Varier, famous for its iconic kneeling chairs, is the current bestseller at Phil Zen Design.
We are excited to share valuable insight on the brand through an interview with
Olivier Henry, Director New Business Development - eCommerce at FFL Brands, Varier's representative partner in North America.
Olivier, tell us briefly about yourself and your connection to Varier?
For the past 12 years, I have been helping European manufacturers build their presence in Europe and the United States. Varier is an iconic brand with an international reach including North America, so naturally, I was thrilled to join the company three years ago.
I will always remember my first Varier chair. It lasted less than a day before my wife took it from me, so I had to bring another one home. A day after bringing a second one home, it disappeared again. This time, one of my sons fell for it. So today, I sit on my 3rd Variable Balans!
I believe that my experience is a good illustration of a current trend. With the rising number of professionals working from home, chairs have to be more versatile and must benefit the whole family.
Customers used to buy our chairs to reduce their back pain whereas nowadays, they purchase our chairs proactively, to prevent such problems.
What is the concept behind the Varier brand?
Varier is a modern Norwegian brand focused on the individual's well-being. Its creation was inspired by the need to promote movement while seated. Since 1979, these chairs have offered a uniquely uncompromising experience, embodying activity, freedom, and innovation. They have been meticulously designed in close collaboration with some of the most iconic Scandinavian designers, including Opsvik, Øie, Ekstrøm, Salto and Sigsgaard, and have been widely recognized for their positive effects on health.
What, in your opinion, makes Varier so successful?
Although many of the chair designs go back to the 70s, they remain highly appealing due to a unique aesthetic expression that is timeless, original and beautiful. The Ekstrøm, for example, was successfully relaunched at the 2018 Milan Design Week. Also, wellness is increasingly on everyone's mind with studies that keep alerting us about the negative effects of our sedentary habits. Customers have been looking for alternatives to the traditional task chair.
There are many marketed concepts out there but very few which give you the right posture and comfort all day. Varier designs get copied regularly but the comfort, quality of materials and manufacturing technique really set the brand apart. It offers simple to use, intelligent, healthy and sustainable solutions that our customers enjoy customizing. We often get contacted by customers who bought their chairs 30 or even 40 years ago, and are still using them! Just one month ago, we received picture of what was probably one of the first prototypes of the Variable Balans. It was so well preserved that I thought it was a reproduction! It's pretty amazing, when you think about it.
Phil Zen offers a wide range of personalization options and people love it!
Varier responds to the rising demand for personalized experience by offering customers many premium upholstery options to choose from. In April 2021, Varier launched a new collection of upholstery that adapts to our evolving lifestyles and responds to our customers’ feedback.
We are thrilled that Phil Zen embodies this philosophy, as our clients really value being able to build their one-of-a-kind chair. When you know you will keep your chair for decades, it makes the wait time worth it. I often see customers who are happy to wait several months to get the exact color and fabric they want, to fit their interior.
Phil Zen is unique in its approach to design, frequently asking for new chairs, fabrics, or colors to introduce to North America!
Phil Zen values working with sustainable suppliers. What is Varier's approach?
In Norway, protecting nature is an obligation. Varier is proud to be part of a culture that invests in ethical practices that help turn profits into value for future generations.
Today, the majority of our components are made from fully recyclable materials. As a result, Varier meets or exceeds all local sustainability regulations. In addition, the production process at Trio Line, Varier's long-standing manufacturing partner, has been optimized through strict principles. These minimize waste and energy consumption.
What impact has the pandemic had on Varier?
Like other brands, we have seen a significant increase in demand due to lockdowns and working-from-home protocols, as people organize their home-offices. As more businesses plan to shift to virtual work, we expect the demand to remain strong in the future. It impacted production times, but Varier has significantly increased the production capacity of its factories, and wait-times are decreasing again.
The recent surge of global activity has put new pressure on container transfers from Europe. To reduce additional delays and customer frustration, we had to switch special orders to Air Cargo, which incurred additional costs as a result
What is your insider tip for making home-offices efficient?
As we enter an era where an increasing number of us work from home, we will be faced with improving our home working conditions. This can be done in several ways:
One option is to arrange a dedicated workplace equipped with specialized office furniture. My recommendation, however, is to furnish our homes with versatile furniture that suits the combined demands of both leisure and work.
The body’s natural needs remain the same, whether you are eating dinner or preparing a presentation for your next meeting.
Reaching forward for a second serving at the dinner table requires the same movement as when you reach for your mobile phone at your desk.
When leaning back to stretch after enjoying a well-prepared meal, you perform the same movement as when leaning back to answer an incoming business call.
The freedom to move is the essence of all Varier designs. As Peter Opsvik would put it, “The next position is always the best”!
Discover our Varier collection