Fletcher Vaughan, the founder of New Zealand-based commercial furniture brand Fletcher Systems, develops smart modular commercial furniture that taps into contemporary design trajectories and the ways we dwell in shared spaces.
Top Image: Realm Pod and Tub Chair
Before New Zealand designer Fletcher Vaughan established furniture brand Fletcher Systems in Auckland in 1999, he’d spent several years building sets and props for television and feature film productions. Although he’d had no formal training in furniture design, his acumen for furniture with a bold style and optimal functionality quickly became evident, and he built up a comprehensive and unique commercial furniture range that met with great success in New Zealand.
Fletcher Systems furniture blends intelligence and style in equal measure. An emphasis on modularity and flexibility, the maximisation of space, and the efficiency of details goes hand in hand with an awareness of the stylistic currents that are currently shaping our commercial spaces.
Seeing the potential of Fletcher Systems furniture for office fit-outs, retail, airports, theaters and hospitality spaces around the world, Haworth established a partnership with the brand in 2013 through its xFriends programme. Vaughan’s products were catapulted into the international market. Now they can be found across the Asia Pacific region and as far afield as the Middle East and the Americas. He shares some insights with us.
The pieces that Haworth represents all share a bold aesthetic in terms of form and colour. Why?
This is the Fletcher Systems look I guess. It’s an aesthetic that has evolved over time through practice and observation. It is bold but not too ‘shouty’. ‘Considered’ is an adjective I’d be comfortable with.
Are all the pieces represented by Haworth manufactured in New Zealand? What are the positives and negatives of manufacturing in New Zealand?
For the New Zealand and Australian markets, all items in the range are produced here in Auckland. Most of the hero pieces from the range are also produced in Shanghai and Cali (Columbia). The positive side of manufacturing in New Zealand is that I live 15 minutes from the factory, so I’m out there most days checking on production, working with the team on new designs, et cetera. New Zealand is a great testing ground for new ideas and products. The negative is that we are a long way from the big markets, hence the partnering with Haworth and the localising of production in China for the Asia Pacific, India and Middle East markets and Columbia for the Central and South American markets.
What are your best-selling pieces? Why do you think these pieces are popular?
The Landscape modular seating system is definitely our biggest seller. This range was released back in 2004. It was my first foray into commercial furniture design, so it’s a nice validation to see this range still doing well. As stand-alone pieces, the modules in the range have a fairly generic profile that functions on its own. When grouped together, the range really takes shape and becomes more than the sum of its parts. It’s fun to play around configuring the modules as the outcomes are not always obvious.
The Realm Pods are also very popular. These were originally commissioned in 2006 by Hoyts Cinemas for their premium cinemas in New Zealand and Australia. They didn’t make the cut so the design was added to the Fletcher Systems commercial range in 2010. I think the Pods do well because they have a unique profile, they address the demand for private space in open plan offices, libraries, public spaces et cetera, plus I think everyone loves the cozy feeling you get when you sit in one.
The Landscape modular seating has evolved over the years since it was released in 2004. How so, and what needs do the changes address?
Initially the range was made up of linear modules, we then added the curved 60-degree pieces. Combined, you can create one bazillion different seating combinations and solutions. In response to demand, a fixed side table and power ports are currently in the pipeline.
Is every piece customisable in terms of finish? Can the pieces be customised in other ways too?
Generally, the design/shape of the pieces are not customisable due to the amount of work involved for the factory. However different fabrics options and paint finishes et cetera provide an element of customisation for most of the pieces in the range.
Does your custom design and manufacturing service make up a considerable part of your business?
The custom design service isn’t a big part of the business, but is definitely an important part. Currently we are working with ASB Bank and their interior architect to develop casual seating and meeting pods for their retail outlets. Most of this kind of work comes through the architects. There is a lot of value to us in building these relationships.
What observations have you made of the changing demands of workplaces over the years?
I try not to get too tangled up in what the current trends are, but of course you need to have some understanding of your market. When I’m considering a new design for the range, I would say the thinking process is roughly 70% intuition and 30% market driven.