THE CREATOR OF ALESSI’S CIRCUS COLLECTION & THE KNOTTED CHAIR OPENS UP IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH COSHAMIE:
The New York Times named him the ‘Lady Gaga of Design’ and by all means Marcel Wanders has built up an international brand on the foundation of love, beauty and innovation, much like the pop icon. Marcel’s designs have redefined how we look at the objects in our lives, crossing boundaries and thriving in creations away from normality. He was expelled from the Eindhoven Design Academy, but graduated cum laude from the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten. He opened his studio in Amsterdam in 1995, and in 1996 he gained international fame for his Knotted Chair, now iconic for its combination of hi-tech materials with lo-tech production methods. Marcel never settled for being anywhere close to ‘ordinary’ and he has constantly challenged himself and his environment in the pursuit of excellence through design.
Many saw him as an anomaly in a field that is rarely ready to embrace the unconventional, the theatrical, the joie de vivre that exudes from his creations. But nonetheless, Marcel has become an icon of contemporary design – one of the best in the field, in fact. His mission statement is unchanged since the early ‘90s, focused on creating an environment of love, living with passion and ‘making our most exciting dreams come true’. His interiors and products are bold and artful translations of his creativity; his art direction for photoshoots and advertising campaigns is fresh and vibrant and intelligent; and his Personal Editions are masterpieces of design, where his muses run wild and conventional walls are simply obliterated. Nothing that comes out of the Marcel Wanders brand will ever be boring or anywhere near overdone.
So it’s no wonder that his latest endeavour, the weirdly colourful yet beautifully stylish Circus collection for Alessi has put Marcel under the spotlight once more. The kitchenware line is exuberant and playful, turning a series of kitchenware objects into stunning and sophisticated collectibles. Praised for its combination of charming simplicity and buoyant colour palette, Circus turns kitchen stuff into a wonderful new experience.
We got to speak to Marcel Wanders about the collection and his projects, after the spectacular official launch of Alessi Circus at Harrods last month – just one of our favourite highlights from the London Design Festival. We asked and Marcel graciously answered, giving us the unique opportunity to peer into the very core of his creative spirit.
Marcel, of all the product lines that you’ve designed so far, which would you say you’re most fond of, most connected to? Which project made you ridiculously happy to work on?
‘For me, right now, the Alessi Circus collection is the most memorable and enjoyable,’ he said. ‘I like to work with Alessi because their dedication to craftsmanship matches our own. The circus concept gave us an opportunity to explore how we could merge colour and stainless steel in fun, unexpected ways and create a new design language for Alessi. There’s also a strong element of humour in the collection and humour touches us in a way that few things in life can.’
On what basis do you accept an interior design project? What is it about it that ultimately appeals to you, whether it’s residential or commercial?
‘When designing interiors, I want most of all to create a sense of place and belonging. From there, I look to connect people and consider the spatial setting, to find ways in which I can surround guests within a sensory experience. Breathing life into a space and artfully crafting it with multi-dimensional surprise is very appealing to me. Before I even start, I envision one area and one idea leading to the next and the next, to build upon one another. Instead of making a place that people stay, I create a place that stays with them.’
Looking at your Personal Editions, what is it that compels you, what drives you to create them? Most importantly, where do you draw your inspiration from?
‘I believe inspiration can come from anywhere if you are able to remove your own expectations of from where you think it should come,’ Marcel explains. ‘I often create designs that radiate optimism, hope and celebration. Personal Editions give me an opportunity to exhibit a different kind of nature by exploring the darker, more sensual side of humanity, and they allow introspection to rule my creativity. My emotions, my fears, doubts and beliefs – all of me is on display. The results are tactile, craftsman pieces that reveal fortuitous collisions of coincidence in the work.’
We are particularly fascinated with the Phoebe creations from your Personal Editions – what is the concept behind them?
‘Every day, I make myself shine but I want to be able to also feel dark and broken. Through my Personal Editions, I want to be seen for who I really am. The Phoebe lamps, in particular, reflect all of us infected by a world that is distorted by its pompous quest for beauty and use of power as leverage. As the ultimate statement of objectification, these creations reveal my personal acknowledgement of my imperfections. They also shed light on the consequences that come from deciding to violate rules to acquire and accomplish certain things.’
Going back to interior design, is there a dream project you’d like to take in the future? Is there a ‘unicorn’ to your career as an interior design?
‘There really isn’t a unicorn project. And to think there is would be to drive yourself mad. For me, it’s more important to stay in the moment of the project with which I am involved. I do my best to be open to whatever may come because my next project will always be my dream project.’
As far as interior design in 2017 is concerned, are there any noteworthy trends you’ve noticed? What has drawn your attention so far, and what would you like to see more of in the future?
‘I think one of the biggest trends I am seeing is the extension of the living space in a way that connects the interior with the exterior. Whether through the architecture or creative lighting, interior designers are extending the entertainment space. There is also an emphasis on flow that I would like to see continue. The idea of a boundless experience appeals to me when I approach an interior project.’
Who inspired you to become a designer? Who inspires you today, which designers do you actively follow and enjoy seeing more of?
‘I have always been an observer of things around me. It began naturally as I explored and investigated the objects in our home. It was second nature for me to look at and think about those products, and decipher how they represented what people like and need. Today, I am inspired by the people in my studio. Every day, I am surrounded by some of the brightest and most creative minds in the world. I don’t follow any one person in particular because I think you can learn something from everyone, and they become the sum of who you are as a designer.’
What value do you, as a designer, place on social media and its business/brand applications?
‘I see the benefit of connection that social media can make and the speed at which we can learn of some unknown artists who now have an outlet to share their work and their brand,’ says Marcel. ‘Shareability is very important. However, I think that there is no substitute for tangible experiences. There is no replacing the feeling you have when you are in a space filled with surprise and juxtaposition. This is what makes the connection and meaning for consumers. Indeed, meaning is hard to appreciate on a screen the size of your palm.’
Regarding the Alessi Circus collection, and specifically its five exquisite classical kitchen tools, what made you go for those characters in particular? Did you select the objects you were going to design first, or did the characters take over and compel you into creating the objects for them?
‘We wanted to make collectible heirlooms to be cherished for generations. The circus characters we chose are the iconic symbols and magical personas that stay with you from childhood. Each character has its own personal capability which lends itself to what it could become in the kitchen. So really the development was very organic and genuine to the pageantry and delight they already represented.’
Marcel Wanders’ work seems to have only just begun. In fact, this anticipation of more new and amazing things to come is always present with each of his creations. For example, he’s recently launched the smaller version of his world-famous Bell – the Baby Bell, in a limited number as part of his Personal Editions. It offers people the opportunity to bring the love and cheer that the larger version inspires through the sumptuous interiors of the Andaz Prinsengracht Amsterdam, the Kameha Grand Zurich and the Mondrian South Beach in Miami. It represents a tradition he loves – bringing people together for festivity and community.
Love, togetherness and celebration seem to be the underlying tones of Marcel’s designs. Personally, we look forward to seeing more of them. But in the meantime, our Christmas shopping list has grown with the Alessi Circus collection. Not that we regret it. Not one bit.