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Mike Meiré, Art Director

History isn't always kind to guys like Mike Meiré — become the poster child for a rebellious and polarizing creative movement like the "New Ugly," which rocked the graphic design world in 2007 with its stretched typography and defiantly awkward layouts, and you're practically begging for an expiration date. To achieve the kind of unqualified success that Meiré has since he started his career in Cologne 25 years ago demands two basic personal attributes: The ability to talk about even your most controversial work in a straightforward, no-bullshit manner, which helps people believe in what you're doing, and the talent to excel at a diverse range of projects just in case they don't. What you learn from reading interviews with Meiré, or in our case, sitting across from him at a dinner party hosted by Apartamento magazine during the Milan Furniture Fair, is that he's driven far less by the desire to make a statement than by an earnest ambition to offer people products that are different from all the other ones already available to them. You also realize that the same guy who made his name art-directing publications like Brand Eins and 032c — and who most recently helped Russian doyenne Dasha Zhukova launch her latest project, the art and fashion magazine Garage — is just as likely to spend his time hanging pheasants inside modern farmhouse installations for Dornbracht, or collecting and exhibiting street food carts from around the world. In other words, even with the hype surrounding 032c having long abated, and that of Garage conspicuously angling to take its place, we still think Meiré's a fundamentally interesting guy, so we asked him to share some of his favorite tools and inspirations below.
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At the London Design Festival, Via Dan Rubinstein of Surface

We at Sight Unseen are very busy people. We have babies to nurse (congratulations, Jill!), articles to write for other publications, subjects to spend hours and hours interviewing for this publication, and designers to hassle about finishing their submissions for our still top-secret online shop, set to launch in a little over a month (trust us, it's going to be good). Thus, we sometimes don't have the chance to attend events like the London Design Festival, even as we cringe with regret watching invitations roll in for Established & Sons and Phillips de Pury dinners, friends' exhibition openings, and dozens more chances to take the pulse of one of our favorite local design scenes. When that happens, we reach out to folks we trust and ask them to report back on whatever highs, lows, and drunken blurs they may have witnessed on the ground. Here, Dan Rubinstein, the intrepid editor of Surface magazine — both Jill and I are contributing editors — shares some of the details and moments he was privy to during last week's LDF, which he somehow managed to take time out of his own busy schedule to attend. As for us, you know what they say: There's always next year.
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Faye Toogood Assemblage 3

Faye Toogood on Assemblage 3, for Phillips de Pury

When we — and the rest of the design world — were first introduced to her at the 2009 London Design Festival, Faye Toogood already seemed like Superwoman: Having just left her post as a stylist at the UK shelter magazine World of Interiors and cast out on her own, she'd engineered a coming-out party for herself that included a collaborative installation with Gallery Fumi featuring designs made from corn, a Memphis-inspired playroom with an Arabeschi di Latte egg bar, and a temporary shop for Tom Dixon that showcased how she'd begun to transform his brand image. Just seeing her do it was enough to make us feel stressed, and that was before we knew that she was about to reinvent herself again, this time as a furniture designer. Her first collection, Assemblage 1, was inspired by modernist sculpture, British craftsmanship, and her childhood growing up in the English countryside; it gave way to Assemblage 2 in Milan earlier this year, which took a darker, edgier turn. Finally, with Phillips de Pury last week, Toogood unveiled the third chapter in the series, and the most ambitious to date — it's based around her fascination with iridescence, and it took a motorcycle fabricator, a gun maker, and a studio full of assistants in gas masks to complete. I was asked by Phillips to conduct an in-depth interview with Toogood to appear in the show's catalog, and so Sight Unseen received special permission to reprint that interview here. It's lengthy, but it offers a good deal of insight into the mind of one of the most intriguing and ambitious personalities working in design right now.
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A rack full of Dries van Noten clothing waiting to be registered into MoMu’s digital cataloging system, which keeps track of the nearly 5,000 contemporary and 20,000 historical pieces in the museum’s collection. MoMu was originally based on the contents of a former textile museum in Vrieselhof, Belgium; when Antwerp inherited those items, it decided to parlay them into a fashion museum in 2001. “We retained everything from the old textile museum,” says Wim Mertens, a curator at the museum who specializes in historical dress. “We have floral tapestries which have nothing to do with a fashion museum, but it's an inheritance, and also napkins, tablecloths, bedspreads — you name it in textiles, and we have it.”

