FLAMBO : A chair to improve bank employees’ working conditions

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FLAMBO : A chair to improve bank employees’ working conditions

FLAMBO : A chair to improve bank employees’ working conditions

That was how the FLAMBO chair, patented in 1926, was presented. The M42 model, introduced in 1929, became THE reference in office chairs until the 1970s. Even the Belgian cartoon character Gaston Lagaffe made good use of it!!

What was so special about this chair?

Designed for women in particular, it was entirely adjustable and adapted to the shape and mobility of the user. For more comfort, it had a lever to tilt the back without toppling over, as well as a foam and rubber cushion. The office chair, which swivelled by 360°, was meant to keep the back straight during the long hours demanded by the rhythm of office machines and the principles of Taylorism, which required discipline, precision and method: everything on the desktop was within reach to limit the amount of movement at the workstation.

Bank employee working on a FLAMBO chair, mounted on rail – BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Bank employee working on a FLAMBO chair, mounted on rail – BNP Paribas Historical Archives

The chairs could be mounted on rails to make it easier for instance for bank employees who had to move back and forth to look up and update customer transaction files.

The end of wooden chairs and backaches!

In the aftermath of World War I, banks realised that it was in their interest to improve the working conditions of their female employees to ensure greater operational efficiency. “Reduce fatigue to improve yield” was the advertising slogan of the FLAMBO chair! An argument that seemed to convince banks, where the brand’s furniture soon became popular.

Advertising for the FLAMBO chair, 1926 et 1929, Revue Banque – BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Advertising for the FLAMBO chair, 1926 et 1929, Revue Banque – BNP Paribas Historical Archives

Many bank employees enjoyed the benefits of the FLAMBO chair: typists, switchboard operators, coupon payers, customer file managers, tabulating machine operators, ticket punchers… jobs that disappeared or were completely transformed with the advent of computer systems!

Today, the FLAMBO M42 chair has become an icon of industrial design and a sought-after collector’s item.

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