Lighting Design

Emerging from a Cocoon: The Story Behind the Beginning of FLOS

Few people know how companies get started and with FLOS, it all started with the “cocoon”, an important piece of FLOS history that can actually be traced back to the United States.

The story actually begins in 1959, three years prior to the actual establishment of FLOS, when Arturo Eisenkeil, an importer/inventor/producer from Merano, got his hands on a new spray-on plastic coating material called the “cocoon” and started looking for ways to utilize it commercially, including what became cocoon lighting.

Castiglioni brothers with Max Breuer

Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiligoni Conceived the Idea of Applying Cocoon to Lighting Design

According to designer and architect Stefano Casciani, Eisenkeil found a strong ally and supporter in Dino Gavina, another investor who was determined to make Italy the new center of interior design culture. Having successfully worked on producing new furniture with Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni (above right) and Carlo and Tobia Scarpa, the next logical step in his opinion was to work on new designs for lamps.

Eisinkeil provided the jumping board by suggesting the material be applied onto a metal frame  to create lighting fixtures. As Casciani explains, the aim was “to give a sense of magic to the light it emanated” which shined through the cloud-like material, than creating a new decoration for a light bulb.

flos taraxacum pendant lamp in showroom

The actual production of these “cocoon” lamps at FLOS begins with the creation of the frame made in steel, which is painted in white. Once the frame is ready, the “cocoon”, which is a type of polymer, is ready to be applied.

Two layers are applied, the first thicker, the second much thinner. The technician utilizes a spray gun-type of device as the frame twirls on a base that spins, allowing for equal application. Once this is done, the technician would inspect for any unevenness or areas that look thin in terms of the application, applying further coating of the “cocoon” to reinforce those areas. There is usually up to twenty-four hours between the two applications. After the two layers are applied, a coating material, a transparent exterior paint, is applied to add a sheen to the entire structure.

FLOS : Cocoon from FLOS USA on Vimeo.

The resulting skin is very similar to a real “cocoon” made by a silk work, hence the naming. In fact, Friedel Wauer who is credited for devising the technology of spraying the material onto steel frames, was inspired by the “self-wrapping” of a silkworm.

Lighting Made from Cocoon is an Ideal Piece of Lighting that Requires Minimal Maintenance

The "cocoon" material is an extremely strong, and flexible material, almost impossible to tear without a sharp knife or razor. It is also not flammable, simply melting when exposed to fire and can be cleaned very easily, requiring very little maintenance, making it an ideal piece of lighting to decorate any space with.

The first "cocoon" lamps – TaraxacumViscontea, Gatto, and Fantasma – were introduced the following year and are still in production by FLOS today.

 Gatto Picollo table lamps

Later in the new millennium, Marcel Wanders designed Zeppelin and Chrysalis, both of which utilize the “cocoon” and are considered offspring of this collaboration.