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Ikea’s Wild New Collection Resurrects Scandinavian Design History

Forty years ago, the work of design collective 10-gruppen was considered “unsellable.” Ikea disagrees.

While the Swedish furniture brand Ikea is obsessed with designing for the future, its most recent collection of housewares and textiles, Avsiktlig, is a blast from the past.

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In the 1970s, 10 young designers in Sweden banded together to provoke what they perceived to be a conservative textile industry. When manufacturers called their pop-art inspired graphics, vibrant colors, and bold geometric patterns “unsellable,” they decided to skirt the establishment and produce their textiles themselves, controlling every part of the process, from design to fabrication. From there, 10-gruppen–or 10 Swedish Designers, as the collective was known internationally–took off.

[Photo: Ikea]
Now, the company is experiencing a second act–thanks to a new collection from Ikea that features reissued patterns from its archive alongside new textiles informed by its sensibility.

[Photo: Ikea]
“Our ambition was to clean up the design swamp . . . we wanted to create a better world without war using colors, patterns, and music,” said Carl Johan De Geer, a cofounder of 10-gruppen, in 10-Gruppen Patterns and People, a new book about the collective that Ikea is publishing in conjunction with the Avsiktlig collection.

10-gruppen was active until 2015, when the collective decided to close its business. Soon after, cofounder Tom Hedqvist contacted Ikea to see if the company would be interested in taking over the brand and being a steward of its archives (10-gruppen designers had collaborated with Ikea many times in the past). Ikea agreed, and immediately got started integrating some of the collective’s work into its own lines.

“10-gruppen represents the very best of Scandinavian design history–democratic ideals, aesthetic innovation, and an unbeatable feeling for materials. Their design style has not aged a second; it’s youthful, radical, and as bold today as it was in the ’70s,” Marcus Engman, head of design at Ikea, says in a news release.

[Photo: Ikea]
The Avsiktlig collection features four archival patterns: Jamaica, a leafy pattern from 1978; Djungel, a pattern originally from the late ’60s that looks like a tropical beach scene; Jazz, a mix of multicolored zig-zag graphics originally printed in 1980; and Kuba, a grid pattern from 10-gruppen’s inaugural collection in 1972. Ikea designers Iina Vuorivirta, Ida Pettersson, and Hanna Dalro also worked with some of 10-gruppen’s remaining members to create 11 new textile patterns, most of which are inspired by geometry, architecture, and the natural world. Ikea used the motifs on fabrics, bedding, plates, trays, rugs, and more products that hit store shelves this month.

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While Scandinavian design has a reputation for restraint, textile companies like Marimekko, Svenkst Tenn, and 10-gruppen proudly bucked the norm, creating wildly inventive patterns that challenged the staid designs of the time. Now, in the context of maximalism‘s resurgence in the broader industry, it’s refreshing to see some of these designs receive a second life.

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.

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