Lowen Behold: The furniture of Fred Lowen

The story of Fred (Fritz) Lowen has all the mystery and intrigue
of a finely crafted drama. Born in Germany in 1919, Fred later
fled Nazi Germany and found himself aboard the Dunera and bound
for Australia where he was placed in internment camps in Hay and Tatura.

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The humble beginnings of Fred Lowen’s furniture business began with
the production of a series of hand turned wooden bowls. It would appear
that the bowls were a mild success, and this provided the encouragement
to continue exploring the production of crafted timber wares.

Joining forces with Ernest Rodeck, who had also arrived in Australia via
the Dunera, the two men formed the now famous furniture company FLER,
the name created from a combination of the two partners’ initials. Starting in
Melbourne in 1946, the business was well positioned to address the needs of a post war nation which had endured years of rationing. Modernism promised an end to the old ways, and with this came a new aesthetic, a new way of living that
sought to break free from the ‘old ways’ and perhaps the reminders of the war years.

The Fler company are significant in our design history, as it marks a move away from the craft model (Krimper, Rosando, Zoureff) towards a mass production model.
Lowen and Rodeck were able to create furniture that had a handcrafted feel, yet could be produced in large quantities to meet the growing demands of a population seduced by the modernist aesthetic. The success of Fler continued to grow and the
business expanded nationally and led the way in modernised furniture production across the country.

Fler produced a wide range of furniture in the Scandinavian style. Classic chairs include the Executive Desk chair (pictured below), TVS, SC55 and SC58. Simplicity, formĀ and function meet in what I believe is a style that is uniquely Australian.
Slightly austere and practical, yet with a little flourish to make it just a little bit special.

The Fler company was later sold and in the 1960’s Lowen started Twen, which
changed it’s name to Tessa and became a household name for quality
contemporary furniture and is still in operation today. Classic Tessa designs
include the T8 chaise , the T4 lounge chair and the Wegner-like T5 lounge
(pictured below).

An excellent documentary on Fred Lowen produced by the ABC can be found at:

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/hindsight/stories/2011/3144474.htm

I can also highly recommend Fred’s biography
‘Fred Lowen: Dunera Boy, Furniture Designer, Artist’.
It’s a fascinating account of Fred’s life and features loads of information
and photographs of hisĀ furniture designs for Fler and Tessa.
This book is a must have for fans of Australian post-war design.