Local collaborations get to the bottom of a seating issue
The noho move™ chair is the ‘trail blazing’ (first) product offering of noho Limited, a Formway Group company established to take a new breed of Formway designed, locally manufactured, home furniture products to global markets.
Technology Valley Seaview-based company, Formway, has been designing revolutionary seating products for international furniture brands for more than 20 years. Best known for its world-class office chair designs, including the iconic ‘Life ‘ and ‘Be’ chairs, Formway has long held a desire to create beautiful, highly functional furniture to support every-day life at home as well as at work.
Fast-forward more than four years of intensive research, design and product engineering effort and the Formway designed, NZ made noho move chair has been launched and selling online to US and NZ customers by Formway sister company: noho Limited.
Made from recycled nylon and polypropylene (think old fishing nets and synthetic carpets) the noho move chair is contract manufactured by Taita-based injection moulders Uniplas.
Being able to tap into a quality local manufacturer, for a chair that is being exported around the world, is an important plus, says noho Executive Director Richard Cutfield.
“We felt that the noho move chair was such a compelling product in terms of the ergonomics, comfort and versatility it brings to the home. So we chose not to sell the design IP to an offshore manufacturer and instead invest in making the chairs and taking them to the world, from here in Lower Hutt,” he says.
Lower Hutt born and bred
Formway began life in 1956 as the Petone Engineering Company and has operated from Lower Hutt ever since. In the early 1980s the company was acquired by a local partnership including former Executive Chairman Rick Wells of Days Bay who remains a director. Two other long term shareholders Mark Pennington and David Thomson were school mates at Hutt Valley High, although David has long since resided in the USA near Palo Alto (the Technology Valley of North America).
“Designing world-class chairs locally and producing them from recycled materials in a corner of the South Pacific is an important part of our story,” says Richard.
Formway‘s design team of 15 comes with 25 years of pedigree as office furniture designers. The privately owned company is continually adding to its design portfolio, as well as managing 64 patents, 167 design registrations and 62 trade marks around world along with design collaborations with the likes of US premium furniture brand Knoll and Natuzzi of Italy.
The noho team comprises just four, split between here and Boulder Colorado.
Till recently the home furniture market has not been large in Formway Design’s viewfinder.
But the noho move chair came from an insight about dining room tables - they are used less than 20% of the time for dining. A home’s main table also doubles up as homework or work from home desk, craft table, sit-down place for a coffee or beer and many other functions.
Unlike office furniture, which over the past 40 years has become very flexible and adaptive to different body shapes, dining room furniture has remained stubbornly rigid and non-dynamic.
Sitting on a static chair is eventually uncomfortable.
After a while on an inert dining chair we’ll lean back on both its legs, and the front (taking pressure off the bottom of our thighs), use it’s non-movement as much as is feasible without wrecking it or ourselves.
“The Formway design team looked at how to make a dining room chair ergonomic, which allows our body to open out, encouraging movement. And which also supports you,” says Richard.
“The Formway design team’s intent was to create more than a beautiful, highly comfortable and ergonomic dining chair. It needed to be a chair so versatile that it responded to and supported the multiple other activities we engage in around our family tables in a naturally healthy way, ” says Formway Co-CEO Kent Parker.
“We wanted all the socialising activities that take place at a dining table to be healthy, positive and comfortable.”
A number of iterations of the design were put through their paces, enduring over 100,000 ‘sit’ cycles with mechanical bottoms and backs to simulate many years of use and abuse. The final design is the culmination of deep knowledge and integration of biomechanics, materials, psychology and physiology - a new breed of ‘versatile every-day’ chair which makes other dining chairs seem outdated in their inflexibility.
International Earth Day launch
Noho move launched on 21st April 2020, not coincidentally International Earth Day, just as Covid changed all the rules. The launch in both New Zealand and the US went ahead despite the pandemic’s spread. Being an online-only sales and distribution business model has been advantageous in this regard, as has the increasing demand for home comfort and products that support people working from home at their dining tables.
Noho move costs (though arguably it is an investment) $450 including GST . A wool noho topper, also made locally in Upper Hutt by CoverMe is available in four colours for $175 each (or $150 when purchased with a chair).
The chair is supplied via home delivery in a space efficient L-shaped box with quick-fit legs supplied separately It comes with a guaranteed 100 day free return and full refund if a purchaser is not satisfied. But locals can also experience the the chair at one of two Mojo Wellington café’s (at 1 Market Lane and 56 The Terrace).
Having tried the chair the writer can attest that it is definitely different – in a good way. It’s a chair that moves the way you do, and comfortably supports various uses around a table. And it’s easy on the eye.
As a dynamic, flexible table chair, Richard believes the noho move has the potential to forge a new category of seating for the home. He notes the irony that the most dynamic, comfortable and healthy furniture we use is in our work places and not our living spaces. And from that irony comes opportunity for noho move chair and a better way to sit at home.
Richard also feels that other New Zealand businesses could also sell only online and direct to customers around the world as noho is.
“It’s a rapidly growing and effective channel to market, even for products such as furniture. On-line sales growth is being fuelled by free home delivery, lenient free returns policies , and sophisticated Augmented Reality Apps to allow products to be experienced virtually at home,” says Richard.
“These developments add convenience and choice and reduce buyer risk. Research suggests that Augmented Reality Apps, such as the one available from the noho.co web-site, can improve buyer confidence to purchase remotely by up to 60%.
“All this means that online is an increasingly cost effective and accessible channel for businesses from Aotearoa/New Zealand and a means to connect directly with end customers in other markets and offer genuine value without layers of off-shore agent, distributor and retailer margins.
“It’s a great way to live locally and trade globally.”
Caption: Richard Cutfield, sitting on a noho move chair