The Future of Fabric

Danish trailblazer Kvadrat is turning end-of-life textiles into furniture with the help of Max Lamb and upcycling initiative Really

Benches by Max Lamb, images courtesy of Angela Moore

“Some of the very first designers for Kvadrat were artists and architects,” says Njusja de Gier, head of branding at Denmark’s leading textile manufacturer. “That has always been a huge part of our identity.” Creative partnerships have driven the company’s reputation for innovative design since it was founded 1968 and, through collaborations with figures such as Raf Simons, Peter Saville and Olafur Eliasson, Kvadrat has advanced textiles beyond the modish world of product design and into the realm of experience. “We want to inspire people and show that you can do more with textiles than just upholster a sofa or a chair,” she says. “We’re trying to push the boundaries.”

Despite Kvadrat’s roots in the Scandinavian design tradition, one reason for the revolving roster of collaborators is to forge an international outlook. In-house engineers regularly team up with designers who have a technical understanding of yarns and weaving, such as Asa Pärson, or designers who work conceptually, such as Patricia Urquiola. These partnerships ensure that Kvadrat remains relevant, furnishing architectural landmarks such as MoMA, Guggenheim Bilbao and the Oslo Opera House, while also remaining popular in private homes, hospitals, airports and public transport.

After launching its fourth collection of soft furnishings with Raf Simons at the Academy of Design in New York in March, Kvadrat has now teamed up with ‘upcycling’ initiative Really, and designers Max Lamb and Christien Meindertsma to present a collection of furniture made entirely from end-of-life wool and cotton. The launch exhibition at Salone del Mobile will detail the making of the solid textile board using cut-offs from the fashion and design industries, as well as unwanted household textiles. 

“Upcycling is necessary,” says Njusja. “We saw this as the next step in Kvadrat’s sustainability strategy. Naturally, we have a lot of cut-offs, and this is a way to do something beautiful with them.” The solid textile boards come in four colours – blue, white, slate and brown – based on their textile source, and can be used in many of the same ways as solid wood. 

“We approached Max because of his material research. He’s already experimented with engineered marble so we knew he would take an interesting approach,” Njusja explains. “He has designed 12 benches for us in such a way that we can recycle each piece and make new textile boards with it. It’s completely closed-loop.” 

Max Lamb and Christien Meindertsma’s designs, along with their research and prototypes, will be on display from 5 April at Salone del Mobile 2017

 

PORT’s top 10: London Design Festival

PORT’s design editor, Alyn Griffiths, picks his top 10 from the 400 events and exhibitions than ran across the capital during London Design Festival 2015.

© Ed Reeve
© Ed Reeve

Curiosity Cloud by mischer’traxler at the Victoria & Albert Museum

A highlight of this year’s strong programme at the Victoria & Albert Musuem was the Curiosity Cloud installation created by Austrian duo mischer’traxler for champagne house Perrier-Jouët. Two hundred and fifty mouth-blown glass globes were suspended in the museum’s Norfolk House Music Room, with each one containing a hand-made insect. Sensors that identified the presence of visitors in the room triggered a mechanism within the globes that caused the insects to flutter around and collide with the glass, creating a cacophony of noise and motion.

© Ed Reeve
© Ed Reeve

The Cloakroom by Studio Toogood at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Elsewhere in the V&A, Faye and Erica Toogood produced a participatory installation that encouraged visitors to don a utilitarian-looking garment made from Kvadrat’s Highfield fabric, which incorporated a sewn-in map of the museum. The map led them on a trail to discover sculptural representations of coats that responded to their setting in various galleries. Fusing Studio Toogood’s core competences of fashion and design, the project highlighted craft skills by reinterpreting the coat motif in materials including wood, marble, fibreglass and metal.

© Marius W Hansen
© Marius W Hansen

Ready Made Go at Ace Hotel London Shoreditch

In east London, the Ace Hotel is establishing itself as one of the festival’s key venues – for both exhibitions and late-night entertainment – and this year it presented the results of a project that invited local designers to produce items for permanent use in its communal spaces. Organised by Laura Houseley of Modern Design Review magazine, the outcomes of Ready Made Go included a door handle, a stool, ashtrays, lights and decorative objects that, unlike much of the more speculative design on display during the festival, will remain in use long after the event has ended.

