Ligne Roset’s Togo sofa is many things at once: an ergonomic feat, one of the first modular couches on the market, a popular Instagram flex, not to mention a TikTok obsession (look up “Togussy” on the platform’s comments). But, most importantly, it’s an enduring design icon that’s still just as relevant 50 years later.
Michel Ducaroy’s groundbreaking couch premièred at the 1973 Salon des Arts ménagers in Paris, where it won the René Gabriel Prize for “innovative and democratic furniture” — i.e. good designs for a (relatively) good price. Togos are still painstakingly hand-sewn to attain their signature folds, which explains the sometimes hefty cost (a custom leather two-seater retails at up to 7,920 dollars and can take 10 months to make). Compared to a shar-pei’s wrinkles, a caterpillar, and a cloud, the Togo was in fact inspired by toothpaste: brushing his teeth one day, Ducaroy glanced down at the tube, which “folded back on itself like a stovepipe and closed at both ends” — could he translate its form into a sofa without a base, he wondered, one made only from fabric (the tube) and polyurethane foam (the paste)? Eschewing a frame was a radical idea at the time, and many assumed it was unintentional: Antoine Roset, the great-great-grandson of Ligne Roset’s founder and now the Directeur General and CEO of Ligne Roset, recounts how people thought the company must have forgotten one or not had time to build it when the Togo was first unveiled.
Legend has it that Ducaroy glanced at a map to find the sofa’s snappy name, which for photographer Philippe Jarrigeon perfectly captures its playful spirit. Jarrigeon spent his childhood jumping up and down on Togos at his parents home near Lyon, where Ligne Roset maintains its factories to this day. Always searching for the latest innovative pieces, M. et Mme Jarrigeon, both engineers, upholstered theirs in a very 70s black-background flower print. When Jarrigeon turned twelve, the family Togos were relegated to the garage, only to be resurrected when he and his brother went to university, accompanying them to their college accommodation. “They had a long life,” Jarrigeon remembers fondly. It’s hard to picture a coffee table in front of them, he adds, not only because they’re such a statement piece, but because they lie so low, which contributes to their youthful vibe.
As much sculpture as couch, the Togo has a flourishing virtual presence, leading Jared Blake, co-owner of New York design incubator and furniture store Lichen, to label it the ultimate “Instagram sofa.” Suddenly everywhere on social media during the coronavirus pandemic, it has consolidated its comeback (unlike banana bread and Tiger King). “What sets it apart from most things online is that it’s actually better in person,” says Blake — as well as looking good, it’s extremely comfortable, which is the real bottom line for any couch. “My favorite aspect is the weight,” Blake continues. “It’s light enough for one person to move by themselves. If you break up with someone or are moving out, you can literally pick it up and you’re ready to go.”