Mitab’s new chair shows all the benefits of local production
”The transparency built into Swedish environmental laws is an aspect worth mentioning,” tells sales and marketing director Johannes Herbertsson.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
June 28, 2021
Since founded in 1979, Swedish family-owned design company Mitab has developed products focusing on simplicity, functionality, elegance in form, and flexibility, shares Herbertsson. This spring, the brand presents armchair Brace, designed by fellow Swedish architect and product designer Jonas Wagell.
— Mitab, Wagell tells, comes from a long tradition of steel tube furniture for the contract market. I wanted to challenge and reenergize this typology by attempting to design a chair that appears light, minimal, and timeless.
— Brace is a simplistic take on the traditional steel tube chair, composed of a light frame of tubular steel and generously curved seat and backrest of thin laminated veneer. The concept is focused on providing outstanding comfort with a visually lightweight and elegant chair. The starting point, however, was really the construction. To provide stability and sturdiness bracing beams are typically needed, often placed beneath the seat on the chair. The design now creates a cross beam construction between armrests and seat frame which reinforces the frame and enables a reduced, minimal aesthetic. This has given the name Brace.
Where do you see it being used?
— It’s designed for a transitional contract market. It meets the high requirements for contract use in terms of wear, abrasion, and cleanability with an aesthetic that appeals to both hospitality, office, and home environment. I personally imagine the chair a great fit for hotels, offices, and coworking spaces, as well as conference facilities, says Wagell, continuing,
— The thin laminated backrest is mechanically attached with a fixture plate flush with the wood. This refined detail gives the possibility to easily separate the materials, to repaint or repair a used chair — and eventually to safely recycle to the product. This also means that Brace can be painted in 200+ colours which offers architects and interior designers extended freedom for projects, which at the end of the day will influence where the chair will be used.
”Giving us the, for our industry, unique situation where almost all our components are sourced within biking distance of our factory”
Mitab, to this day, manufactures all their products in Sweden in their own factories, situated in Tranås in an area with long tradition of producing high-quality furniture.
— This is giving us absolute control over production and quality, says Johannes Herbertsson. Having this great knowledge of producing designed products literally on our doorstep enables us to source the majority of the components we don’t produce ourselves from our neighboring companies. Giving us the, for our industry, unique situation where almost all our components are sourced within biking distance of our factory.
When it comes to local production, have you made any calculations or estimations on how much difference in, for example, emissions it makes compared to if you would have your production in a country far away? — A calculation giving an exact figure is difficult to do at the moment. The chain of assumptions needed to calculate and communicate exact CO2 emissions would simply make such a number too inexact. We do know that producing in Sweden and to such high extent working locally gives us a range of advantages compared to the alternative, that for Scandinavian companies often means turning to eastern Europe or Asia, says Herbertsson, continuing,
— The first and most obvious advantage is of course control of the quality. We have a history of producing furniture for the contract segment, where the wear and tear is very different from residential use. And having a situation where you can visit almost all production managers involved the same morning, before your morning coffee even gets cold, provides you the level of control needed to take on such projects.
— The biggest advantage of producing locally is of course the sustainability factor. Having a local production also helps us reducing Co2 emissions connected to transportations in the production process. It is a big difference in getting material and components delivered by an electric forklift from the company across the street compared to having diesel trucks driving from different locations across Europe.
— The transparency built into Swedish environmental laws is a third aspect worth mentioning. The set of regulations we work from is in many cases completely different from what you get in mainly low-cost countries where full transparency is difficult to get. Being able to use 100% fossil-free energy in our factories is another benefit with our production setup compared to the alternative where most companies produce where these options to adjust the energy mix simply don’t exist.
How do you use this as a competitive advantage?
— A big advantage for our clients is that we just don’t sell new products, they can also turn to us to get their products refreshed, renewed, and repaired. We sell a product that is constructed to last over decades but making it last that long requires maintenance. Perhaps the fabric needs to be replaced after a couple of years at a café or a couple of years in the same house as small ketchup-loving children. Or perhaps you simply grew tired of that trendy colour you once picked and now want to relacquer. We offer those services in a model that is as easy to use as buying new furniture from us, at the same time as it saves the client money compared to fully replace the product. This setup is simply enabled due to us producing and sourcing locally, Herbertsson concludes.