Xavier Pauchard was born in 1880 in Le Morvan, known as the green heart of France. Unsurprisingly wood was the most important construction material but despite that, he and his father and grandfather before him were zinc roofers.
In 1907, Pauchard discovered that he could protect sheet metal from rusting by dipping it in molten zinc, or galvanising it. Ten years later, he set up a factory making steel household items and eventually registered his trademark symbol as Tolix, by which name the company is still known.
That classic chair, a favourite of cafés and retro kitchens all over the world, was designed in 1934. It was meant to be outside in all weathers, which is why there are holes in the seats – to allow the rain to drain off. But café owners were quick to complain that the chairs wouldn't stack properly and Pauchard had to tweak his design. By 1956, the classic Tolix was finally created. With its slimmer frame, you could now stack 25 chairs to a height of 2.3 metres.
They were immediately popular, not just in cafés, where right up until the 1970s they were often given out by breweries in return for the owner stocking their brand, but also in factories, offices and hospitals.
By the end of the 1950s, the factory had about 80 workers and produced some 60,000 units annually. The company remained in the family until 2004. Now, the chair is part of the collections of the MoMA in New York, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Vitra design collection in Weil am Rhein in Germany.