Still life photography is having a big week on Sight Unseen — yesterday we featured a pair of stylists who built their reputation on it and are now moving into interiors, and today we're highlighting a photographer who approaches shooting interiors just as though they were still lifes. Belgian-born talent Frederik Vercruysse, in fact, describes his entire body of work as "still life photography in the broadest sense of the word," according to his website, applying the approach not just to interiors but to portraits, fashion shows, and the occasional landscape as well (for clients like Wallpaper magazine, Sophie Buhai, and Muller Van Severen). But then, of course, there are his actual still lifes, which we've decided to focus on here. Shot mostly for magazines, they represent the purest form of his aim "to photograph the subject in its purest form."
The past few years have proven that — every once in a while — a fashion label can make a successful, mostly non-embarrassing crossover into furniture and housewares. Margiela, Hermès, and Rick Owens all come to mind, but who better than a textile designer to make the leap? At last week's Capsule show, Ellen Van Dusen of the Brooklyn-based clothing brand Dusen Dusen launched a brand new line of soft goods for the home that feature her signature geometric patterns — sheets, blankets, rugs, towels, pillows, and a pouf — and the extension feels totally natural, like it was meant to be. Today she's giving Sight Unseen a first peek at the line's lookbook photos, which were shot by SU contributor Brian Ferry and feature cameos by both SNL comedian Aidy Bryant and Van Dusen's official canine mascot, Snips.
Looking for some visual inspiration this weekend? If you're a buyer, a distributor, or a member of the press, head on over to Capsule New York's new home at Pier 94, where Sight Unseen is happy to be participating this year! After years of simply attending the fashion trade show to peep new collections from friends like Ilana Kohn or Ellen van Dusen — and to scout talents from the extremely well-curated mix — we've finally partnered with the newly combined ready-to-wear and accessories show, where we'll be curating a small section of home and accessories brands. There will be ceramic French presses and copper lights from Yield Design, block-printed throws and pretty things by Caroline Z. Hurley, a new line of lower-priced mugs from Ian Anderson of Aandersson Design, geometric jewelry and tabletop goods by Sarah Loertscher, colorful candlesticks and mirrors by Good Thing, and so much more (which we're giving you a sneak peek of below). It’s all happening at Pier 94, 711 12th Ave, from Sunday, February 22–Tuesday, February 24 14, starting at 9:30AM each day. Hope to see you there!
If there's anyone we would trust to guide us through the annals of vintage fashion literature, it's Lisa Mayock, co-founder of the sadly defunct, cool-girl label Vena Cava and now a Brooklyn-based creative consultant. So we were pretty thrilled when we sent out a call for this column a few months back and Mayock immediately responded with one of her most beloved and referenced books, BIG BIBA: Inside the Most Beautiful Store in the World. The book traces the short life of the 7-story Big Biba department store, which opened in 1973 after the fashion label's massive success as first a mail-order catalog and then a series of London boutiques.
Even though we often talk about how globalization and the internet have vastly accelerated the velocity of cool, there sometimes seems to be a lag when it comes to scouting talents from Down Under. Case in point: Are we the last to know about Melbourne-based Esther Stewart's incredible geometric paintings and angular sculptures? (And, aside, do Aussies pooh-pooh the use of Down Under the way San Franciscans abhor the term San Fran?) We found Stewart's work on the Instagram of Aussie expat Maryanne Moodie, and it's pretty much everything we're interested in right now — intersecting planes, overlapping geometrics, and the use of color and texture to create an illusion of depth. Stewart has shown a handful of times with Australian galleries, but she also recently graduated with a Master's degree in Cultural and Arts Management, which makes us hopeful she'll figure out pretty fast how to get her work shown a little closer to our home turf.
It can be easy to become immune to the Postmodern references and patterns currently littering the digital ether, but there’s something different about Sarah Kissell, the Los Angeles–based designer behind the graphically-fitting guise Pure Magenta. As she describes it, it’s the simultaneous practice of excess and restraint — especially while exploring questionable taste — that Kissell values the most. “Riding the line between the two is when things become interesting to me,” she says. “It also widens the opportunity to succeed or fail, which is a healthy place to be a young designer.” And healthy is exactly where the designer is right now, dividing her time as senior art director for the terminally trendy fashion retailer Nasty Gal, as well as developing Pure Magenta’s graphic identity and soon-to-launch jewelry line.