Antwerp’s Mode Museum

If Antwerp’s Mode Museum (MoMu) is desperately seeking a second storage space for its growing permanent collection, at least part of the blame falls on Bernard Willhelm. He may donate his designs each season alongside the likes of Dries van Noten, Martin Margiela, and his onetime mentor Walter van Beirendonck, but inside the museum’s existing archive rooms — which Sight Unseen had the exclusive privilege of touring earlier this year — it’s Willhelm who clearly holds the record for overflowing racks. In fact, MoMu’s curation team rarely turns down a donation from a legitimate source, whether for the historical collection it originally inherited from an old provincial textile museum or for its cache of contemporary fashions by talents born or educated in Antwerp, but Willhelm’s contributions are so generous that the day we visited, there were clothes waiting to be graciously returned to his showroom. It’s not difficult to understand the designer’s enthusiasm, though, or that of his peers: The MoMu’s prestige in Europe far exceeds its diminutive size, and since it opened a decade ago, it’s become the largest repository in the world for contemporary Belgian fashion.
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Marije Vogelzang of Proef, Designer and Restaurateur

Back in 2000, when Marije Vogelzang had graduated from Eindhoven with a product-design degree and begun turning a school project — a funeral table set with all-white cuisine — into fodder for her nascent career, food design was still a relatively unknown discipline. Martí Guixé was already making experimental tapas and rice wine bottles with edible corks, but Arabeschi di Latte didn't exist yet, Jennifer Rubell's first art-brunch was still eight years away, and other young would-be practitioners like Franke Elshout, Annelies Hermsen, Katja Gruijters, and Janina Loeve were still just a twinkle in Li Edelkoort's eye. By the time Vogelzang founded Proef, her Amsterdam restaurant and food lab, in 2004, she was at the leading edge of a movement that aimed to use creativity and critical thinking to heighten the sensory and emotional experience of eating. Ten years, countless interactive food events, one book, and a TED Talk later, her ideas are a constant source of curiosity for those both within the design world and beyond. We at Sight Unseen have personally been fans of Vogelzang's work since we first took a hammer to her clay-baked vegetables at the London Design Festival in 2008 — an opinion only reinforced as we sipped artisanal cocktails laced with edible flowers at Proef this past winter — so we tracked her down to find out more about her own personal adventures in eating.
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Looks from Choi's graduate collection, which was picked up for a two-week selling exhibition in the basement of Dover Street Market. "Jade Jagger came in one day and bought two pieces," Choi says. "She actually offered me a job, but I already had a contract."

Eudon Choi, fashion designer

Since graduating from London’s Royal College of Art in 2006 with a master’s degree in womenswear, Eudon Choi has had his graduate collection picked up by the fanatically worshipped Dover Street Market, been a senior designer for Savannah and Sienna Miller's label Twenty8Twelve, and been called a “fabulous individual” by our favorite throwback men’s fashion mag Fantastic Man. All of which makes his decision to move to London in 2003 — after having already completed a master’s in menswear at Yonsei University in his hometown of Seoul — seem like a pretty good move. “London, and womenswear in particular, just felt like a place where I could be more experimental,” says Choi.
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New Finnish Designs in Aalto’s House, on Nowness.com

