Inflation in progress
Let’s return to the inflatable innovations. Following the secret meetings at Ingvar Kamprad’s summer home in 1995, things progressed quite quickly. “It’s part of the IKEA culture to be innovative and take risks, to invest in a good idea, and have the desire and the power to create something good for the many people. Ingvar decided to go for it,” says Tomas Paulsson.
In a departure from its normal practices, IKEA now signed a contract with Jan Dranger. Jan was keen to protect his ideas, so IKEA and SoftAir formed a separate company to develop the finished product. IKEA went in with far more investment money and development funds than normal, encouraged especially by the opportunity to save on distribution costs if the project succeeded. Material consumption for a sofa would decrease by 85%, and transport volumes by as much as 90%. The plastic material, a polyolefin, was 100% recyclable. But when the product developers at IKEA finally got to know the technical details, it turned out that the inflatable furniture would cost far more than the initial calculations indicated.
In summer 1997, the ROLIG easy chair and the INNERLIG sofa were launched to the world press and at the stores in Stockholm, Hamburg and Paris. The series was called a.i.r – Air Is a Resource – and was received with interest and enthusiasm. In Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, design columnist Rebecca Tarschys wrote that IKEA had spared no expense “… in conveying the message of a happy new age of furniture, with lightweight, eco-friendly furniture that can be carried on a finger and hidden in a clothes drawer.”