At design Miami, the twice-yearly fair celebrating all things design in that art deco mecca of the sunshine state, Louis Vuitton presented its latest Objets Nomades collection. Featuring its first ever piece by an American designer, the ‘swell wave shelf’ by Andrew Kudless, the collection also boasts new concepts from repeat offenders the Campana brothers and Marcel Wanders.
Yes, luggage. And yaas! handbags, But throughout Louis Vuitton’s 166-year history, many other innovatively thrilling objets have been created – tea sets, camp beds, clocks, or billiard sets, to name a few. But in 2012, the House officially launched its Objets Nomades initiative, collaborating with some of the world’s most renowned designers to imagine all sorts of incroyable, from swing chairs to mirrors, tables to lamps, stools to sofas. The experimental prototypes that make up the Objets Nomades collection all pay homage to the House’s special orders of the past – such as that aforementioned iconic Bed Trunk produced in 1874 for French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza – and add the defiantly contemporary visions of creative designers from around the world: the Campana Brothers, Atelier Oï, Barber Osgerby, Damien Langlois- Meurinne, India Mahdavi, Nendo, Raw Edges, Patricia Urquiola, Marcel Wanders, Tokujin Yoshioka, André Fu, Zanellato/Bortotto, Atelier Biagetti, and, most recently, Andrew Kudless, who represents the first designer from the United States to be invited to design for the Objets Nomades collection. We got the chance to chat with a few of them.
Swell Waves Shelf
Designed to resemble rocks sculpted by wind and rain over centuries, each shaped shelf of Andrew’s offering is made in smoothly polished oak, hheld under tension by straps made of Louis Vuitton leather.
This oversized armchair, which, say the boys, can comfortably accommodate two lovers, is like some jumbo Jurassic flora, with each individual ‘petal’ covered in yellow Louis Vuitton leather behind, and soft, sensual fabric in front – the kind of safe haven some shrunken Alice in Wonderland could have quite conceivably climbed into. The Caterpillar was the first to speak. “What size do you want to be?” it asked.
Q: : Hi, it’s a pleasure to be here, and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Let’s start with this astonishing chair. Humberto [Campana], I heard that you produced this beautiful ‘Bulbo’ chair. What was the process?
A: It is interesting because normally it starts with a drawing, then I make a small prototype and then we start the dialogue. Louis Vuitton for me is a school of craft with elegance in each single detail, so we had much discussion by mail, or Skype.
Q: It looks like a huge yellow flower. Is that right?
A: Most of our pieces are inspired by nature. I would say that there is more architecture, there is more landscape. Inspirations are flowers and also our comfort zones like a baby inside its mother’s womb, so we see protection, comfort, silence.
Q: Let’s move on to your iconic piece, the Cocoon chair. Tell me about the first one and how it evolved into this?
A: It’s amazing how this project became such a successful piece for Louis Vuitton. The first piece was just one color, and over the years they’ve launched many different colors, different versions; there is a version with fur also, and this is totally new, the combination of pink and yellow, it’s actually a surprise for me.
Q: How did you come up to the idea of doing this incredible ceiling wave?
A: The idea was not to design a product but to design moments. We use this reflective material with different colors that react to its environment, what’s around. It adds a dynamism to the space, like creating two spaces in the same space.
Q: And these leather flowers are exquisite.
A: When we designed the flower, we were inspired by the monogram of Louis Vuitton. We’ve translated that into a flower.
Q: It’s like origami, I think.
A: Yes. Origami is an idea that’s bi-dimensional. And just with folding, you bring a 2D object into a third dimension. Normally in the leather industry, the leather is used to cover a cushion or furniture. Every time we cover something, we think we ought to try just work with the leather itself – not to add foam or some other filler. Also, the bell chair, for example, is really the same idea – with just the tension of the leather we generate the comfort of the chair.
Q: You were one of the first designers to work with Louis Vuitton on the Objets Nomads collections, is that right?
A: Yes, we were one of the first designers in 2011 for the 2012 launch. First we produced a foldable stool, and then a hammock. And then we made the spiral lamp and the belt chair. We have 11 different products in the collection.
Q: You’re a very established designer. How has Louis Vuitton’s relationship affected the atelier?
A: Louis Vuitton is a global brand, and we are from Switzerland, which is a very small country. Where we live there are only 4,000 inhabitants – really a small place. For us it’s really cool – they bring us out around the world, and they produce these beautiful presentations. The engineering of the products is always so nicely done. We work a lot for the furniture industry in Milan. But on an international scale there is no one like Louis Vuitton.
Q: This isn’t the first collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Marcel Wanders studio, correct?
A: No, it actually started seven years ago. It’s one of our strongest collaborations with a French brand which we love, and it started with really small pieces in limited edition collections. So it started with the Objets Nomade, which of course connects to the DNA and the codes of the brand Louis Vuitton, the travel. So it started with this idea of having an object that should fold or be able to travel. We started with a chaise longue that becomes a backpack, and things have just progressed from there. I think we’re now the designer with the most pieces in the collection.
Sofa and Chairs by
Marcel Wanders Studio
Dutch masters of design Marcel Wanders studio has curved these ash-wood slats like geometric exoskeletons and topped them with suspended shells of white Louis Vuitton leather – what else?
Q: So you’ve done this lantern, and the sofa and chair?
A: Yes, the Diamond sofa, chair, and the mirror.
Q: Tell me about the mirror.
A: I have to tell you a secret that they don’t want me to tell anybody, but I’ll tell it to you anyway. Originally, the mirror folded and closed up like a camera shutter, so all the leather closes up, so you have a protected mirror to go away with, and then when you open it up, you can adjust it. But it was a bit tricky to open and close, so now it’s fixed.
Q: It is still a beautiful design object. And this Venezia lantern is spectacular. Where is the glass blown?
A: It’s blown in Venice.
Q: And do you supervise the making of the piece?
A: We supervise with the Vuitton team, of course. Sometimes we work with the same provider; sometimes we advise on providers. This is a really massive place to be blown by hand because it’s super heavy, and also this is nearing the limits for such a piece. And what we really love to do is work with companies that have heritage, that work with certain materials with certain craftsmanship. Here, we’re working with three materials that humankind has been working with for ages – leather, glass and wood. So these are all pieces made by hand, and made by people that have used the same techniques and the same tools and the same materials for generations. So it’s super beautiful to work in this way, and of course with the leather of Louis Vuitton.
Q: And for the chair and sofa set, you’ve used a different color this time. Why white?
A: Because it’s Miami! It’s fresh, it’s sunny, it’s the beach.
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