In 2009, while still editors at the ill-fated design bible I.D., Jill and I spearheaded a special issue of the magazine whose cover was cloaked in red and branded — courtesy of graphics legend Javier Mariscal — with a hand-drawn, bull-horned chair. Inside, it proposed that something seemed to be stirring in Spain; that after years of outsiders thinking it was a little too commercial on the one hand, and yet a little too romantic on the other, the country’s design vibe suddenly felt just right. Just two and a half years later, it’s safe to say we were onto something. The Spanish scene has cemented its global status with help from companies like RS Barcelona, Marset, and LZF, plus star designers like Jaime Hayon, Martí Guixé, and Patricia Urquiola, and we’ve kept an eye on them and all of their cohorts ever since they appeared in the pages of our alma mater. It’s with a mixture of nostalgia and vindication that we present you with a slideshow surveying six of the most up-and-coming talents whose work has made its way to our shores on Spain’s new wave, along with some of their personal inspirations. Check it out, then visit our friends over at Meuble de España to keep up with everything going on now in Spanish design.
Had Jakub Zak and Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte met and not formed a partnership, it might have seemed almost sacrilegious, a kind of fuck-you to the gods of fate. After simultaneously studying design in their native Canada, and then again at the very same university in Berlin together, the pair only became aware of one another's existence once they'd both moved to Milan to start their professional lives — Lecompte as a roving member of the Montreal-based Samare studio and Zak as a designer for Patricia Urquiola. As if the shared condition of being the only two Canadians they knew who were actively working in the Milanese design scene weren't enough, they happened to meet at the precise moment in each of their careers where they were yearning to try something independent, experimental, and new. Samare was three years old and growing quite successful, but its physical manifestation was way across the Atlantic, and it maintained a relatively narrow focus on Canadian crafts and heritage; Zak was — and still is — working full time for Urquiola, "which is pretty demanding," he says. "You reach a stage where you want to start doing projects of your own. Oeuffice is a research-minded collaboration where Nicolas and I can play with new techniques and materials in ways we might not have the opportunity to otherwise."
For more than three years, the Argentinean sisters Sol Caramilloni Iriarte and Carolina Lopez Gordillo Iriarte kept a design studio on the second floor of a building in Barcelona, handcrafting an eponymous line of leather bags in relative privacy. Sol, 32, was working part-time as a set designer for films; Carolina, 25, had just finished a year apprenticing under her friend Muñoz Vrandecic, the Spanish couture shoemaker. Called Iriarte Iriarte, it was a modest operation. Then in June, fate intervened.
In some ways, Marc Jacobs is a bit like Oprah. With a flick of his influential magic wand, Posh Spice can suddenly be considered cool, Bleecker Street can become the place you simply must open your New York shop, and a Madrid-based, husband-and-wife graphic-design duo can go from virtual unknowns to the toast of magazines and blogs around the world. That’s what happened two years ago to Julia Vergara and Javier G. Bayo, co-principals of the print and pattern design shop SuTurno, whose Bolsaco tote — a simple canvas bag made from vintage stock found in an old warehouse in Spain — was spied by two of Jacobs’ buyers at the Madrid shop Peseta. “It was the first product we ever made with the SuTurno label on it, and it actually became our most hyped design to date,” says Bayo. The two were asked to produce a limited edition of bags for the Marc by Marc Jacobs stores in the States, and they promptly sold out within a few days.