Sighted today on Nowness, a post celebrating the opening of Helsinki Design Week — and the year of design events taking place in the Nordic capital in 2012 — with a photo essay featuring contemporary furniture and lighting by eight established and up-and-coming Finnish designers, shot inside Alvar Aalto's house. Located in the Munkkiniemi neighborhood of Helsinki, the meticulously preserved home provides the perfect backdrop for work created by a generation of designers who, living in such a tiny country, must all inevitably feel the influence of Aalto's outsized legacy — visually speaking, the project also reminded us of our favorite installation at the 2010 Milan Furniture Fair, when contemporary furniture was inserted into the hallowed rooms of Piero Portaluppi's Villa Necchi Campiglio. The Nowness story was beautifully shot by the young French photographer Estelle Hanania, and we've excerpted half of those images here.
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Ravenhill also cites the work of midcentury designers like Jean Prouvé, Charles and Ray Eames, and Friso Kramer: "They had such an amazing sensitivity about how things are made," he says. Ravenhill's Cord Lamp, shown above, improved upon the original wooden iteration while also reinterpreting Prouve’s classic Swing Jib design for a modern, cost-conscious consumer. "It has a simple construction, where the cloth-covered cord acts as both the power source and the tension element that holds the arm straight and prevents it from swinging too freely," Ravenhill says.

Brendan Ravenhill, Furniture and Product Designer

Believe it or not, Los Angeles–based designer Brendan Ravenhill owes the success of his Cord Lamp, at least in part, to Etsy. It’s not that the designer spends his days hawking the spare, Prouvé-inspired insta-classic on the online crafters’ marketplace. But a few years ago, Ravenhill was coerced by his wife to participate in something she’d created on the site called Mail Order Pals. “It was basically a penpal for purchase," Ravenhill told me when I visited his Echo Park home and studio earlier this summer. "People could buy you in order to receive a letter or a surprise package in the mail.” After someone “bought” Ravenhill, he went to the hardware store and whipped up an elegantly simple wooden swing-arm lamp in one night. Upon seeing his creation, the designer’s wife convinced him it was just too nice to send. The penpal ended up getting a wire sculpture of a penguin, and the couple began living with the lamp. In the months that followed, Ravenhill became obsessed with the design, refining and tweaking it in his head to the point that by the time he was approached to create a piece to show with the American Design Club at a trade fair in New York, he was able to fashion a prototype in just one week. The final lamp — composed primarily of porcelain, cast aluminum, a cloth cord, and a bare bulb — packs and ships flat and sells for less than $200 at places like The Future Perfect, cementing the young designer’s status as a rising talent to watch.
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The magic of Uglycute lies in its members’ ability to turn ordinary, low-cost materials like plywood, particle board, cage mesh, or crappy carpeting into striking installations and covetable furniture, like this tessellated shelving unit. It was developed for Alisa Grifo and Marco Romeny of the New York store Kiosk, who use it as display for shop-in-shops they’ve installed in places like Melbourne and London. The couple, who keep an apartment in Romeny’s native Stockholm, have a longstanding friendship and ongoing collaboration with Uglycute — they were the ones who first introduced Sight Unseen to the group’s work.

Uglycute, Furniture and Interior Designers

For Uglycute, it all began with a Bruno Matthson knockoff. It was 1999 and Swedish design was having a moment, but not, it seemed to the group’s four fledgling members, for the kinds of edgy experimental crafts and artistic hybrids being made by the emerging scene at the time — Wallpaper magazine and its ilk were still peering into the long shadows of Sweden’s old modernist icons. And so architecture grad Fredrik Stenberg and artists Jonas Nobel, Andreas Nobel, and Markus Degerman vented their frustration in the only way they knew how: by mounting a show around a sarcastic simulacrum of Matthson’s Eva chair made from a clunky particle-board box and cheap nylon straps. Complemented by a set of primitive clay pinch pots and a crude plywood table, the installation served as a launch pad for the group, and its subject matter — elevating cheap materials in order to question traditional norms of beauty and value — lent their firm its distinctive name. “It was meant as a new take on formalistic values,” says Nobel, who with the other three partners has since built a thriving practice known for its work with museums and clients like Cheap Monday.
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Climbing Rope

