A 19th-century buttonholer. Next to it are new casts of Recht’s concrete belt buckles. To make them, Recht takes rusted nails reclaimed from abandoned building sites, bends them into shape, grinds soft the sharp points, and coats them in clear acrylic varnish. The nails are then suspended in a mold as the concrete is poured around them.

Sruli Recht, fashion designer

Sruli Recht was born in Jerusalem, spent most of his life in Australia, and for the past few years has called Reykjavik, Iceland, his home. But even before he was a foreign-born talent rising to prominence in a city of fiercely local independence, he was already a bit of an outsider. “We traveled to different countries a lot as a kid,” says Recht. “I was always confused about what people wore and the language of clothing. I was very anxious about what to wear and how to fit in. That’s probably why I now just wear jeans and a T-shirt — like everybody else, I just wanted to blend in.” It’s an ironic thing coming from a designer who in January released his first full menswear line, a 55-piece collection of beautifully constructed garments — at once futuristic and cozy — that aren’t exactly for the faint of fashion heart. Or from a designer who calls his studio in the city’s Fishpacking District The Armoury. “The Icelanders don’t seem to get it. They really do think we sell weapons, and we have maybe three visitors to the store a day just looking for guns,” Recht has said.
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Todd Bracher, Brooklyn Navy Yard

Like a lot of American designers fresh out of school, Todd Bracher found himself, in the late ’90s, a newly minted graduate of the industrial design program at Pratt designing things like barbecue tools, remote-control caddies, and spice racks. “I remember scratching my head, thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is what design is?’” he recalls one morning from his studio in Brooklyn. Convinced there was something he was missing, Bracher applied for a Fulbright and ended up at age 24 heading to Copenhagen to pursue a master’s in interior and furniture design. What followed was a nine-year boot camp in the rigors of designing for the European market, studded with turns in Milan at Zanotta (where he was the legendary Italian company’s youngest ever designer), London at Tom Dixon (who poached Bracher to help build his London office) and Paris, where he taught part-time and eventually opened up a studio. But personal reasons brought him back to the States in 2007, and the director at Pratt — one of the only people Bracher knew at that point on this side of the ocean — hooked him up with the space he currently occupies in the no man’s land that is the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “My fear, in some ways, is having a place that doesn’t feel like me — which is hard because I don’t necessarily feel like myself in America,” says Bracher.
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A selection of looks from the spring/summer 2010 collection of Christian Wijnants, whose clothes have been called “aggressively feminine.” While he does use premade silks and wools in custom-dyed colors, he designs all his own prints and knits at his Antwerp studio before having them produced in Belgium, Italy, and Holland. “I was just at the fabric fair in Paris, and I saw some things that I liked, but at the end I had the impression that in the last few years the producers are experimenting less,” he says. “It was a bit like what you see every season. Personalization is a big part of what we do.”

Christian Wijnants, Fashion Designer

Christian Wijnants attended the fashion program at Antwerp’s prestigious Royal Academy, and upon graduating, won the Hyéres prize, the Dries Van Noten prize, and a coveted assistant spot in Van Noten’s atelier. Then, two years after starting his own line in 2003, he banked 100,000 euros as the winner of the Swiss Textile Award, beating out Giles Deacon and Charles Anastase. “I never thought I would even be nominated,” Wijnants told i-D magazine at the time, before proceeding to watch his collection trickle into all of the world’s most respected boutiques and department stores. He was just being modest, of course — the man has unmistakable talent, especially when it comes to his imaginative textiles and knits — but there is something surprising about his success, when you think about it: In a country whose fashion scene skews towards all things experimental, nonconformist, androgynous, and/or dark, the cherub-faced designer is known for both his colorful, feminine aesthetic and his charming geniality. He’s almost too perfect to be cool.
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The jewelry’s intricacy stems from Tanudiredja’s aesthetic preoccupation with volume: “I don’t like just normal flat designs — I like the three-dimensional,” he says. “I look at what materials would go nicely together, and how we can build it up so it’s standing. That’s the way I work: I usually look at the material first. It’s the same with clothing. I look at the fabric first.”

Heaven Tanudiredja, Jewelry Designer

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.
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Wiseman is obsessed with abstracting the language of nature, and much of his work springs from a series of drawings he began developing six or seven years ago in which he would obsessively sketch idealized natural environments. “In the background would be these crystallized mountains, which eventually became the basis for my faceted vases, and in the foreground would be strange little animals interacting with objects,” he says. The moss drawings decorating the above vase stemmed from that series. “I drew a whole page of them, scanned them, and printed them onto ceramic decal paper. I individually compose patterns on each vase based on how I think the moss might grow. The ink has glass silica in it, which means it can be fired into the clay itself. It’s a really common industrial process for applying things like flowers and text to cups, but I like to twist those processes to make something that feels in a way more handmade.”

