You can learn a lot about Dutch designer Bernadette Deddens by just looking at her. First there are the shoes, which — depending on the day and the whims of London’s weather — she very well may have made herself. One pair of sandals constructed from $25 worth of pale leather and black cording could be mistaken for Margielas, yet are no less awe-inspiring for the fact that Deddens actually nicked the look from Tommy Hilfiger. After all, who makes their own shoes, anyway? Then there’s her jewelry, which is almost always her design, unless it’s a collaboration with her husband Tetsuo Mukai, with whom she formed Study O Portable two years ago. The jewelry is their way of giving people a form of creative expression that can be carried outside the house and into the wider world, as Deddens so poignantly demonstrates — hence their otherwise peculiar studio name.
That philosophy is one of many the pair agrees on, even though Deddens trained as a product designer at the RCA while Mukai studied fashion. “We share an interest in objects which require very simple properties to function well, such as paperweights, containers, and wearables,” they say. “Simple things also allow us to combine a concept with a function in a coherent way.” There’s another benefit to keeping things simple: They produce almost everything they make by themselves, in their Stoke Newington studio, in a building shared with dozens of other young design and art talents. Their workspace consists of one small room with one long desk and one high table where they keep a tiny drill press, plus various other tools. When Mukai is gone for the day working as a freelance pattern-cutter for one fashion house or another, as he was the day Sight Unseen visited, things feel a bit more spacious. But the couple must regularly take walks or meet friends for coffee in the neighborhood to keep from going stir-crazy, mostly because their tiny studio is also their home. (Don’t tell the fire marshall.)
This is also perhaps another subconscious reason they began designing objects that could be carried to and fro: There’s no room to leave them behind. Though now that they’ve begun selling some of their wares at the new Phillips de Pury shop in New York (along with, if all goes well, a future Sight Unseen online shop), they have a reliable outlet for the fruits of their ongoing creative pursuits. Here’s a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what those currently entail.
Australian wine capital Adelaide has a population of 1.3 million, putting it on par with Dallas or San Diego. But as native Daniel To sees it, it’s a big city with a small-town mentality — one that nearly consigned him and his wife Emma Aiston to a life designing laundry lines. “We met at the University of South Australia, where our design program was heavily engineering based and suited to what’s required for the city's industry,” explains To. “Adelaide has three main manufacturing companies: one making garden sheds, one light switches, and a third clothes-drying lines.” Rather than learning about mid-century modern, Memphis, or the Bauhaus — all of which would later inform their work as the independent studio Daniel Emma — the pair were taught to perfect their technical-drawing skills and gear up to become cogs in the local wheel. Just as they were starting their final projects in 2006, though, they had a kind of mutual awakening.
Heaven Tanudiredja didn’t have a chance to tidy up the day I visited his Antwerp studio in early February, leaving his desk a maelstrom of beads, tools, and findings, punctuated by the odd Marlboro package. “Cigarettes and Red Bull — this is the real me,” he joked, apologizing for the mess. But to the uninitiated visitor, of course, it was a fascinating sight, a glimpse at the primordial soup that would soon be transformed into Tanudiredja’s ever-more-elaborate fall jewelry collection, which he’ll show this week in Paris. Because everything is made by hand in the studio, his desk is actually a production hub; with his line Heaven now in its ninth season, and his elaborate bead-encrusted necklaces selling for $5,000 at the likes of Barneys New York, Tanudiredja and his three-person team are responsible for churning out upwards of 300 pieces every six months, each of which takes 48 hours of exacting beadwork to construct. Hence the stimulants — not to mention the thick-rimmed glasses he has to wear while working as a consequence of his failing eyesight.
The story of Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings began, like many Dutch stories do, in a church. In the late ’90s, Baijings was working for an agency whose headquarters were located inside one of the country’s many abandoned houses of worship. Scholten, a graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven, had a burgeoning design practice nearby. Scholten was asked to design a small bar for the agency’s office, and “the rest is history,” says Baijings.