Because they spend their lives under car hoods, or between walls, or tucked inside backpacks, most industrial or utilitarian materials are purpose-built without any consideration for aesthetics. The people who engineer these materials get paid to make them perform well, not look pretty; when one of them gains crossover appeal, it's usually either by happy accident or a general shift in perception — the pendulum of culture swinging back, as it has recently, to a fervor for all things mundane and overlooked. Yet if climbing rope suddenly feels just as relevant in galleries and high-end fashion boutiques as it does strapped to a harness, enforcing the border between life and death, the reasons are obvious: it's cheap, it's durable, it has built-in visual interest, and the same vibrant color combinations that assure its visibility on a mountainside render it irresistible to designers and artists. When we first noticed how many of them were making climbing rope a core part of their practice — from Proenza Schouler to Stephen Burks to the artist Orly Genger, who often use it to play with notions of high art vs. low — we decided to launch a new column called "Material" that quite simply tracks an unconventional material's appearances throughout multiple disciplines in the visual arts.
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Chinese tea services: The studio tiled the walls of the restaurant in custom blue-and-white ceramic, using a story they found in an old Chinese book. Instead of using Chinese porcelain from the nearby mainland for dinner service, however, Autoban used the renowned blue çini porcelain that’s handcrafted in the Turkish city of Iznik.

Autoban, Furniture and Interior Designers

The Beyoğlu district is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Istanbul, but for centuries, it’s been the Turkish cultural capital's most modern quarter as well. So it's fitting that the creative firm helping to spearhead the growth of modern design in Turkey has all but grown up on Beyoğlu’s cobbled streets. Autoban is housed in a half-baroque, mid-19th-century Italianate building, but inside, the studio is almost seamlessly modern.
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’80s Issey Miyake: “My mom was always wearing avant-garde designers like Byblo and Yohji, and she loved Issey Miyake. One of the first pieces of designer clothing she gave me was an Issey skirt. He's amazing for what he was doing in that country at that time: peasant clothes, baggy things, geometric shapes. His clothes were very unisex. You could be any shape and you could wear them. It was always about movement. This was before he started on the pleats, and he was already developing his own fabrics. The designers I work with now are similarly trying to invent something new for this period. Anntian, for example, experiment with form and make bold moves, and Zucca uses amazing textiles. And yet I like that Issey’s clothes aren’t fancy even though they’re well designed. They still function.”

Jade Lai, Owner, Creatures of Comfort

If you ever have the privilege of chatting up Jade Lai, who owns the bicoastal cult fashion emporium Creatures of Comfort, don't be surprised if she tells you that, after returning from a trip to Morocco last year with no less than 15 carpets in tow, she was struck by the notion that she could totally see herself in the rug business. And when this is followed by the revelation that she’s looking to expand the Creatures of Comfort brand to encompass food, or that she’s been taking pottery classes, or that she hopes to run a bed and breakfast sometime soon, resist the urge to raise an eyebrow — these may sound like the ramblings of a dilettante, but make no mistake, Lai is both hyper-creative and legitimately driven. Consider, for example, the year she spent working as a product developer for Esprit in her native Hong Kong: She took the job after having graduated with an architecture degree, freelanced as a graphic designer, and started her own stationery line in L.A., but proceeded to become so good at it that she could eventually identify a fabric’s contents by touch alone — a useful skill for someone who now designs Creatures of Comfort’s in-house fashion line, and one that would certainly come in handy for any aspiring carpet slinger.
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Jason Schwartzman interviews Andrew Kuo for Bad Day #11

In the realm of magazine-making, photographer Eva Michon and creative director Colin Bergh could be considered populist heroes. Whenever they begin an issue of their four-year-old side project Bad Day Magazine, they make a wish list full of dozens of potential subjects they happen to be interested in at the moment — Sofia Coppola, Glenn O'Brien, Ariel Pink — and then, except for one fateful attempt to woo Nicki Minaj, they actually manage to go out and persuade those disparate personalities to appear together among their monochromatic pages. The pair have gotten so good at the curatorial hunt that when Michon, who serves as editor, agreed to let us reprint an article from the recently released Bad Day Issue #11, we were spoiled for choice: There were interviews with Sight Unseen favorites Martino Gamper and Tauba Auerbach, both of whom we're planning to feature on our own in the near future, plus stories on Mike Mills, David Shrigley, Tomi Ungerer, and David Shearer. But ultimately we settled on the curious multidisciplinary dialogue between the actor Jason Schwartzman and the New York artist Andrew Kuo, who meander between topics like music, color-mixing, hangovers, and what it would be like if they looked like Jesus.
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