Although watching Don Draper’s desk lit by a Presidente S/C model in the award winning TV series Mad Men became a turning point for their current hype, FASE desk and table lamps have been a must in the vintage design scene for a while now. Featured in numerous films, TV series and design magazines, they have become an international object of desire. Christie’s, the world’s top auction house, has sold several pieces, and collectors around the world seem to be ready to pay more than 1000 euros for some rare ones. 1st dibs, the premier online luxury marketplace, features more than twenty of these pieces, whose prices reach up to 2000 dollars. Condé Nast’s Architectural Digest Spain is recognised as the most prestigious decoration and lifestyle magazine in the Spanish market and an international benchmark of refined living, since it was launched in 2006 more than a dozen different models of Fase lamps have been featured in its pages.
FASE deserves a huge revival!
Claudette Didul, Mad Men set decorator
FASE was established in Madrid in 1964 and some of its most iconic lamps (Boomerang 64, Boomerang 2000, 520, Faro and Presidente) were manufactured during its first few years of life. The last four ones are easier to find since they were marketed until the end of the 80s and thousands of them were produced. FASE’s early models featured previously unseen design proposals that were absolutely modern for the time, a truly original combination of metal and wood, fantastic chrome plating, and a beautiful range of colours. One of their most salient characteristics was their ability to move through a sophisticated ball and socket joint system devised by FASE’s early designers: the head is articulated or even fully rotates, and the base swivels. Their distinctive glass diffuser also became a trademark of the Spanish company.
These lamps soon became popular beyond Spanish borders and were exported to the main European countries (England, France, Italy, Germany) and the United States. The company was founded by a self-made man, Pedro Martín, a turner who used to sell the lamps he designed and manufactured in Madrid’s street market and who in just a few years, when the company had considerably grown, moved to Torrejón de Ardoz in the outskirts of Madrid to a factory that became the headquarters of one of the biggest success stories of Spanish industry in the 70s. For more than three decades, up to 32 countries from all corners of the world (Canada, the Arab Emirates, Japan, etc.) imported Fase lamps.
The light is essential for everybody, then, why not give it a right dress? As important as the light is the form that is shows to us. It´s worthless a bulb, decoratively speaking, if it hasn´t a good lamp than attenuates its luminosity
Pedro Martín, founder (1934-2006)
While in the 60s the design of FASE lamps was fully made in Spain, the strategy changed in the 70s and the company started to produce several lamps that were mainly inspired by previous Italian and Bauhaus designs (which were basically unknown in Franco´s Spain), but introducing a different twist by adding some elements that were typical from the Spanish company, such as the use of wood. Chrome also became more common in many designs, as can be seen in lamps such as Tharsis or Babilonia. Some other models, however, were still produced as fully original designs: the Arpón, with which the company won a prestigious design award in France, or the stunning stainless steel Impala are good examples of those.
In the 80s, the company started to abandon the type of designs that made its lamps so popular to manufacture unattractive halogen lamps that were on fashion at the time. FASE started its decline then and it never produced any lamps that could match the icons that were designed in the 60s and 70s.
Since there is no catalogue raisonné for FASE lamps (our book will provide the first one),
many desk and table lamp models are wrongly advertised as FASE. Most of the pieces manufactured by Fase originally featured the company’s name or logo in some part of the lamp (normally the base or the plug, sometimes both) and that makes it easier to identify them, but due to their vintage condition it is sometimes lost. The adjective “fase-type” has even been coined to describe those lamps that cannot be clearly identified as FASE or just resemble them. In fact, at least five companies, all based in Madrid, produced lamps that were quite similar to the FASE ones. Lupela, GEI (Gabinete Estudios Industriales) and Ma-Of are reasonably well-known amongst the experts, but this book will reveal new ones. Together with the names of the designers…
In sum, although FASE was a leading company within the lighting sector and its innovating designs are still present throughout the world, its story is almost completely anonymous. There are no existing books on FASE, articles in magazines are very rare and the information available online is scarce and often inaccurate. This is all very strange, especially since FASE was a model company that illuminated the offices and homes of Spain for decades and exported its extraordinary products to 32 different countries. The designers are unknown, the workers anonymous, there are many rumours online, most of them unfounded.
Its advertising catalogues are sold for more than 3000 euros, but most of the information is hidden behind the tyranny of some antique collectors who keep it to themselves and usually refuse to share it. FASE is widely present in private collections but missing from public displays.
Besides, no Spanish institution seems to have any concern for FASE’s industrial and design heritage, even though many of their lamps, coat hangers and ashtrays are authentic pieces of innovating design.
This is the beginning of the history of FASE, the story we’ve always wished to know…