Mark McMenamin | June 01, 2012
Naoto Fukasawa and B&B Italia initially teamed up to produce a single seat. Turns out they were starting a family. The first child was Papilio, a side chair with a rounded thermoplastic shell on tubular steel legs. Just one year later came the Grand Papilio armchair and ottoman, first on legs, then perfected with robust profiles curving unbroken to the floor. Template established, Fukasawa spawned Piccola Papilio, a version 9 inches shorter. This time, Milan fairgoers welcomed twin arrivals: Love Papilio-, a love seat, and Mini Papilio, which Fukasawa calls “a soft toy.”
As the brood has multiplied, however, the production method, which is unparalleled, has remained mostly the same. Each of the latest versions begins as a scale model to be modified in concert with B&B’s production chiefs. Full-size prototypes in wood follow, defining the shape of molds in fiberglass or aluminum. Once the steel frame of the Papilio in question is inserted, a robot injects high-density foam. The form produced is then sheathed in a protective polyester jacket before the final step, upholstering with fabric or leather. 800-872-1697; bebitalia.com.