The TOGO sofa, a cult piece of vintage design

In 1973, the Lyon-based designer Michel DUCAROY created the TOGO sofa for the furniture publisher Ligne Roset. 50 years later, this seat with its baba-cool look is still just as fascinating. While certain pieces of furniture from the 70s seem totally has-been today, the TOGO retains an intense power of attraction. Unlike some iconic pieces of vintage design, the TOGO was a huge commercial success, and still is today: more than a million pieces sold in almost 72 countries! A worldwide bestseller. We therefore wondered why this chair was still so attractive, revisiting Michel DUCAROY’s fruitful collaboration with the publisher from the Ain region.

A look and a silhouette that does not go unnoticed. The TOGO sofa, designed by Michel Ducaroy (1925-2009), looks like a cushioned seat that instinctively makes you want to wallow in it or settle comfortably, depending on your mood. It was in 1973, at the Salon des Arts Ménagers, that the furniture manufacturer Roset, which launched the Ligne Roset brand the same year, presented Michel Ducaroy’s latest creation.

Advertising to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Togo in 2013. Wrinkled by the years, but timeless!
Until the 1930s, the Etablissements Veuve A. Roset manufactured chairs, wicker chairs and stylish seats. After the war, the company created the first collections intended for the collective markets.

Opinions about TOGO are very divided: either you like this new casual design, or you think that Togo’s folds are definitely messy! Perhaps it is its pleated appearance, or even its crumpled appearance, as the grumpy ones will say, that makes it a singular decorative element. Nevertheless, the unusual chair presented by Roset won the René Gabriel prize, the professionals recognising its innovative approach and style.

For its time, the TOGO is unusual. First of all, its structure: without frames, at ground level. Its appearance: very soft, using the new materials of the time. It is entirely stuffed with a thick and robust polyester foam of 3 different densities (2 polyether foams, 1 high resilience polyurethane foam), covered with a quilted and padded cover. And that’s it!

Admittedly, the TOGO is surprisingly casual, but it is the expression of a French and global design that is becoming less and less classic and conventional, in a post-Sixties France that is less corseted. As early as 1968, Michel Ducaroy designed the Adria foam armchair for Roset, placed directly on the floor. Let’s not forget the context either: another contemporary of Michel DUCAROY, Pierre PAULIN (1927-2009), responded in 1971 to the request of the Pompidou couple to furnish 3 rooms in the private flats of the Elysée Palace, and brought a strange pumpkin to the living room: modernity in power!

Adria foam armchair, here naked that can be upholstered. One of the first foam chairs to be placed directly on the floor. Design: Michel Ducaroy for Roset, 1968
The famous Pumpkin armchair created by Pierre PAULIN for the Salon aux tableaux at the Elysée Palace.
Vintage Pumpkin 3-seater sofa, design: Pierre PAULIN. Ligne Roset has reissued the famous seat designed by Pierre Paulin in 1971 for the private flats of Claude and Georges Pompidou at the Elysée Palace. The structure is in polyester foam bonded to thermoformed ABS.

Innovative and unique at the time, what makes the TOGO such a popular vintage design icon? There are several reasons. Thefirst is the inventiveness of the publisher Ligne Roset, who offered almost 900 different colours for the seat, in different materials: fabric, leather, velvet, plain or printed suede. The sofa can be completely stripped of its covers, allowing you to change the upholstery at will to give it a new look to suit your taste.

The TOGO is also available in several versions and formats: as a single seat, a bench (small or large), a footstool or even a lounge chair. This means that you can change the layout endlessly and create a mix of several TOGOs in your living room. It is a seat that remains very comfortable over time, and its timeless shape is immediately recognisable. Finally, the TOGO is a dream, because it harks back to a carefree and joyful era. Some people remember with nostalgia the offbeat advertisements designed by Ligne Roset to promote it.

The Togo is a timeless piece of design which can be integrated into different worlds: here in a classic interior.
The Togo adapts naturally to a different decoration. Here its leather covering is suitable for an industrial interior.
Togo in a contemporary interior.
Since 2007, Ligne Roset has been publishing a “junior” version of Togo for 5-12 year olds.
Ligne Roset
A visual designed for the 40th anniversary of Togo which sums up its qualities.
1974 advertisement for Togo. The modernity and design of Togo accessible to Mrs. Everybody!
A 1975 advertisement for Togo which marked its time. Togo finds its place in every interior.

Despite the success of TOGO, Michel Ducaroy remained loyal to Ligne Roset throughout his career. Born in 1925 in Lyon, he grew up in a family of industrialists, creators and manufacturers of contemporary furniture in Lyon, the Chaleyssin house. A graduate of the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts (sculpture section), Michel Ducaroy began his career there, before joining the chair manufacturer Roset, in Briord, Ain, in 1954. Ducaroy headed the design department at Roset for 26 years.

Michel Ducaroy, photograph.

Who is Roset at the time? Roset is a family business created in 1860 by Antoine ROSET (1841-1893), great-grandfather of the current directors, Pierre and Michel Roset. He started a small parasol cane factory and developed his business. At the end of the century, Antoine Roset changed his activity, as parasols were no longer in fashion. The company designed wooden chair legs and bars, before quickly moving on to the manufacture of complete chairs. In 1936, Roset began to manufacture upholstered chairs, mainly in leather. In the aftermath of the war, Roset had almost 50 employees and expanded into the contract furniture industry. It was Jean Roset who, in the early 1970s, reoriented the business towards private customers and began collaborating with designers, including Michel Ducaroy.

The collaboration between Michel Ducaroy and Roset was not limited to TOGO. The Lyon-based designer will sign for the Rhône-Alpes publisher other seats in the same vein as the TOGO and Adria models. For the anecdote, you should know that Michel Ducaroy’s creations are part of the popular imagery: the Kali model sofa designed by Michel Ducaroy in 1970 is used as a decor for the conversations of the characters of the comic strip Les Frustrés (1975-1980), designed by Claire Bretécher.

Liberty sofa model Kali, designed by Michel Ducaroy for Roset, 1970s. Model in fine corduroy with multiple small flowers going from black, to khaki, cream, green and chocolate.
Cartoon from the comic strip Les Frustrés drawn by Claire Bretécher featuring the Kali armchair.
Set of chairs, Kashima series, design by Michel Ducaroy for Ligne Roset, 1970s.
Advertising for the Safi model by Roset, design: Michel Ducaroy.
Large semi-circular sofa, model Gilda, white, design: Michel Ducaroy for Ligne Roset, 1972. 5 identical armchairs are connected to each other by metal loops.
1 chaise longue from the Large semi-circular sofa, model Gilda, white, design: Michel Ducaroy for Ligne Roset, 1972.

Today, Roset continues to pursue its path with its two brands: Ligne Roset and Cinna, created in 1975, which is intended to be younger and more creative. Roset continues to collaborate with contemporary design talents: Didier Gomez, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Inga Sempé, and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. But there is no doubt that TOGO, synonymous with freedom and innovation, has deeply marked the DNA of the house.

Facett armchair, design: Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Ligne Roset, 2005.
Ligne Roset

François Boutard