At 22, Alexandra Verschueren has interned for Preen, Proenza Schouler, and Derek Lam. She’s been honored by a jury that included former Rochas creative director Olivier Theyskens and the International Herald Tribune’s fashion critic Suzy Menkes. And in the last six months, her graduate collection Medium has been fêted by Wallpaper magazine and the Mode Museum in her hometown of Antwerp. So why, when she applied to that city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts straight out of high school, did no one expect she’d get in? “I had never really drawn before,” says the designer, marveling at her good fortune. “They took me on and said you’ll have to work very hard, but I think they liked my mentality. Besides, they like when people don’t know where they stand as a designer. That way, they can shape you.”
Over the next four years, Verschueren learned from the best, studying under designers like Dirk Van Saene and Walter Van Beirendonck, who taught her how she could tell a story and translate a concept rather than simply manipulate fabric. For Medium, she was inspired by the intricately crafted paper tableaus of German artist Thomas Demand. “When you look at his work, you don’t know if it’s real or fake. I wanted to explore that artificiality, but I was also interested in how you could translate the idea of paper into garments.” She used easily mutable fabrics — wool, cotton-poly blends, Tyvek, and one silhouette in actual paper — cutting, pleating, and folding them to recall the work of Japanese origami masters like Masahiro Chatani.
The public swooned, but Verschueren is frustrated by the fact that most of the collection isn’t yet wearable. “I used a lot of starch, and all of the prints are drawn by hand. But I just finished working on my PhD proposal, which would give me the chance to experiment for four years and to work with the textile engineering department to create fabrics that can be pleated but essentially look the same once they’ve been washed and dried.” The program would also give her the chance to create work that’s more reflective of her incredibly diverse set of influences. What follows are just a few.
Alexandra Verschueren’s work will be on view at the Festival of Hyères from April 30th to May 3. For more info on the festival, click here.
Lauren Kovin had one of those creatively privileged childhoods we all dream about: Her father was a graphic designer, her mother an interior designer who stocked their New Hope, Pennsylvania, home with Memphis furniture and modern art. Kovin spent more time in galleries than in shopping malls. An Avedon portrait of a nude Nastassja Kinski hung over the family’s dining room table. Heaven, right? Wrong.
The scientific process behind many of life’s workaday phenomena is something called capillary action, which is the molecular attraction that makes liquid flow through a porous medium, for those in need of a high-school refresher. It’s what makes tears flow through your lachrymal ducts, what gives micro-fiber its super-absorbent properties, and why groundwater naturally spreads into areas of dry soil. It’s also what powers the Ink Calendar by Oscar Diaz.
This story was originally published on November 3, 2009. A year and a half later, Dror Benshetrit unveiled at the New Museum a simple, scalable structural joint system called QuaDror, which just may turn out to be his magnum opus. It takes obvious inspiration from the kinds of toys he shared with Sight Unseen here. // Some furniture expands if you’re having extra dinner guests, or folds if you’re schlepping it to a picnic. But most of it just sits there, content to be rather than do. This drives New York–based designer Dror Benshetrit crazy. “Static freaks me out,” he’s said, and so the Design Academy Eindhoven graduate has spent the entirety of his young career making things that either capture a state of transformation (his progressively shattered series of vases for Rosenthal) or actually transform themselves (the Pick Chair and Folding Sofa that flatten using simple mechanics). When I first saw Dror’s latest project, a trivet for Alessi whose concentric metal arcs are magnetized so they can be reconfigured endlessly — and even, the designer enthusiasticaly suggests, worn as a necklace — I thought: If he can’t even let a trivet sit still then his fascination with movement must be more than a design philosophy, it’s probably coded in his DNA. I was right. Dror has been obsessed with kinetic toys since he was a child.