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Dokter and Misses, Furniture and Fashion Designers

There’s a lot that’s hard for Westerners to understand about Adriaan Hugo and Katy Taplin, the husband and wife who make up the South African furniture and fashion duo Dokter and Misses. First, there’s the fact that they hail from Johannesburg, a city whose art scene has held sway in the international market for years but whose few industrial designers are hardly household names. Then there are their references, which remain resolutely sub-equatorial: In our interview, we talked about game reserves, braais (the South African term for barbecue), a Nigerian dancehall/reggae musician named Dr. Alban, and an artist who uses the techniques of the Ndebele tribe, from the Mpumalanga region of the country. Perhaps most confounding is their name, which mixes English and Dutch honorifics and calls to mind everything from sci-fi movies to secretaries — and which the two refuse to explain. It’s lucky, then, that their work is so instantly likable and wonderfully easy to grasp.
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Glass insulators: “They’re made out of a single material, but they have all these interesting textures. They often have a thread and text cast into them. Plus they’re usually beautiful colors. We looked at a lot of these when we were designing our Bright Side Lights (above),” says Williams. “People have had a really emotional reaction to the lights — they say it reminds them of an old appliance or a blender, or it makes them think of other experiences they’ve had, which I think is the mark of a successful object.”

Rich Brilliant Willing, Furniture Designers

If there’s one thing that’s defined a Rich, Brilliant, Willing product since the studio’s three members graduated from RISD in 2007 and banded together to make furniture, it’s the idea of the mash-up. In most of their pieces, seemingly disparate materials and odd colors come together in a sort of joyful schizophrenia — a lamp with differently colored, awkwardly placed dowel legs, a wood-and-metal coat rack with copper, steel, and plastic pegs, and even a candle holder crowded with tapers, birthday candles, and fat, number-shaped votives. But a funny thing happened this spring: The trio released a series of cast-glass pendant lights with the Los Angeles–based design company Artecnica that were notable not only for their pretty, industrial aesthetic but for their adherence to a single, monochromatic material. “It’s unusual for any object to made of a single part these days,” says Theo Richardson, who with Charles Brill and Alex Williams makes up the trio, their surnames forming the basis for the studio's cheeky name. “Most of the time, things are glued together, screwed together. But for us, this was going from assemblage work to something that’s made of a single piece.”
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Things you keep around your studio or home for inspiration: “Succulent plants (shown with our mini-pedestals), coffee, colored pencils, music, crystals, currently eating a lot of arugula salads (good brain food) and our view.”

Iacoli & McAllister, designers

It’s hard enough to be a young American designer. The lack of government funding means that prototypes must often be self-financed, and the difficulty in working with most European manufacturers means that young design studios frequently end up handling their own production as well. Now try doing it all in Seattle, a city that’s not exactly famous for its flourishing industrial design scene. “When we started working together a few years ago, we felt really removed from the world that might be interested in what we wanted to do,” says Jamie Iacoli, one half of the Seattle-based design couple Iacoli & McAllister, who have become known over the last year or so for a pared-down industrial aesthetic that’s matched with a supreme gift for color — think wrenches powder-coated in bright magenta or wire-frame pendant lights in emergency orange or cyan. “The thing that’s weird about Seattle is that because it’s so laid back, you get people who talk and don’t do. There’s no pressure to create, in part because no one here is buying.”
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Our tour began on the third floor of Lobmeyr’s Kartnerstrasse showroom, which acts as a museum of sorts for the company’s extensive back catalogue. Glass cases filled with tumblers, drinking sets, and dishes line the perimeter of a narrow circular walkway, and in the middle is this copper-wheel engraving lathe — the first to be used by the company in the early 19th century. It’s almost exactly like the one that’s used today. “It hasn’t really changed in the last 300 years,” Rath laughs. Its variously sized spindles and discs are used to create a variety of textures and line effects on the surface of glass.

J. & L. Lobmeyr

Since its founding six generations ago, Lobmeyr has tended to follow its own compass rather than listening to the whims of the market — in other words, it’s never been afraid to be a little bit different. It’s why the company moved from its original role as glass merchants to manufacturers; what inspired a relationship with the radical designers of the Wiener Werkstätte; and why the company today collaborates with designers like Polka, whose 2008 beer glasses boast an engraving based on the goals scored during a 1978 soccer match between Austria and Germany.
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Besides the 14-foot windows that overlook Manhattan’s skyline, a prototype of Gilad’s 2005 Dear Ingo chandelier for Moooi is the centerpiece of his 8th-floor studio. “My first studio was just above Ingo Maurer’s Soho shop, on Grand and Greene. I couldn’t not see his work every morning going down for coffee, and I decided to create an homage to what he was doing over there. At the time, lots of his chandeliers were combined from parts he’d found on Canal Street. I was looking for a very simple fragment that I could reproduce to create a larger piece, and I found it in a task light at Ikea.” In the rear are shelves lined with Designfenzider’s other best-known works, including red and yellow Fruit Bowls, Clipped Cubes, and Ran Over By Car vases.

Ron Gilad, Designer

One of the turning points in Ron Gilad’s career came late on a Sunday evening in January 2008, one of the coldest nights of the year. That’s when the designer, along with nearly 200 other artistically minded tenants, was evicted from his live/work loft building in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn — the result, the New York Fire Department claimed, of an illegal matzo operation being run out of the basement by the building’s landlord. No matter that the Tel Aviv–born designer was out of the country at the time. “I extended my trip a week, but then I came back to nowhere. For three and a half months, I was homeless. And that’s when I started really playing with the idea of spaces and homes, and what, for me, a home really is.”
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