiro Iwasaki, Simon Pengelly, Jean-Marie Massaud and Lievore Altherr, Arper has truly established itself as a design-oriented company where every product is the fruit of several successful relationships.

“It’s not just a matter of choosing a designer that fits with the personally,” explains Feltrin, who later goes on to draw parallels between collaboration and parenthood.

“If a couple is happy, a baby will be born. In this scenario, the product is like a baby,” he says in jest, and if we stretch that metaphor, the factory is where that baby first sees the light of day.

Under a minute’s walk from the HQ and showroom, Atelier Arper – the company’s manufacturing department – is a buzzing machine where all Arper furniture is upholstered.