David Wiseman, Designer

For a designer whose most high-profile interiors client is Christian Dior, David Wiseman has none of the flamboyance you might expect — neither the stylized degeneracy of John Galliano nor the leather chaps–wearing showmanship of Peter Marino, the architect who in the past year-and-a-half has hired Wiseman to create massive, site-specific installations in his newly renovated Dior flagships from Shanghai to New York. Rather, Wiseman is a 29-year-old RISD grad whose studio is located in a former sweatshop in the industrial Glassell Park area of Los Angeles, just behind an unmarked door in the shadow of a taco truck.
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Gruzis in his studio, in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. He bikes there from his apartment in nearby Carroll Gardens six days a week. “I made art all the time as a kid,” he says. “I was an only child, so I just shut out the world and hung out in my own space — which I still do today, all day every day. I never really planned on being an artist, but I couldn’t really think of anything else I wanted to do, and I don’t like working for other people.” The two paintings in the foreground typify his aesthetic, which is inspired by the likes of Memphis, Saved by the Bell, and Patrick Nagel. The one on the left is actually part of a series painted over digital prints of cheesy beach tees he bought in Florida.

Evan Gruzis, Artist

Evan Gruzis explored altered states of awareness a few years back, and while he was wigging out, managed to scrawl down such revelatory thoughts as “there once was a movie, it was amazing”; “welcome to the temple of showers, please take a shower in one of our many showers”; and “no bother, it’s just the remix.” Having rediscovered the notes recently, he turned them into a series of works on paper by scanning and enlarging them, cutting out the individual letters, then sweeping over the cutouts with the flat, ’80s-style gradient that forms the background for many of his works, including semi-photorealistic still lifes and geometric abstractions inspired by Saved by the Bell and Memphis. Rather than using an airbrush — “blasphemy!” according to the 31-year-old artist — Gruzis builds up the gradients in meticulous layers of India ink, spreading upwards of 20 separate washes across wet paper with soft squirrel-hair paintbrushes until the effect is practically flawless. “It’s about taking a moment that isn’t even remembered and turning it into this layered, highly crafted, highly rendered thing,” he explains of the acid notes, the kind of process that keeps him locked away in his studio six days a week. “It’s about taking meaninglessness and glorifying it. That’s another way of putting what I do: Making absurdity seductive, and making the seductive vapid, so you get caught in this feedback loop.”
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The minute you enter Voorhes’s Austin, Texas, studio — which he shares with his wife and art director, Robin Finlay, and fellow photographer Matt Rainwaters — you see a conference table with some of his best-known work hanging above it: his exploded objects series, which resembles exploded axonometrics in architecture and engineering. It began as a self-initiated project and has since won him quite a bit of related commercial work, but coming up with the idea was, as he puts it, “just sort of an accident.”

Adam Voorhes, Photographer

It all started with the pistol, if only because it was “the simplest to do,” says photographer Adam Voorhes. He first studied the gun, looking for ways to segment it, then he took it apart so that its innards were exposed, right down to the bullet casings. “Some objects can be separated like a technical drawing, while others look more organic, like a football helmet with its straps weaving in and out,” he says. The pistol was squarely in the former camp. He took its disassembled parts and built a kind of 3-D installation, each part hanging from a fishing line in proximity, so that the gun would appear to have exploded in mid-air, a bit like the artist Damián Ortega’s axonometric Beetle or this iconic ad from the ’60s. The wires could be erased in Photoshop once Voorhes got the final shot. After the pistol he’d do an Etch-a-Sketch, and an old-school telephone, turning the studio experiments into his best-known series and then selling commercial clients like ESPN and Spirit magazine on the technique. This is how Voorhes works — he is a commercial photographer. He’s not interested in gallery shows. He tests ideas, and then he sells them.
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His best-known sculptures — like this one, from a 2007 solo show at Greene Naftali — demonstrate how Drain typically deploys those fabric scraps and homemade knits: Generously, and with abandon. The show’s slightly nonsensical press release at the time called it a “gender-bent amalgamism of bent tube steel and metal covered in a stylish frenzy of patterned fabrics, part Frank Stella and part parade float, part corporate sculpture and part strip club decoration.”

Jim Drain, Artist

It’s a wonder that Jim Drain isn’t a hoarder of epic, A&E-worthy proportions. Sure, nearly every corner of the 3,000-square-foot Miami studio he shares with fellow artist and girlfriend Naomi Fisher is crammed full of stuff — chains, knitted fabric scraps, yarns, paint cans, talismen, toilet tops, costumes, books, prints, past works, and parts of past works that have been dismembered, all jockeying for attention. But considering Drain has worked with 10 times that many mediums in his nearly 15 years of making art, fashion, and furniture — often incorporating junk found in thrift stores and back alleys — hey, it could be a lot worse. “My dad will find something and go, I got this weird thing I think you’ll like, and my friends do it too, and I’m like, I’m not a trash collector!” he insists.
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For Isetan, Wilson also created a line of knitted piggy banks whose mouths squeeze open to accommodate incoming cash.

