Up and Coming
Six Emerging Spanish Designers

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.

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We’ve featured Spanish designers on Sight Unseen in the past, but for this special feature, we decided to spotlight a series of emerging talents who have all managed to bridge what is perhaps the most harrowing geographic design divide in the Western world — they all have products currently on the American market, including Vicente García Jiménez, whose Les Racines floor lamps for Fambuena are pictured above.

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Jiménez was born, raised, and educated in Spain — and cut his teeth working for the Spanish furniture company Santa & Cole — but eventually relocated to the famed seat of Italian manufacturing, Udine, where he now keeps his solo practice. He recently won a Compasso d’Oro honorable mention for his Infinity light for Italian stalwart Foscarini. Up Down lamps by Vicente García Jiménez for Fambuena

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Luis Eslava studied product design at the RCA in London, but returned to Spain to set up his Valencia studio in 2007. He spends his days there tinkering with unexpected or overlooked materials, finding novel ways to turn them into clever lamps and furniture. “I like to taking humble materials out of their original context,” he says. “Like velcro, for example.” His Face to Face lamp for Almerich, above, was inspired by a pair of velcro shoes he encountered while working for the Spanish juggernaut Camper.

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First thing you ever made: “A cardboard box containing a kind of three-dimensional Tetris game.” Event that inspired you to become a designer: “Visiting my grandpa’s home workshop in a little village in Valencia, which was full of old-fashioned tools and all kinds of leftover materials. He used to paint them red and turn them into artworks.” Paisley Screen by Luis Eslava for LZF

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First thing a stranger would think when they saw your work: “This has been made by a kid!!!” Fictional character who would own your work: “The Marx brothers. In particular Harpo.” Design movement you most identify with: “The one begun by Droog, where concept became a new character in the design scene: form, function, and now concept.” Bend It Yourself lamp by Luis Eslava for Almerich

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JM Ferrero is only 33 years old, but he founded estudi{H}ac in his hometown of Valencia back in 2003, and has since landed impressive commercial work like a collaboration with Toyota on car interiors. He’s best-known, though, for his research-intensive furniture designs — including the Isla vases for Vondom pictured here — not to mention his travel bug.

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What do you collect? “Two things: The first is physical examples of the letter H, which I find on my trips around the world — I even have some that friends and clients have given me. The second is of photos of my feet, taken wherever we travel to do studio work. In the photos, you can see the texture of the ground wherever it is we happen to be.” Place you go to be inspired: “I’m inspired anytime I’m out of my workspace. Then the development of all the ideas I’ve drawn in my heaps of papers can begin back in the studio. If it’s necessary to choose just one such place, it would be the island of Formentera, a cocktail of tranquillity, amusement, and a million interesting textures.” Tea seating collection by JM Ferrero for Sancal

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The members of Valencia-based Odos Design — Luis Calabuig, María Mengual, Ana Segovia, and Eva Cervero — aren’t minimalists, exactly; pieces like their Audrey sofas for Koo International, above, always feature some aesthetic hook, no matter how subtle. But they do aim to “develop long-lasting products that are beyond fashion,” they note.

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Most interesting thing ever brought back from your travels: “We would bring back vintage objects from the ’50, or old tech items, but we can’t fit them in our suitcase! In the end we normally bring pictures and books of all kinds, such as Pattern Magic by Tomoko Nakamichi, which we bought in London.” Most inspiring place you've ever been: “Japan, by far, and Tokyo in particular. The people, the city, its culture, the mix between tradition and technology: It’s a country full of contrasts and wonderful people.” Ensombra by Odos Design for Gandia Blasco

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Objects you keep around your studio for inspiration: “We’re surrounded by everyday items such as paperclips, clothespins, pens, or a fan, and by many books on architecture, culture, and the traditions of other countries. We also like to keep around objects and fabrics with different braids and textures.” Etnia rug by Odos Design for Gandia Blasco

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For the past 11 years, the prolific London-based designer Hector Serrano has worked with clients like FontanaArte, Roca, Droog, and Metalarte. His output has been equally wide-ranging, from the humorous — kids’ hand-puppet tattoos, dinner bibs illustrated with neckties, lamps meant for hanging a shirt over — to sober yet innovative designs like his Woods lamp for Arturo Alvarez, above.

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Favorite place to shop for materials or inspiration: “My girlfriend is a hairdresser, so I end up spending quite a bit of time in hair shops. Already the things I’ve bought there have been the starting point for two of our projects: A portable hairbrush became the inspiration of waterdrop for Roca, and a hairband was the starting point for the V lamp for Arturo Alvarez. I love to decontextualize objects and see them in a different way. It’s not about what you see but how you see it." V Lamp by Hector Serrano for Arturo Alvarez

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“Also whenever I visit the model shop here in London, I feel like a kid in candy store; every time I go I end up buying much more than I need — I just can’t resist. But my favorite model shop is Tokyu Hands in Tokyo, which is a very large version of the model shop in London, like Selfridges or El Corte Ingles in Spain but filled with all kind of materials and tools — all organized perfectly.” Natura vessels by Héctor Serrano for La Mediterranea

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Barcelona native Cristian Zuzunaga became something of an overnight success when his pixelated textile designs — developed while he was a student at the RCA in London — went viral. They landed him deals with Moroso, Ligne Roset, and Nanimarquina, who commissioned this Digit rug in 2010. While he’s still experimenting with pixels, he’s since proved that he can do a whole lot more, notably in a recent collaboration with Kvadrat.

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Design or art hero: “I never had any heros. But, coming from a family of artists, since an early age I was introduced to artists such as Paul Klee, who ‘helped’ me see color from a feeling point of view; Kandisnksy and Mondiran, who allowed me to use color and shape as an abstraction; and Malevich, who showed me the importance of chance and allowed me to pay attention to mistakes. Chillida also played an important role; his work allowed me to understand the relationship between positive and negative space and form. What helped me the most, though, has been architecture as a vehicle for understanding the present moment. My work deals with gravity, abstraction, randomness, repetition, time and space. Since 2004 I have been using color as the feminine element, to express feelings, and geometry as the masculine element, to give form, marrying both to achieve balance.” Pixelated Springfield sofa by Cristian Zuzunaga for Moroso

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Objects you keep around your studio for inspiration: “I’ve been collecting found objects for some time now. All kinds of objetcs that I find, mainly in cities; objects that have been discarded and are ‘unimportant,’ yet when placed together create unexpected narratives that allow you to move towards the unknown. Some complement each other, some contradict each other. It’s the freedom of the found object that attracts me. It’s not aimed at or preconceived, it just is, lying there on the floor, wherever the force of gravity has placed it.” Pixelated Steel armchair for Moroso