a family story
In 1860, a young 19-year-old opens a small factory that makes canes for umbrellas. The business then specializes in making chair legs and rungs before making entire chairs.
–By Stéphane Le Duc
Almost 160 years later, the family-owned business, active in over 60 countries, still creates exceptionally well-designed contemporary furniture in France. After working with the company for a long time in New York, Antoine Roset comes back to his homeland to act as the marketing director of the company, keeping the tradition of excellence and creativity alive for a fifth generation.
Why do you describe Ligne Roset as a non-conformist business? Because we are lucky enough to be a 100% family-owned business, still to this day. The company is 160 years old, and we have always been doing what we love, not that we were expected to love what we do. That’s what allows us to have this open-mindedness when it comes to design. Let’s not forget that design comes from an existing product, which we then make better in terms of looks and quality. That is the true definition of design, and people tend to forget it nowadays. Few brands can pride themselves on being family-owned for so long. I guess our craziness is kind of endearing.
“we have always been doing what we love, not that we were expected to love what we do.”
I’m sure you’ve had some nice surprises along the way. The best example is the Togo, created in the ‘70s by Michel Ducaroy and my grandfather Jean Roset. We were right in the middle of an economic boom. In France, as elsewhere in the world, it was, ‘Say no to war!’ and ‘Peace & Love’, yet we still appreciated the Louis XIV and the Louis XV designs that our grandmothers loved so much. Then comes Michel Ducaroy, a brilliant designer, who looked at his curved aluminum toothpaste tube and thought, ‘We should make a sofa like that’. When the Togo was presented at the Foire de Paris, our distributors came up to us, telling my grandfather, “Even though we like you, you are completely crazy! This is never going to work. Where are the legs? Where is the structure?” You have to understand that back then, the whole world was used to wooden structures with legs. We came in with a light, comfortable, and transportable sofa made out of foam. Two years passed before they started to sell. We could have put a stop to the project, which would have proved them right. The sofa became our best-seller, as well as the best-selling contemporary sofa in the world for any brand. It is now an icon in the world of design.
How does the connection or relationship develop with a designer? There are two approaches for us. [First], it is in our DNA to work with young people, especially with fresh-out-of-school designers who are at the start of their career, since we believe they have a spontaneous approach to design and creation. We appreciate the freshness of their creativity. We work with close to ten new designers every year, whether it be for a single contract or a five-year period.
There are [also] great encounters, such as Pascal Morgues, whom my father met about twenty years ago. They ended up building an outstanding professional relationship. His very artistic approach to design was absolutely perfect for the brand. He was more than a designer. He was a friend of the family. We could go grab a bite and talk about design. There is a human aspect, which we tend to forget nowadays. However, for us, the relational aspect is extremely important.
The great designer Pierre Paulin has also been very important to you? We had the chance to meet Pierre a few years before he passed away. We were wondering if working with him would go against our work philosophy, since we usually work with younger people. However, he was so interesting and intriguing when it comes to design that it just came naturally. We had the opportunity to work on the Pumpkin Sofa, an order from Mrs. Pompidou for the Elysée Palace, which was a tremendous success.
You seem very happy to carry on the family tradition? I did my studies at the Institut Supérieur du Marketing du Luxe, and after a short stay at IWC, I started working at the New York office at the age of 26. It’s interesting to work with your family. If we don’t talk about design, it means that something is missing or off- that’s how I grew up. I remember having breakfast at my grandfather’s place on a Sunday morning, and the conversation would come naturally. We enjoy our work, so we’re always talking about design.