Vitra have re-released the original and legendary Eames Fiberglass Side Chairs - not available since production ceased in the 1990s. Utilising improved production techniques the chairs are now produced with a polyester shell, reinforced by the fibres. To reflect the fact that average sizes for humans has increased since 1950, the size of the chair has also grown. Vitra simply calls this 'New Height' and it brings the chairs in line with other DSR, DSW and DSX chairs now available.
The fibreglass shell is inherently unique in nature; each chair will have a varying pattern of fibres across its surface. With a semi-gloss surface and slightly protruding fibres the chair feels almost natural to touch.
Originally launched in 1950, the Eames Fiberglass Chairs introduced the idea of the multifunctional chair, featuring seat shells that could be combined with a variety of base designs. The Eames side chairs soon became one of the best-known furniture pieces of the twentieth century and today are instantly recognisable as a piece of classic good design.
In 1948, Charles and Ray Eames participated in the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design organised by the New York Museum of Modern Art, entering a chair with a seat shell moulded to fit the contours of the human body along with a concept for a variety of bases. Their design won second prize. However, the metal seat shell proved too complex and expensive to achieve successful mass production.
The couple's search for alternative materials eventually led them to glass-fibre reinforced polyester resin, which until then had been primarily restricted to military applications such as aircraft radomes and cockpit covers. The Eameses recognised and fully exploited the advantages of fibreglass: mouldability, rigidity and suitability for industrial manufacturing methods. With this material, which was previously unknown in the furniture industry, they successfully developed the moulded seat shells for mass production: the Fiberglass Chair was born. Its organically shaped, one-piece shell proved to be a much-admired innovation at a time when chairs typically consisted of a seat and backrest. Fibreglass offered the added advantage of pleasant tactile qualities and a perfectly moulded form for optimal comfort.
Vitra manufactures the Fiberglass Side Chairs by Charles and Ray Eames in six of the original colours. Charles and Ray attached great importance to the use of colours – as fibreglass had previously only existed in a colourless version. They consequently spent many days in the factory, mixing hues for countless prototypes in their efforts to create colours that best accentuated the organic shape of both shell forms – with and without armrests – in a range of coordinated shades. The first colours developed by the Eameses were greige (a mix of grey and beige), elephant hide grey (to which Charles was referring when he said‚ "What I really want is a black with feeling") and the slightly transparent tone parchment. Sea foam green, yellow and red followed shortly after in the very early days of production.