Fiberglass is lightweight yet strong, making it one of the ideal materials for furniture since the mid-twentieth century, it’s UV-resistant, nonporous, and scratch-enduring, fiberglass in the furniture industry is sometimes considered to be an even better choice than ordinary plastic for outdoor furniture material. It also holds its shape and color over its life cycle (except for a small degree of oxidation or yellowing for white color fiberglass) — that is why large numbers of modern boats and canoes are made out of fiberglass.
Yet fiberglass, since its heydays in 60’s and 70’s, has not been as popular as it should be in the furniture sector. Some would argue that it is because top furniture designers these days have lost its interest in the material, thus churning out fewer pieces of fiberglass. From the 50’s to 70’s, it was touted by top designers like Eames, Saarinen, Panton, Jacobsen, and Aarnio as a material for the future, with their masterpieces such as La Chaise, Tulip Chair, Panton Chair and Ball Chair etc.
Some other would say it is the rise of the plastic that hindered any further development of fiberglass as a furniture material.
I think, even without the uprising of the plastic, fiberglass would have eventually faded out from the center stage (but would never die out completely). There are quite a few reasons; the production of fiberglass has been largely manual, making it too labor intensive and cost ineffective. Second, fiberglass furniture is usually molded into one piece as limited by its nature, making it not stackable – and thus, leading to a high transportation cost. (For this, one must admire the wisdom of Charles and Ray Eames for its everlasting classic series of dining chair — which are both KD and stackable, while being aesthetically outstanding even to this day).
In China, most of the fiberglass furniture factories are still situated in Shunde area. A couple of large-scale factories are in Panyu, Guangzhou as well. These years, even inland cities such as Sichuan have fiberglass furniture production. But the major problem facing these factories is that they still rely heavily on making replicas of the masterpieces for their income. Even when they have come up with the so-called new styles, the products are still tweaked versions of the classics, like adding spitfire wrapping to the Egg Chair or Swan Chair. The consumer market seems to have fixated on the masters’ classics when it comes to fiberglass furniture, making the industry players, including the retailers and distributors rather keen on playing it safe by continuously ordering replicas or the inspired designs.