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Find Out How Italian Leather Furniture Manufacture Frag Is Forward-Looking

Its CEO Franco di Fonzo is using art to showcase the brand’s creativity

Franco di Fonzo is feeling emotional.

The CEO of Italian leather furniture manufacture Frag has just witnessed the unveiling of eight Ele chairs each dressed up in different ways by architectural and interior design practices.

They were handpicked for their ability to push boundaries and therefore be able to present the piece artistically and pay homage to Frag’s experience in furniture leatherworking.

The project, AR_T, is done in collaboration with its local distributor P5 Studio to illustrate what heritage, leather and craftsmanship mean to each practice.

There is a chair wrapped in leather to look like it has been dipped in chocolate by right angle studio, there is another that wears a dress woven from scrap leather by Studio iF of Formwerkz Architects.

“This is the first time we have an event like this, showing an interpretation that is completely different from what the original designer of the Ele had in his mind,” says di Fonzo.

“It means there could be growth everywhere, every time, of every item we have. This is the first experiment that we had, and we'll do it again.”

His declaration represents a bold leap into the future for Frag.

Italian furniture manufactures like his are typically very protective over their designs and seldom allow for interference of any sort with their products.

Available in Singapore since 2018, Frag decided this year to make a bigger push into the market through staging an event.

When it came to planning it though, di Fonzo’s son Michele and daughter Federica, who are also working in the business, proposed to their father the concept of AR_T, which was a departure from their standard product presentation.

“I accepted everything from them because they come from the same company, so they know how I think,” he says, elaborating that the idea of giving the event an artistic spin greatly appealed to him.

“We have a history and a future. The history is what we do. The future is my son and my daughter.”

Architology's piece arranges leather vines to cast a shadow on the wall shaped like a craftsman at work Architology's piece arranges leather vines to cast a shadow on the wall shaped like a craftsman at work

Established in 1921, Frag was set up by di Fonzo’s grandfather in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy.

Although it started life as a tannery, the business later evolved to leather furniture manufacturing, encompassing a range of products including chairs, sofas and tables.

The company typically sources its leather from Germany, France and Switzerland. More recently, they have been getting it from Russia too, as “the quality has been improving”.

It classifies the leather into seven categories, with aniline from France or Switzerland as the highest tier.

These it uses to make its catalogue of more than 150 products in any colour imaginable, including the Ele chair, which coincidentally is designed by Michele and was inspired by the sinuous shape of a woman.

“Frag is a traditional company because leather is a traditional material. But as you can see through AR_T, there is the possibility of giving a taste of the future. That is very, very important,” he explains.

“We are looking for a direction that will be more easy, friendly and proactive in the future, that are made by young people.”

Through AR_T, he is hoping to explore the limit of that idea. Already, P5 has staged it outside of its showroom at Saturday Indesign earlier this month.

Di Fonzo is considering replicating the project in other parts of the world.

“We would like to show to other people that there are possibilities from one starting idea to many other ideas, and to explain that to our company, creativity is really very important.”

Low Shi Ping
30 October 2019