04 Brandub_Designed and made by Tom de Paor_Bandub 03_www.makersandbrothers.com

The Souvenir Project at the Rochelle School

Nine objects designed to challenge perceived notions of Ireland were displayed at The Souvenir Project, an exhibition curated by Jonathan Legge of online retailer Makers & Brothers. The esoteric products were intended as alternatives to more conventional souvenirs and included a towel printed with a graphic pattern based on dry stone walls, a solid bronze paperweight shaped like a potato and a board game with pieces made from compressed peat sitting on a felt mat. According to the organisers, “each souvenir embodies cultural and material characteristics unique to Ireland and of each of their designers and makers.”

Rochester sofa by Michael Anastassiades for SCP

Sofa in Sight at SCP

Shoreditch design store store SCP celebrated its 30th anniversary by launching a collection of six sofas designed to utilise the expertise of staff at its upholstery factory in Norfolk. Among them was a boxy timber-framed design suited to commercial projects by first-time SCP collaborator, Michael Anastassiades, and a comfortable hammock-inspired sofa by Lucy Kurrein, featuring a canvas sling supporting its plump cushions.

Factory candle by Benchmark and 1882Ltd

Benchmark and 1882 at The Future Laboratory

At The Future Laboratory in Spitalfields, furniture brand Benchmark and ceramics manufacturer 1882 collaborated on a candlestick that is part wood, part porcelain. The products were being produced in a makeshift workshop, with visitors invited to get involved in the making process. Benchmark also presented a range of simple furniture with concealed storage by British designer Max Lamb. The Planks collection uses boards of different sizes to create functional furniture that reduces waste.

Matter_Living in a Material World exhibition at One Good Deed Today

Matter at One Good Deed Today

Artist and designer Seetal Solanki launched her new materials research consultancy Matter at a shop in Shoreditch with a group show that demonstrated different approaches to exploring materials through design. The exhibition included Amy Radcliffe’s “scent camera”, which captures the scent of an object so it can be distilled and translated into a perfume, and edible materials by Miriam Ribul that can be cooked in an everyday kitchen. “It’s about challenging the perception of materials,” said Solanki, who hopes to help people from different industries understand how they can use and adapt materials in new and innovative ways.

AA Desk by Spant Studio for Woud

Woud at Designjunction

The Designjunction trade fair relocated this year to the former home of Central Saint Martins art school. Within its maze-like corridors and rooms I came across Danish brand Woud, which launched earlier this year and was showing pieces from its debut collection. The company focuses predominantly on working with emerging designers to develop products with a Nordic sensibility. That means pared-back, elegant forms combined with refined materials and characterful details.

© Ed Reeve
© Ed Reeve

The Gem Room by Studio Appétit and Laufen

Also at Designjunction, Ido Garini of Studio Appétit created an experiential eating event for Swiss bathroom brand Laufen that challenged ideas about the value of various foods. Situated in the school’s old jewellery workshop, The Gem Room took inspiration from Laufen’s SaphirKeramik material, which contains a mineral also found in sapphires to enhance its hardness. Among the unusual foodstuffs devoured by the guests were highly concentrated cheese and oysters in a powdered form, crystals made from pure sugar and a chocolate bar with no nutritional value spray painted in gold.

© Chris Tang
© Chris Tang

2°C: Communicating Climate Change at The Aram Gallery

One of the more thought-provoking events during the festival was an exhibition at The Aram Gallery that explored the possible implications of climate change. Organised by design publication Disegno and curated by The Aram Gallery’s Riya Patel, the exhibition included contributions from 10 designers and studios who were each given an identical booth in which to communicate issues associated with this pertinent global issue. Local firm PearsonLloyd used balloons and bottled water to represent the 890 grams of CO2 emitted and 380 litres of water used to produce a small morsel of beef.