Fler Furniture

1946 - c1980s
Fler Furniture
Fler is responsible for some of the most stunning Australasian furniture of the mid-century period. Its designs helped define the Scandi-Pacific style and are highly collectable today.
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Fred Lowen (Fritz Karl Heinz Loewenstein) and Ernest Rodeck met at Tatura Internment Camp in Australia in 1941. Both men were European Jewish migrants fleeing from Nazi Europe and soon developed a lifelong friendship. In 1946 the pair decided to start a business partnership that would eventually become one of Australia’s largest modern furniture manufacturers.

The company was named FLER, an acronym derived from the first letter of each founder's name. It was a humble beginning – the first workshop was a two-horse stable and neither founder had any experience making furniture. Initially Fred crafted small wooden bowls and tableware while Ernest, a gifted engineer, made propelling pencils.

Things took off for Fler in 1948 with the help of Frederick Ward. Ward was a designer for the Myer Emporium, a large and successful chain of department stores in Australia. Ward was familiar with Lowen's tableware and convinced him to produce a simple, modern and affordable set of chairs for the Myer stores. Things were about to change in the humble stable workshop.

The Ward / Lowen design, named the “Swedish Modern Dining Chair” or "DC1" was attractive and contemporary but it was Rodeck's engineering experience that ultimately led to success in the market. Rodeck was in charge of manufacturing and quickly mechanised the production line, giving Fler the ability to sell in volumes unheard of in Australia. This allowed the company to sell quality products at a very competitive price.

Inspired by the success of the DC1, Lowen completed a course in Furniture Design & Construction at Melbourne Technical College (RMIT) from 1949-50. From then Fler released a string of popular, contemporary designs. The much-loved SC55 and SC58 armchairs (designed 1955-1958) were considered groundbreaking, and the Narvik range from 1961 is a classic example of the mid-century Scandi-Pacific aesthetic.

In 1960, Fler became the first national furniture company to be floated on the Australian stock exchange. By the mid-1960s there were Fler furniture factories in every Australian state and licenced production in New Zealand by the Broadhead Bros. The groundbreaking Australian Pavilion at the Montreal Expo in 1967, featured Fler furniture alongside the work of other prominent Australian designers like Grant and Mary Featherston.

In 1966 Fler was taken over by Australian Controls and Lowen continued at the company as Design Director. Two years later Australian Controls purchased Ian Howard’s furniture company Aristoc Industries and Lowen decided it was time to leave. Almost immediately he started a new furniture company named Twen, later renamed Tessa Furniture with brother-in-law Howard Lindsey.

Fler continued producing furniture into the 1980s - 90s but like many local makers, struggled to compete with cheaper, lower quality overseas products as import restrictions were lifted. Ultimately, Fler furniture is responsible for helping popularise the modern aesthetic throughout Australasia. The company has left a legacy of beautifully designed and crafted furniture that is still loved today.

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Fred Lowen 'Televiewer' Reclining Armchair by Fler

Fler Furniture