11 May 2021 • Lauren Grace Morris
What can this manufacturer teach us about the thriving outdoor furniture market?
As the CEO of outdoor furniture manufacturer Fast, Marco Levrangi is an expert in the fast-growing sector. To mark the company’s new product launches, he shares his takes on 'slow living', sustainability and more.
The rapid evolution of the outdoor furniture market has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis, with spatial design in the residential and contract sectors responding to constraints by emphasizing exterior environments. For 26 years Fast – an Italian family company specialized in working with aluminium – has fine-tuned its process, collaborating with international designers to deliver seating, tables and more to consumers. Above all, their mission is to enable people to live better lives, outside – especially today. Recently they’ve added three new lines of seating, tables and rugs to their portfolio, and expanded a bestselling chair collection.
We talk with Levrangi about the role the ‘slow living’ movement plays in the growth of the market, why fulfilling client needs is about the concept first, products second, and how an unwavering company ethos and lean production has helped Fast achieve sustainability certifications.
Early on in the pandemic sales of outdoor furniture and fittings rose with people looking to optimize their home spaces, exteriors included. Which shifts in your market have you noticed since the onset of COVID-19?
MARCO LEVRANGI: The outdoor sector is growing considerably. Outdoor design will no longer be just about form and aesthetics, but will have to respond more and more to a formal and functional need, where the value for money and innovation level are important aspects in choosing the right product.
In this moment what people are mainly looking for is contact with nature. Our products have always been designed with the joy of living outdoors in mind. Our goal is to focus on increasingly sustainable production and harmonious design which invite ‘slow living’. This, in some ways, will be the new mantra of outdoor furniture. We have to take time for ourselves, for our family, but also for nature, while enjoying our furniture safely because this is exactly how the outdoors is seen now. . .as the safest place to be.
How do you define ‘slow living’?
Above all, it means finding your own rhythm to live in a more satisfying way, not letting the days slip away quickly without realizing it. This lifestyle helps us recognize our values and leads us to make room for what really matters to us.
Three of your new collections – the Ria seating and Mosaiko coffee table by Alberto Lievore as well as the Onda outdoor rug lines – are geared toward helping clients create an open-air sitting room. Do you believe that the pandemic will encourage new typologies of outdoor spaces both in residential and contract environments?
Likely, yes. The trend is to take everything that is part of an indoor living room and bring it out in the open air. It’s no longer just the sofa, but everything that can be functional and comfortable for outdoor life. It's about expanding the intended use and focusing on research and innovation.
I believe that the contract sector will develop a lot also in terms of public spaces, educational and working spaces outdoors. According to several studies, in fact, working in the open air improves physical and mental wellbeing and can help to concentrate, get inspired and collect thoughts to improve performance.
Working in the open air improves physical and mental wellbeing
Three models have also been added to your popular Forest range by Robby Cantarutti & Partners. Tell me more about that.
Forest is our iconic product par excellence and is still one of the bestselling products of the company. This year three new pieces have been added to the collection: the rocking chair with sleds in Iroko wood, the armchair and the chair with legs covered in Iroko wood. They are items that mix nature and technology and that enhance the versatility of the collection: they can be perfectly placed both indoors and outdoors and respond to the needs of a minimal yet well-defined style, both in the contract and residential sector.
Your products help designers develop outdoor living spaces better attuned to their clients’ needs. What aspects do you believe make this possible?
I wouldn't just talk about the product, but about real concepts. The bestselling collections are undoubtedly those that offer the chance to fully enjoy your outdoor corner and that recreate open-air sitting rooms to relax in carelessly. The winning concept here is the company's ability to offer customizations in terms of finishes, fabrics, materials and sizes. We work with 16 finishes with material textures, different materials such as Iroko, teak, ropes, natural stone and porcelain stoneware. We offer more than 60 fabrics to meet the tastes and needs of our customers worldwide. And we realize custom products on request – in particular those intended for large contract supplies.
Working with local suppliers and keeping the supply chain entirely in-house are fundamental to your company’s ethos. As far as the sustainability conversation goes the benefits there are clear. For design businesses and manufacturers, why do you think this is an especially effective way of working?
We must know how to meet the needs of the market and we must do it promptly. Working with local partners allows us to have greater flexibility, elasticity and speed. For this reason – thanks to an internal production and an efficient ‘company system’ – we are able to offer highly customizable and 100 per cent outdoor products. The introduction of lean production brought significant advantages: greater efficiency, better quality and a more structured just-in-time service.
Attention to the environment has always been one of our core values
Furthermore, attention to the environment has always been one of our core values. The need for sustainability was not a turning point for us, but the confirmation of a direction that we have been following for a long time. Our know-how has always been that of processing aluminum, a non-toxic and 100 per cent recyclable material.
We work in a territory that we love and respect, and that we help to support. Our philosophy is precisely that: to respect those places, the nature that surrounds them, the people who live there.
Last year Fast received the EPD® Declaration for four products and your team plans to extend this certification to the wider Fast range. Will you elaborate on that process?
Surely. The company does not intend to stop because it is very satisfied with the results achieved. The EPD® certification is an essential lever if you want to work in the contract market. It is also, without a doubt, a guarantee for customers, who know they can count on transparent and comparable information with other suppliers around the world. In fact, we have always involved the entire supply chain in continuous research, aiming to increase the longevity of our products and reduce their impact throughout their life cycle.