Perhaps Quasar Khanh has not had the recognition he deserves but as the inventor of inflatable furniture we feel he should be up there in the pantheon of great designers and being as we’ve not featured any inventors yet on VoEA this seems to be a very appropriate starting point.
Born Nguyen Manh Khanh in Hanoi, Vietnam in 1934, aged 15 he moved to Paris with his mother and shortly after enrolled at the French elite school for engineers the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees. His initial training was in civil engineering but he soon found himself drawn to the world of design and fashion. He changed his name to Quasar because he wanted a name that was more universal and less cluttered by association with his Asian roots and in 1957 married model and designer Emmanuelle Khanh; they went on to form a formidable design partnership calling the company after his new wife’s name. They dabbled in fashion including a see-through plastic dress and a matching nightgown with fluorescent lights (we’re not sure where the power source came from) and then progressed on to inflatable furniture and even designed a car called the Quasar Unipower. This was years ahead of its time as the first purely urban vehicle and rather uniquely a car that was wider than it was long. Of course it had inflatable seats and was effectively a rolling glass cube. Only six of these vehicles rolled off the production line.
Quasar Khanh has continued to plough his own unique design furrow and most recently has moved back to Vietnam and gone back to his construction roots designing dams in Canada, buildings in Paris and bridges over the Saigon River.
Here though we take a look at what he’ll probably be best remembered for and that is his fantastic, futuristic, possibly slightly sticky inflatable furniture. It was produced in a Parisian beach toy factory between 1968 & 72 and was effectively hand-made furniture albeit in PVC. The range was called Aerospace and has been featured in exhibitions in the Pompidou centre and Musee des Arts Decoratifs. Questioning whether this is a practical addition to the everyday household is probably missing the point and clearly smoking in the vicinity of inflatable furniture is not advisable but as Quasar Khanh himself says of his time in the 1960s: “The sky was the limit – at that time anything was possible” and in fairness he was probably right.