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Meet the New Mumbai-Based Studio Making Lamps Inspired by Ancient Culture

The work of the new lighting design studio 500 B.C. comes from a fairly unexpected place, in more ways than one — not only is the firm based in Mumbai, India, but founders Anandita Shah and Shiraz Noorani both have backgrounds in disciplines other than product design. Before creating their very first lamp together a year ago, Shah ran a handbag company for 15 years, while Noorani was a civil and structural engineer. Since pivoting, they've been churning out lamp after lamp under the influence of icons like Luis Barragan, Alvar Aalto, and Ettore Sotsass.
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Campaign for Oyyo shot in the Manvar Desert of Rajasthan.
Photo: David Magnusson / www.davidmagnusson.se

Oyyo, Swedish Textile Designers

Lina Zedig and Marcus Åhrén, of the Stockholm-based studio Oyyo, take a best-of-both-worlds approach to their work. If Zedig is the self-described perfectionist who obsesses over color and composition, Åhrén is the “action person, always keen to get new projects going and thinking that everything is possible.” For their first collection, which launched in 2013, they employed age-old techniques to craft flat-weave dhurries, but imbued the familiar form with unexpected geometric and architectural patterns. And while their carpets — in combinations of pastel pinks, yellows, and oranges, deep blues, greens, and black — have a cozy, at-home feel, they also reflect the restless, roving spirit in which Åhrén and Zedig, avid travelers, created them. It’s design for settling in, not settling down.
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Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien in their studio, a loft-like space in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood. The couple met in the ’90s as students at the RCA, where they remember being outspokenly critical about one another’s work; more than ten years after founding their own studio in 2000, they still approach design in markedly different ways, and yet the dialogue they’ve since developed is now a crucial part of their process. They balance each other out. (Though, as Doshi admits, “in a way you’re more brutal with each other because of the personal relationship. Communication can sometimes be harder because you’re not making allowances for the other person’s feelings.”)

Doshi Levien, Product and Furniture Designers

If you'd expect anyone to spend their days working amidst a snowdrift’s worth of process and ephemera, it’s London designers Doshi Levien. What you see piled atop the shelves and pinned to the walls of the couple’s Shoreditch studio, after all, is the product of two very different yet equally prolific minds working through their own approaches to the same tasks — Nipa Doshi being the Bombay-born lover of handicraft who collages, paints, and draws her way towards ideas from the ground up, and her Scottish husband Jonathan Levien, who spent his childhood in his parents’ toy factory and developed the more exacting methods of an industrial designer, prototyping proclivities and all. While both enjoy surrounding themselves with collected objects like Italian ice cream cups and Chinese pencil boxes, it’s impossible to understate the importance of the couple’s divergent interests to their work’s unique point of view; the designs that made them famous, after all, were daybeds and sofas for Moroso that combined industrially produced furnishings with hand-embroidery and textiles sourced from Indian artisans. It would be a cliché way of characterizing the pair if it weren’t so overwhelmingly true, even by their own admission: “After ten years of working together, I see it as an essential ingredient in what we do, almost a layer in the approach without which it would feel naked,” says Levien.
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Mexico: “With the fruit on the table, this is like a color still life,” says van Eijk. “I’m intrigued by them. The Settings project I did for the Zuiderzee museum was really about setting and still lives. And this was just standing on the street somewhere, not designed at all, like a coincidence. Maybe no one thought about it looking nice. If you really designed it or styled it, it would never look as special as this. Then you almost start thinking, is it good to be a designer? Isn’t it nicer if there are no designers in the world? It’s interesting if you can keep this kind of intuitive thinking in your work, and try not to direct everything, but to let coincidence play a role. It’s really hard to achieve; you have to put a lot of effort into making something effortless.”

Kiki and Joost’s World Travels

When Kiki van Eijk and Joost van Bleiswijk were invited this year to each create a series based on the collections at the Zuiderzee Museum, an art and history center in a former port region in the north of Holland, they got to do what they’re known for doing best: looking backwards to research archetypal objects from the past — in this case old Dutch ironing boards, apothecary pots, and shipping trunks — then reinterpreting them using new shapes and luxe materials. What most people don’t realize, though, is that the couple are equally obsessed with looking outwards, having backpacked their way through far-flung countries together each year since they graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven, photographing intriguing uses of color, pattern, texture, and technique along the way.
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Suki Cheema, Textile Designer

Sighted on the website of Dossier, the Brooklyn-based fashion and culture journal: An interview with the London-born textile designer Suki Cheema. "He collects vintage china, takes annual trips to India and owns more art books than is generally healthy. If these are his joys, then his work — translating these elements into unique textiles that are classic and exotic, artistic and marketable — can be nothing less than a passion."
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