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Isokon VG&P acquisition

Very Good & Proper acquires fellow British furniture brand Isokon Plus

British furniture manufacturer Very Good & Proper has acquired furniture brand Isokon Plus in a bid to develop both companies whilst retaining their "distinctive identities".

The acquisition will see both firms keep their brand names, while sharing resources in sales, marketing and distribution.

Plywood furniture specialists Isokon Plus initially suggested the move eighteen months ago, and it was finalised on 17 July. Each brand will "retain its own distinctive identity and design DNA" they said in a statement.

Isokon VG&P acquisition
Isokon Plus' Long chair was designed by Marcel Breuer

Ed Carpenter of Very Good & Proper (VG&P), who has taken on the role of creative director and CEO of both companies, said that the mutual decision is based on "a shared vision for the future" rather than about financial gain.

Co-founder of VG&P, André Klauser, has taken on the position of design director across both companies. Mark Smith of Isokon Plus will become operations director, whilst its founder, Chris McCourt, will remain involved with both companies as a design consultant.

Move not "motivated by money"

"We were massively flattered and very excited," said Carpenter, adding that the move "isn't motivated by money".

He stated that the decision didn't have anything to do with the challenges of Brexit, with many of both brands' raw materials coming from Europe.

"The timing this summer with Brexit looming, you could argue it's not great but, but when is the right time?" he added. "We formed VG&P in the depths of the financial crash in 2008, and we've done alright."

Isokon VG&P acquisition
VG&P's Canteen chair was one of the brand's first designs

Both brands will now move into an expanded 1,850 square-metre premises in Walthamstow, east London, on the site of VG&P's current warehouse and assembly facilities.

Isokon Plus are moving to the on-site workshop from their current space in Hackney Wick, allowing VG&P to benefit from their prototyping and research capabilities.

"Nothing aggressive" about the acquisition 

"VG&P and Isokon Plus have been collaborating closely for almost a decade now, so in some respects this is the next logical step," explained Carpenter.

"Acquisition probably best describes the legal situation but the fact is there's nothing aggressive about the process, and it certainly isn't motivated by financial gain."

Isokon VG&P acquisition
Isokon Plus make the Bodleian Library Chair designed by Barber & Osgerby

The acquisition will allow the brands to expand further internationally, with plans to show together at major trade shows in Europe.Carpenter hopes that VG&P's network can help Isokon Plus become more established in the US, where interest in European heritage brands is growing.

"[Isokon Plus] have concentrated so much on the making that they weren't getting out there enough," explained Carpenter. "We'll be able to take all our expertise over the last ten years with VG&P and pump that into the brand."

"We felt that the whole marketing, sales and distribution really needed to be put in order to get where we wanted to be, and we needed to confront this issue before it became detrimental to the brand," added Isokon Plus founder McCourt.

To mark the acquisition, the Shell Chair, made by Isokon Plus and Barber & Osgerby created in 2004, is being re-engineered and will be reissued at the London Design Festival in September.

Isokon Plus has its roots in the Isokon Furniture Company, founded in 1931 by British entrepreneur Jack Pritchard, and famous for making furniture from plywood.

Production was restarted by Chris McCourt in 1982. He went on to found Isokon Plus in 1997 to manufacture and distribute products by Barber & Osgerby, including the Loop Table and Bodleian Libraries Chair, as well as designs by Shin and Tomoko Azumi and Michael Sodeau.

VG&P was founded in 2008, initially supplying furniture for the restaurant chain Canteen, which was officially launched at London Design Festival in 2009.

It has gone on to specialise in workplace furniture for companies including WeWork, Facebook, Google, and the BBC.