Last week in Miami, you could go home with art in just about any form — not just on a canvas (Art Basel) but in the form of a vase or a table (Design Miami), a pool toy (Grey Area x FriendsWithYou), a champagne bottle (Ruinart x Georgia Russel), or, if you happened by the shop at The Standard Spa, beach gear courtesy of yours truly. For this year's Miami fair, Sight Unseen teamed up with Print All Over Me to curate a line of warm-weather clothing and accessories sold exclusively at the Standard, featuring prints by Paul Wackers, Ellen Van Dusen of Dusen Dusen, Peter Judson, Rachel Domm, Caitlin Foster, Marta Veludo, Eunice Luk, Branden Collins, and Rafael de Cardenas (who designed the shop's interior a few years back).
Until about six months ago, there was only one Munari we idolized: Bruno, one of our favorite 20th century designers and design theorists. (If you haven't read Design As Art, we suggest you hop to it!) But then, one fateful day this past spring, we were wandering aimlessly around the internet when we stumbled on what is perhaps the biggest editorial coup we've scored in years, and thus began our love affair with Cleto Munari — the Italian designer, who as far as we can tell is unrelated to Bruno, commissioned a dream-team of architects like Ettore Sottsass and Peter Eisenman in the early '80s to create a jewelry collection for his eponymous company, and the project had almost no coverage anywhere on the web. We immediately snapped up a copy of the incredible out-of-print book that documented it, which we're excerpting just a small portion of here.
Sighted this week on Pin-Up magazine's website, making-of images from the latest project of London talent Bethan Laura Wood, a series of summer window displays for Hermès UK called "Fruits of Labor." Pin-Up's editors call the project, which consists of classical still lifes full of oversized fruits and vegetables, "Henry Rousseau in 3-D." Says Wood of the project: "I really wanted these large-scale sets to be hand-painted in order to highlight the layers handcrafted at every stage that make up final Hermès products.”
If there's anyone who knows a little something about calibrating the perfect pattern, it's Ellen Van Dusen. The D.C.-born fashion designer is Brooklyn's reigning queen of prints, with nine seasons under her belt as Dusen Dusen, the line for which she creates flattering basics marked by colorful fruits, stripes, curves, dots, geometrics, and the like. So it made sense when we recently learned two things about Van Dusen: one, that she studied in college the psychology of design and the brain's reaction to visual stimuli; and two, that she has a pretty incredible resource library to back that major up. On a recent visit to her Williamsburg studio, we perused her stacks, which included the massive, Todd Oldham–designed Alexander Girard monograph from a few years back and some amazing old Esprit books that we already had planned to excerpt in the coming weeks. But it was this book on Yaacov Agam, an Israeli sculptor and experimental artist known for his optical and kinetic work, that seemed to best represent Van Dusen's joyful spirit. "As a textile designer, this is a huge source of inspiration," Van Dusen admits. "I have named more than one print after Agam!" Here she tells the story of how she discovered Agam's body of work and the long-lasting effect it has had on her own.
Last summer, we ran one of our favorite stories to date: a glimpse inside an 1980s-era Scandinavian design book that Seattle designers Ladies & Gentlemen Studio had unearthed while cleaning house. We'd intended to keep going with the column — ostensibly a place where people could show off the strange, beautiful, and mostly out-of-print volumes that populated their libraries — but somehow it fizzled out. We'd been talking this summer about resurrecting it, when at the same time we found out that Joanna Williams, the LA-based owner of the Kneeland textile studio and online marketplace was opening a third branch of her multi-faceted business: a research library, where clients could comb through the curated images Williams has amassed over the years or search through books or magazines focused on graphics, textiles, decorating, and more. We'd found our first subject.
If the best reason to know the rules is to be smarter about breaking them, then consider the year-old collaboration between designers Albert Chu and Jennifer Myers not so much a violent upheaval but an exercise in playfully tweaking the system. Chu and Myers met while studying at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design — an institution they say reinforced their respect for constraints — and each worked in architecture and launched an accessories line before combining their shared pedagogy into a series of leather and brass pouches. “I think working within, and rebelling against, a set of parameters is actually the ultimate in design fun,” Myers says. Chu agrees: “We love working with fundamentals and trying to introduce a slight deviation,” says the designer of Otaat, which stands for “one thing at a time.” “Harvard was about being restrained in the conceptual and design intervention, that sometimes the most effective and thorough result could arise from a minimal, subtle act.”