Emeco

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Electric Machine and Equipment Company (Emeco)
Private
Industry Designer furniture
Founded 1944; 74 years ago (1944)
Founder Wilton C. Dinges
Headquarters Hanover, Pennsylvania
Key people
Gregg Buchbinder, CEO and owner
Products Chairs, side-tables
Website Emeco.net

Emeco is a privately held company based in Hanover, Pennsylvania. The iconic Emeco 1006, known as the Navy Chair, has been in continuous production since the 1940s. Today, Emeco manufactures furniture collections designed by internationally recognized designers and architects such as Philippe Starck and Norman Foster.

History[edit]

Wilton C. Dinges founded the Electric Machine and Equipment Company (Emeco) in 1944 with $300 in savings and a used lathe for machine-work. He started bidding on government manufacturing contracts out of a loft in Baltimore, Maryland, beginning with experimental antennas and jet engine parts.[1] Dinges moved to Hanover, Pennsylvania in 1946[1] in order to take advantage of the local labor market.[1][2][3] He obtained 10,000 pounds of aluminum scrap metal at an attractive price and started using it to build dining table legs. Later he manufactured chair frames and eventually focused completely on aluminum chairs in 1948.[1] The Emeco 1006 chair the company would become known for was one of several furniture products, such as bunks and lockers, Emeco made for the US Navy's fleet during World War II, out of an anodized aluminum material.[4][5] The business grew by under-bidding other manufacturers on government contracts for office building furniture. By 1953, there were four Emeco factories in Hanover.[1]

By 1955, Emeco was producing 200,000 chairs per year.[1] Dinges developed the chairs and Emeco's manufacturing process,[6] but he was not a good businessman and due to the elaborate manufacturing process, found it hard to generate a profit.[2] By 1979 the company was not receiving enough new government contracts to stay in business and was nearing bankruptcy.[4]

Emeco was sold that year to Jay Buchbinder who tried unsuccessfully to revive the military end of the business.[2] Buchbinder's son, Gregg, acquired Emeco from his father in 1998.[7] He noticed that Giorgio Armani and other designers showed an interest in the 1006 chair,[8] so he decided to focus on those and similar products.[5] In 1999 the company posted a profit for the first time in more than 20 years.[2] Gregg met French designer Philippe Starck at the 1998 International Contemporary Furniture Fair and the two agreed to collaborate on numerous designer versions of the 1006 Navy chair.[9] By 2004 these accounted for half of Emeco's production, or 46,500 chairs per year.[7]

Use of Recycled & Reclaimed Materials[edit]

Emeco is noted for their use of recycled and reclaimed materials.

The Coca-Cola Company and Emeco partnered to re-create the iconic Navy Chair using rPET plastic bottles;[10] the 111 Navy Chair became available in 2010.[11]

Philippe Starck and Emeco revived a 2001 design, the Broom Chair, making it with a formula combining waste polypropylene and reclaimed wood fiber. Broom was launched in 2012.[12]

In 2015, the Emeco Alfi Chair was introduced. The Alfi seat is made of 100% discarded industrial waste – 92.5% polypropylene and 7.5% wood fiber.[13][14]

Legal Actions[edit]

Restoration Hardware[edit]

In October 2012, Emeco filed a lawsuit against Restoration Hardware for allegedly violating their trademark and trade dress by selling look-alikes of the Emeco Navy chair, which Restoration Hardware called the “Naval Chair”. Restoration Hardware renamed the chair, then removed them from their website. In January 2013, Restoration Hardware agreed to stop selling the disputed chairs and to recycle their existing stock.[15][16][17][18][5]

IKEA[edit]

Emeco filed a design right and copyright infringement case against Swedish furniture giant IKEA in 2015, alleging that IKEA’s Melltorp dining chair was similar to the Emeco 20-06 Stacking Chair designed by Norman Foster in 2006.[19] In May 2016 Emeco accepted an out-of-court settlement from IKEA, both companies issued a joint statement announcing that a deal had been reached. Details of the deal remain confidential.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Making a fortune... in aluminum office chairs" (PDF). Modern Metals. March 1953.
  2. ^ a b c d Hogrefe, Jeffrey (May 2000). "Peace Work". Metropolis Magazine. pp. 84–89. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
  3. ^ Stuhldreher, Tim (June 18, 2010). "Hot Seat". Central Penn Business Journal.
  4. ^ a b Gandee, Charles (April 16, 2000). "Ship Shape". New York Times Magazine. pp. 104–105. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "77 Steps: Episode 310". 99% Invisible. 99% Invisible. June 5, 2018. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  6. ^ "Starting From a Chair". DOMUS Magazine. November 2013. pp. 106–111. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Beck, Ernest (October 2004). "How I Did It: Gregg Buchbinder – And sometimes your market finds you". INC Magazine.
  8. ^ "From Military to High Fashion, Pennsylvania Company Finds New Customers". CNN. March 6, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  9. ^ Kristal, Marc (May 11, 2012). "Starck's Material World". Metropolis Magazine. pp. 96–97.
  10. ^ Taylor, Michael C. "Emeco's 111 Navy Chair". Dwell. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  11. ^ "Starck's Material World - Metropolis Magazine - May 2012". www.metropolismag.com. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  12. ^ Proctor, Rebecca (2015). The Sustainable Design Book. London: Laurence King. p. 98. ISBN 1780674732.
  13. ^ "Emeco launches Jasper Morrison seats in Milan". Dezeen. 2015-04-16. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  14. ^ "jasper morrison conceives alfi seating collection for emeco". designboom | architecture & design magazine. 2015-04-16. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  15. ^ Raustiala, Kal; Sprigman, Christopher Jon (November 26, 2012). "Why Restoration Hardware's Knockoffs Are Good for Design". Slate Magazine. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  16. ^ Lasky, Julie (October 10, 2012). "Copying Classic Designs Is the Focus of a Lawsuit Against Restoration Hardware". The New York Times. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  17. ^ Egelko, Bob (January 28, 2013). "Restoration Hardware to stop look-alike chair sales". SFGate. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  18. ^ "Naval Battle Ends as Emeco, Restoration Hardware Settle Chair Dispute". Adweek – Breaking News in Advertising, Media and Technology. January 29, 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  19. ^ "IKEA faces legal action over alleged copyright infringement". Dezeen. 2015-03-25. Retrieved 2016-11-17.