For a company that’s become known over the past decade for its ethically responsible products and its work with indigenous artisan communities, it’s surprising to learn that Artecnica’s first product was made from a relatively noxious material like resin. A small, egg-like alarm whose ovoid shape magnified its face, the Dada clock was designed by Tahmineh Javanbahkt, who co-founded the company in 1987 with her husband, the architect Enrico Bressan. “In the beginning, we started out doing mostly architecture,” Javanbahkt told me one day earlier this winter when I visited her home in Los Angeles. “We did Gianni Versace’s office and store; we would do set design for companies like Sebastian. In some of the buildings, we would do panels or dividers in resin, and eventually we made the Dada clock, which is what successfully started us in product design. But now we make it in glass!”
Javanbahkt needn’t worry about backpedaling; Artecnica cemented its reputation as one of the most socially minded companies around years ago, not long after she and Bressan opened the brand up to working with outside designers. In 2002 the company founded Design With Conscience, a program that paired talents like Tord Boontje, Hella Jongerius, the Campana Brothers, and Stephen Burks with small, in-need artisan collectives in Guatemala, Peru, Vietnam, and South Africa. The Campanas made a seat from wicker and recycled bicycle tires, Boontje his famous Transglass vessels from discarded beer and wine bottles. “Our aim is to have a product that really is different from what’s out there,” says Javanbahkt. “It sounds cliché, but there really is so much stuff. When the company was younger, it would be like, ‘Ooh, I love this shape, let’s do it!’ Now it’s like, do we need this? Once it’s discarded, how will it affect the earth? We try in our own way to make a positive impact.”
Of course, Design With Conscience is only a part of the company; over the years Artecnica has made everything from chandeliers in copper foil to greeting cards in laser-cut paper. And though some projects have emerged fully realized from the designers’ studios, more often than not, they’re the result of a long collaboration with Bressan and Javanbahkt, whose mixed lineage as a couple (she emigrated from Iran at age 17; he hails from Italy) gives them a distinctly global sensibility. We recently caught up with Javanbahkt to find out a bit more about the influences that have shaped her and the brand.
Faye Toogood, the London-based interiors stylist and creative consultant, has designed exhibition stands for Tom Dixon, windows for Liberty, displays for Dover Street Market, and sets for Wallpaper. But in all of her career, she’s had only one job interview. At the tender age of 21, having just graduated from Bristol University with degrees in fine art and art history, Toogood was called for an interview with Min Hogg, legendary founding editor of the British design bible The World of Interiors. “I had found out about a stylist job and decided I would go for it, even though I didn’t even know what that meant,” says Toogood. “I went in and it was the strangest thing. She asked me, ‘Can you sew, and can you tie a bow?’ I actually couldn’t sew, so I lied and when I got the job, I had someone do it for me.”
Ji Lee is an artist, a graphic designer, an illustrator, a teacher, and a full-time creative director at Google’s advertising unit The Creative Lab, but he’s probably best known as “the guy with the bubbles.” In 2002, bored by an ad gig, the Korean-born, São Paulo–bred designer launched a public art intervention on the city of New York, slapping blank cartoon speech bubbles next to the actors and models in ads and movie posters around town and waiting for passersby to fill them in. So how might a guy who's a master at transforming public space decorate his own home? We decided to find out.
“I like selling clothes that make people hyperventilate,” says Sweetu Patel. “Furniture doesn’t do that.” Trained as a furniture designer himself, Patel was the original founder of the design brand Citizen Citizen, but after giving up that business and putting in five years on the sales floor of New York’s Cappellini showroom, he shifted gears to start the online men’s clothing shop C’H’C’M’ last year. As it happens, though, Patel’s purveyorship of classic heritage brands represents more of a return than a departure — back to the clothing he grew up around, back to his sartorial instincts, back to the business model Citizen Citizen was originally meant to follow. We’ve always been a fan of Patel’s work, so we asked him to tell us his story, then share the eight inspirations that have led him to where he is now.