Where Swarovski, Wednesday 16 April
Who Grant Gibson, design critic
Likes The thing I enjoyed most this year was Paul Cocksedge’s installation at the Swarovski Crystal Palace [pictured]. A simple-looking four-metre curtain of crystal at the back of the room, it took me a while to realise what the point of the piece actually was. It was only as I turned around that I noticed the image of the Mona Lisa it had created in a mirror behind me. Subtle and rather brilliant.
Where Established & Sons Party, Thursday 17 April
Who Ryan Frank, furniture designer
Likes The best venue for me was Maarten Baas’ gig [pictured is his Hey chair]. It was in an old garage where they would normally fix cars, change oil… dirty stuff like that. The part I liked most was the pin-up calendar girls that were still left hanging up (classic workshop accessory), along with old car tyres and brake pads.
Where Modus, Wednesday 16 April
Who Jonathan Prestwich, furniture designer
Likes The best thing that I saw when I was out there by far was the Lexus Nendo exhibition showing a real SLS (selective laser sintering) product as they should be! Taking the structure of a diamond gave them a basic structure that could take compression and react in a 3 dimensional way, true innovation through this fantastic under explored production technique… brilliant! Not something that could be done with traditional plastic moulding. Very inspiring and beautiful too!
|ED CARPENTER & ANDRE KLAUSER
Where Icon party, Superstudio, Wednesday 16th April 2008
Who Ed Carpenter and Andre Klauser, product designers
Ed likes For me the best product was still the Steelwood chair by the Bouroullecs for Magis. It was really interesting to see them expand the concept into other furniture items such as a table and shelving. The best show has to be Established & Sons, apart from a few projects, which aren’t up my street. In general I think the collection is getting stronger and stronger, and this year it was the best show by far.
Ed dislikes As for the worst, I’m getting really tired of seeing bad design trying to masquerade itself as bad art – please move on and do something interesting, preferably not is some un-recyclable, petroleum based, highly toxic, carcinogenic resin or rubber!
Andre likes I flew out early to visit the Castiglioni Studio Museum. Castiglioni’s work is a great inspiration to me and to be able to visit his studio is wonderful. The four room studio looks as if the master just popped out for a quick espresso and his wife and daughter show you around. If you haven’t been yet, go and see it. Also, the presentation of the Myto chair (by Konstantin Grcic) – it’s just a pleasure to be given such an insight into the devlopment of a product that pushes the boundaries of both design and engineering.
Where I Saloni, Wednesday 16th April
Who Oscar Narud, product designer
Likes I enjoyed E&S opening and thought Raw Edges’ stack drawers looked sharp. Dutch company Arco had a nice stand in the fair, as did Nigel Coates. Other than that I liked the Nilufar gallery and El Ultimo Grito for UNO.
Also the last years I have enjoyed the exhibitions at the Prada Foundation, they offer a welcome break from an unavoidable overload of tables and chairs at the show
Kerstin Zumstein managed to break through the fray and catch a bit of up-close time with the off-the-wall New York-based designer
Suited and booted in pink, with big purple glasses on his nose and white varnish on his nails, Karim Rashid sails through the Milan furniture fair. At six foot four, towering above the usual Milan posse, he can’t be missed. Like a being from another planet, everyone’s eyes are on him. I’ve been waiting to interview him for an hour now, but when I finally see him coming, I’m struck dumb. As soon as we sit, people start running up to him, wanting to take pictures and trying to shake his hand. Rashid gets annoyed by the invasion of his space. “I’m in an interview,” he says. He seems tired of being polite. “The thing with Milan is people don’t respect the etiquette. I’m from New York, you don’t invade personal space.” Then he leans into me, so close his face becomes out of focus, and with a fuzzy smile, he says, “Ok, sorry, now I’m all yours!”
Rashid is in fact half Egyptian, half British, raised in Canada, based in New York and known all over the world for his funky designs. More to the point, Karim Rashid is a design star. Come to think of it, he is like his designs: sleek, styled, high-impact, possibly injection moulded, an almost surreal experience. His famous signature adorns each of his products; he’s the ultimate “signature designer”.
“My Zero desk for Della Rovere is my best product at the show. I wanted to break the vernacular of the office, it’s such a contrived world!” The white sculptural office table does indeed break with the straight lines and angular shapes in the office halls at Milan this year, but when Rashid says, “It’s not loud”, I can’t help but think in a standard office the desk would scream style. “My aim was to break down the uniform of the office. It’s like men still wearing ties or women still wearing high heels, although…” he trails off in thought, “I guess they’re keeping each other in bondage.”
Rashid talks of a new frontier and Zero is a good example of that: “In this digital age the interface of physical product is losing importance – the technological world is where it’s happening.” He concludes that design should pick up where the physical world meets the virtual – fluid forms, futuristic visions. His other products at the show – such as the partitioning screens for Zerodisegno, wall panels for Offecct and a brand new reception desk for Frezza – show that Rashid will put his mind to anything, even less show-stopping commissions.
“I believe in democratising design. I’m doing a chair for five dollars. The low-end segment of the design market has become so sophisticated, smart design doesn’t need to be expensive.” Rashid wants to see good design on every level – he has never been one to be retrospective or elitist, contrary to his appearance. What he really wants is to make the world a better place. This heroic statement has never been well received by European media, as the declamatory nature of such expression often diminishes the credibility. But what Rashid actually means to say is: let’s design where design is needed and not just for the cream of the crop.
His advice for aspiring designers is to go and work for companies lacking quality design. “Why knock on Cappellini’s door when there are so many companies out there in desperate need of good design. It’s easy going for the big names, but it’s more effective to re-brand and change a company’s image through good design.”
After all, that’s how Rashid went about it. He has never been too good to turn his talent to tiles or packaging for laundry detergents, for instance. “When I started in New York 15 years ago, no one knew my name. Now I’ll still work for anyone as long as there’s something to do. There is still so much design required, for example for light switches, door handles, bikes and cars.” Rashid gets all fired up about poor design, moving in even closer to me and saying, “Here’s something I’d like you to write: furniture is not design! It can be but it’s really about the entire built environment.” He sees a shift on the horizon, a design evolution that in itself will drive the democratisation of clever design. “Luxury goods will need to change their tune. Extra diamonds on a Rolex won’t do, they need to add value like a watch that is also a mobile phone or something.” Rashid himself wears the plastic Alessi watch he designed, in pink of course. His days of only wearing white (after handing all his black suits to charity at the turn of the century) are now tinted pink. “Aesthetics are not subjective – I don’t believe in taste.”
Rashid rants about Milan and unnecessary designs to the point where he stops and asks: “Do I sounds bitter? It’s just that I believe design means making a better life. With the US population soon having 600 million retired folk, who is designing for these ageing people?” Rashid will – there’s nothing he wouldn’t do. But right now, he just needs a coffee.