Donna Wilson, textile designer

It's always seemed to me that being Donna Wilson is indeed as much fun as it looks. From her Aladdin’s cave of a studio in London’s Bethnal Green to her colorful, vintage fashion sense, Wilson actually does live and breathe her work. On the rainy November afternoon I visited her studio, which is filled floor-to-ceiling with bits and bobs of yarn, I asked what she might do if she had any spare time. She pondered: “I think I’d like to travel to Scandinavia and probably get a dog.” Which led into a discussion about the possibilities for a range of Scandinavian-style dog sweaters, as everything usually comes back to the knitting. Of course, though Wilson made her name creating woven poufs and rugs inspired by the Fair Isle sweaters of her youth in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, it’s not actually just about the knitting anymore but also about bone china, linens, melamine trays, totes, piggy banks, ceramic Staffordshire dogs, biscuits, packaging, furniture and more. At this point, there isn’t much that Wilson hasn’t turned her hand to.
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Harry Allen’s studio encompasses three large rooms in a building in New York’s East Village. He has an apartment upstairs, but spends half of his time living upstate with his partner John, a landscape architect. That house hides most of the antiques and iconic-looking objects that Allen collects as research for the Reality series, whose process he likens more to hunting and gathering than actual design. “When I was making lamps out of paper, I started looking at what makes something lampy,” he says. “It should have an urn base with a fabric shade and a finial on top. If you drew a lamp to go on grandma’s table in the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, that would be the one. So you’re searching antique stores for the perfect thing, and it’s really time consuming.”

Harry Allen, Product Designer

Harry Allen is a happening guy. From his design studio in New York’s East Village, he makes ironic banana bowls and pig banks for Areaware and is one of only three American designers working with the hip Italian furniture brand Skitsch, along with Jason Miller and Todd Bracher. His new Bang perfume bottle is all over the ad pages of major fashion magazines, strategically positioned atop a nude Marc Jacobs, and the skateboarding store Supreme owes its interiors to him. Allen is so evergreen, in fact, that it’s easy to forget the most basic fact of his biography: He’s been doing this for nearly 20 years. “Everyone treats me like I’m some kid, but I’ve been around for a long time,” he says. “When I started in 1993, there was no Moss, no Wallpaper. Philippe Starck was king, and everything was shaped like a horn. I looked at Europe and thought: That’s what I want to be, I want to be like Starck. I want to be Starck.” But while he did follow that model when he set up his own design studio in 1993 — as opposed to joining a corporation like most of his American peers were doing at the time — part of the reason Allen’s presence in the design world always feels so fresh is that unlike Starck, he's constantly reinvented himself along the way.
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Once in a while, Uhuru's small custom-designed pieces end up in one of their New York Design Week collection debuts. This ebonized walnut media unit, made from a single slab of wood held together with metal plates, may be a 2011 addition, though the studio is also contemplating a line of outdoor furniture.

Uhuru, Furniture Designers

If you were familiar only with Uhuru’s work, it would be enough to surmise that the Brooklyn-based furniture designers are experts at creating something beautiful from practically nothing. (The formal term for this, we’re told, is up-cycling.) In the half-decade since RISD grads Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf have been designing their own line, they’ve produced chairs from Kentucky bourbon barrels, loungers from the Ipe wood planks of a demolished Coney Island boardwalk, and scrapwood stools so stylish they were recently picked to decorate the café at New York’s SANAA-designed New Museum. But while it's true Uhuru are a resourceful bunch, step into their sprawling Red Hook studio and any assumptions you might have about their bootstraps process all but disappear.
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The finished chairs. “In the original project, the chairs were all beaten up, so it was nice to fancy them up. But Richard needs to have something consistent if people want to buy a whole set, so these chairs are brand new. I still have a back stock of vintage ones, though, and if I see a cool folding chair, I’ll buy it.”

Tanya Aguiñiga, Textile and Furniture Designer

Los Angeles designer Tanya Aguiñiga already had two studios when she took up a third this summer: the first in the backyard of the Atwater Village bungalow she shares with her husband and two sisters, and the second six blocks away, in a converted industrial-park-turned-artists’-community near the train tracks. But in early July, Aguiñiga picked up and moved her shop 2,000 miles south to the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, for a five-week residency — the first in a project she calls Artists Helping Artisans. “I had gone to Oaxaca and Chiapas in 2007, and there was so much amazing stuff being produced by the women there,” she says. “People aren’t aware of it because the skills aren’t being passed down anymore and because people are scared to travel within Mexico. There’s isn’t enough tourism or income to sustain these crafts.”
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