An Icon Meets The Modern Moment
Words: Shannon Devy
“A tube of toothpaste folded on itself like a stovepipe and fixed at both ends”: this is how famed designed Michel Ducaroy described one of his most storied creations – the strange, iconic Togo sofa.
A product of a collaboration between Ducaroy and French design brand Ligne Roset, the Togo marks its 50th anniversary this year. It hasn’t lost its magic: Ligne Roset is still selling new original Togos half a century later, and there’s major demand on the second-hand market for rare and highly sought-after vintage originals, which go for an absolute mint. In recent years, the Togo has seen a major resurgence, but what is it about this odd design that makes it both endear and endure?
The Togo was first introduced at the 1973 Paris Salon des Arts Menagers, to general critical skepticism. The main problem?: it had no base, no armrests, and no feet – something broadly seen as a design snafu. But its undeniable comfort soon won over the critics, and before long the Togo was embedded within the 1970s zeitgeist, winning the Rene-Gabriel prize for affordable quality. Aesthetically, there’s simply nothing like the Togo. Featuring an ergonomic design with multiple density polyether foam and quilted or leather upholstery, the Togo cuts a rather visceral profile, in the literal sense of the word. It speaks keenly to the almost unhinged design sensibility of the raging 70s, augmented by blocked colour options and rough, robust fabrics. Its modular design means you can mix and match sofa configurations, and the lightness of the base material makes the Togo sofa easy to move, without sacrificing comfort and support. Quite simply, the world had never seen anything like it. A fresh iteration of something as established and commonplace as the everyday sofa seat is truly remarkable, and speaks to the brilliance of the Togo’s visionary inventor.
Michel Ducaroy was born in 1925 into a family of prolific designers. After attending the Ecole Nationale de Beaux Arts in Lyon, he went on to work in his family’s business until 1952, when he set out alone to make his fortune as an independent designer. In 1954, he joined Ligne Roset, and took up the position of Design Department Head. It was an exciting time to be in furniture design: new materials were entering the market, which opened up new creative possibilities for those who cared to innovate.
Ducaroy’s experimentation with foam, thermoformed plastics and wadding set the scene for the Togo’s creation, and in many senses, the sofa heralded a new era of furniture design – one that privileged comfort alongside aesthetics, affordability alongside style. Ligne Roset has sold over 1.2 million Togo pieces since the model was introduced (and counting). It’s not often that a piece of furniture goes on to have such an incredible cross-generational appeal. Love it or hate it, the Togo sofa represents the kind of deep creativity that underpins the timeless. Personally, I’d take that seat.