If pursuing cutting-edge collaborations could become an addiction, consider Swedish brand Hem well and truly hooked. Fresh on the heels of a 2021 product release with Sabine Marcelis, the maker of fine designer goods has this time partnered with Italian studio Formafantasma, delivering to market a sleek aluminium shelving system. Debuting with the name T Shelf, the fruit of the much-anticipated union shines a light on Hem’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and penchant for premium partnerships.
Guided by practice co-founders Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, the work of Formafantasma first resonated with Hem’s founder, Petrus Palmér, in 2010. For more than a decade since, Petrus has followed the designers and the steady flow of work dispatched from their studios in Milan and Rotterdam. “It was clear from the start that they had a certain sensibility and deep understanding and appreciation of both materials and culture,” Petrus says of Formafantasma, noting that he first floated the idea of Hem collaborating with the studio in 2017.
‘T Shelf’ shelving system by Formafantasma for Hem
Five years of “skilful product development” later, the two companies have now unveiled the functional and quietly sophisticated T Shelf shelving system. “The production was challenging, but Hem’s patience with the long process of prototyping and testing resulted in a final product which looks minimal and elegant but is really a masterpiece of design and manufacturing,” the Formafantasma team says. “Working with Hem felt like a very natural fit. The collaborative and open brief that Petrus and the team offered allowed us to really push creative boundaries.”
Given an extruded aluminium composition traditionally reserved for industrial manufacturing processes, the T Shelf is described by Hem as a “highly complex innovation” that starts with a seemingly simple T profile, allowing lengthy unsupported spans. Launching this month in anodised aluminium, the T Shelf family includes six different height and width modules that can be connected, offering buyers the opportunity to create custom shelving solutions for their spaces using an online configurator.
The thoughtful use of materials features at the heart of Formafantasma’s design. But the studio also wanted to create a piece that would be timeless, whose minimalist characteristics consist of a thin profile, smooth surface, rounded edges and no visible hardware. “Working with aluminium was something we really wanted to do,” Andrea and Simone recall. “It’s important to us that our work is not wasteful,” they add, highlighting that the extrusion process creates minimal waste while aluminium is easily recyclable.
On both sides of the process, the almost obsessive desire to design and create responsibly led Hem’s research and development team to discover a new manufacturing partner in Hydro, a company whose speciality lies in high-quality aluminium and sustainability. As a result, the T Shelf collection is produced using Hydro Restore, an aluminium product created from a combination of recycled pre-and-post consumer scrap, as well as primary material.
“Formafantasma stands out as one of the most relevant design practices of our generation,” Petrus says, reflecting on Hem’s collaboration with the self proclaimed “research-based” design studio. “Their unique sensibility and research-led approach results in work that is highly in tune with many of the most important questions of today – from scarcity in resources and circular manufacturing to how the design discipline relates to a wider context of culture and history.”
The collaborative and open brief that Petrus and the team offered allowed us to really push creative boundaries.