Fred Lowen’s story is a compelling journey of survival, innovation, and design. As a German-Australian designer, he carved out a unique space in the Australian design landscape. He was not just a designer but a man whose artistry was shaped by his life experiences. Below, we dive into his biography, iconic designs, and lasting legacy.
The Roots: Early Life and Immigration
Fred Lowen was born in Upper Silesia, a part of Germany at the time, as Fritz Karl Heinz Loewenstein in 1919. His life took a dark turn when, as a Jewish man, he had to flee Nazi Germany in 1938. After a perilous journey through Belgium and England, Lowen found a new home in Australia, arriving in Sydney in September 1940. Unfortunately, his father, Karl Loewenstein, was later deported to Minsk Ghetto and Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Finding Purpose: The Birth of FLER
Upon settling in Australia, Fred Lowen began to explore his passion for design. Teaming up with Ernest Rodeck, he launched FLER in September 1945. Their early designs included wooden salad bowls, trays, and lazy susans. Lowen also manufactured a chair designed by Fred Ward for the Myer department store in Melbourne, setting the stage for the significant design contributions he was about to make.
A Storied Catalog: Iconic Furniture Ranges
The SC Series
Between 1955 and 1958, Lowen designed the SC55 and SC58 ranges, a pioneering set that included the Aluminium Shell Chair, mahogany fold-out extension tables, and cane back chairs. These designs offered a fresh perspective on materials and form, demonstrating a marriage between function and aesthetics.
The Narvik and Fleronde
The 1960s were a prolific period for Lowen. His Narvik dining and lounge ranges were released in 1961, followed by the Fleronde in 1964/65 and a dining setting in 1966/67. He even designed a desk and chair for the Australian Exhibition at Expo 67 in Montreal, Canada, gaining international recognition.
Twen and Tessa
In 1968, Lowen founded Twen and subsequently designed the Twen-1 and Twen-2 ranges. Twen was later rebranded as Tessa in 1972, leading to the T-6, T-8, and T-9 ranges.
The 1980s Collections
In the 1980s, Lowen shifted his focus but continued his design journey with the Delmont, Sarina, and Sling ranges.
Honors and Autobiography
Lowen was not just known for his designs but also for his contributions to the Australian community. In 1987, he was honoured as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). Later, he authored his autobiography, “Fred Lowen: Dunera Boy, Furniture Designer, Artist,” published in 2001.
The End of an Era: Passing and Legacy
Fred Lowen passed away in Melbourne in 2005, but his legacy endures. His designs are not merely furniture pieces but artifacts of history that continue to inspire. They serve as a testament to a life marked by resilience, innovation, and a relentless quest for beauty.
Conclusion: A Life Well-Designed
Fred Lowen’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of design. For those of us passionate about decorative and applied arts, his story serves as a rich case study in how personal experiences can deeply inform one’s design philosophy. From wooden salad bowls to iconic lounge chairs, Fred Lowen’s contributions span both form and function, making him an enduring figure in the annals of design history.
Fred Lowen. (2023, August 16). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Lowen