The blurring of boundaries and hybridising of forms was the unifying theme in nendo's exhibition at the Jil Sander store during Milan's Salone del Mobile. On show were several new collaborations, opening with the conceptual project for Jil Sander. At the invitation of the fashion house, Oki Sato, founder of nendo, created five 3D objects – made from vertical lines, squares and dots – which were photographed and then translated into textile patterns to make five prototype dresses. Finally, only the dot pattern was retained and printed onto T-shirts, sneakers, bags and a purse.

The 'objectextile' project for Jil Sander provided the opportunity for nendo to showcase new products in a forest-like installation of thin, laser-cut panels, titled '80 sheets of mountains'. Included here was nendo's first collaboration with Flos. Titled 'gaku', the thoughtful yet playful collection comprised boxes into and onto which moveable lamps and small objects – bowls, vases, trays, mirrors and bookends, held in place by magnets – were situated. Sato's idea was to create an enclosed space combining different objects that is at the intersection of accessories and furniture. The micro-architecture essence recalled how Toronto-born, Tokyo-based Sato attained a Masters in Architecture from Tokyo's Waseda University in 2002, the same year that he established the nendo office. 'Gaku' comes in a black version (exhibited at the Flos stand in the Salone del Mobile) and in white (exhibited at Jil Sander).

photo: Takumi Ota
What did Sato learn from this collaboration with Flos? “I was working closely with Piero Gandini [CEO of Flos] and this approach is something that I'd like to bring to Japan. In Japan, the way of working is more hierarchical and you're never in direct dialogue with the person at the top, which slows everything down.”

Immersed in the mountainous installation was nendo's 'flow' collection for Alias which marries furniture with objects. Variously shaped bowls and vases extended from tables and bookcases as if they were joined by an umbilical cord. The same poetic sensibility is seen in the white 'sakura' vase for La Manufacture de Sèvres, which has a cherry blossom branch peeking out from an opening and petals decorating the surface. A sense of inversion continues in the turquoise and blue silicone Jellyfish vases installed in a fish tank. “Normally, we put water into a vase but here the vases are in the water,” said Sato.

photo: Akihiro Yoshida
Sato's delicate twist on conventions and out-of-the-box thinking ran throughout the exhibition. His 'trace' collection of furniture for Collective Design incorporated the visualised openings of doors into the pieces. “We often think about the space occupied by a door opening and don't put anything there, so here I brought that space into the design,” said Sato. Similarly, the 'trace' lighting gave embodiment to the lines made by a hanging light bulb swinging left and right or to a beam of light from a projection.

This idea of line-drawing was developed, too, in the three 'one-stroke' carpets for Nodus, which were hand-woven by craftsmen in the Rajasthan region of northern India. Whilst taking aesthetic inspiration from Oriental carpets, Sato drew each of the carpets in a single stroke. In order to convey the drawing process, one carpet has one quarter of the pattern drawn, another has half of it drawn and in the third the drawing is complete.

photo: Akihiro Yoshida
photo: Akihiro Yoshida
Also on view was the 'fragment table' for Glas Italia, which is made of two layers of transparent glass. The first consists of small rectangular mirrors, while the second shows the pattern rotated 90 degrees; geometric shadows of the changing reflections caused by this interplay dance on the ground. Indeed, what emerges is Sato's multi-sensorial imagination, guiding visitors into the philosophy of his practice.

photo: Akihiro Yoshida
photo: Akihiro Yoshida
photo: Takumi Ota
photo: Akihiro Yoshida
photo: Akihiro Yoshida