ALCANTARA & DAMN° are hosting the exhibition Touching Tales – The Alcantara Experience at imm and at the Kunsthaus Rhenania on the Rheinauhafen waterfront. On the occasion of this contemporary design show, four maverick studios – Formafantasma, Moritz Waldemeyer, Anton Alvarez, and Henrik Vibskov – have been carefully selected for the challenging task of experimenting with the trademark Alcantara® material. Each studio is known for combining high-end technology with the handmade, weaving daydreams into the design process. The curated show features striking installations within a tantalising ambience.

Divided between two creative hubs jointly initiated by Alcantara and DAMN°, the works are displayed in a relaxing environment intended for fair-goers to unwind and recharge. Danish designer Henrik Vibskov created an eye-catching installation in the first of the two spaces: a rectangular box with cones hanging from a ceiling made of Alcantara® that slowly moves up and down, evoking a science-lab experience. The other three designers realised their works at Kunsthaus Rhenania (in the Passagen area, connected to the fairground via a shuttle service), each focusing on different facets of the material. “I made an upholstered construction consisting of soft sticks”, informs Swedish/Chilean artist Anton Alvarez. “The framework is of wood and aluminium and is covered with foam. The top layer comprises a skin of Alcantara®. The scale matches that of the human body, being between one and two metres high. The natural-looking artificial skin inspired me to make the object appear ‘alive’: the pieces are like bodies wrestling or holding onto each other. One of the most important features of Alcantara® is clearly its relation to human beings.

Alcantara® is a sustainable material with respect for the environment. “The texture and shine are similar to skin,” says Anton Alvarez, “yet no animals were harmed or killed in its production, which for me as a vegetarian and a person who cares about the planet is quite important.” Italian duo Formafantasma, (Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin) addressed its strength, resistance, and versatility. “We had never worked with Alcantara® before, but of course since we’re Italian, we were familiar with the aesthetic”, Andrea Trimarchi announced. “For this project, we worked with the raw material and created a series of simple pieces that suggest various applications: for example, Alcantara® is squeezed between blocks of marble, stone, and metal in order to show the contrast between the synthetic and natural substances. We also used Alcantara® as a kind of belt to keep heavy pieces together, demonstrating its strength. It comes in so many colours and thicknesses, which is remarkable.”

British/German engineer and designer Moritz Waldemeyer concentrated on the technological characteristics of the material: “I already knew Alcantara® because I’m a car-lover [it is used for car seats, dash trims, etc., and also as a flame retardant covering for the driver’s seat of sports cars –Ed.], but I had never worked with it. As an industrial geek, it was great for me to learn about the many complex steps that lead to the end product. I was impressed by a specific variant of Alcantara® that’s black on one side with a metallic film on the other. This contrast inspired me to develop a gold film that in conjunction with light acquires a reflective effect, transforming the material into something rich and precious. With this, we created an installation made entirely of lampshades.”

So there it is: a smattering of revelatory creations by four professional design studios. The Alcantara® Experience is open throughout the duration of imm cologne, should you be tempted to partake.

Touching Tales – The Alcantara® Experience, imm cologne: 18 – 24 January 2016 * Henrik Vibskov at the imm fair ground, between halls 2&3, Messe Platz 1, 50678 Cologne. * Formafantasma, Moritz Waldemeyer and Anton Alvarez at imm Kunsthaus Rhenania, Bayenstrasse 28, 50678 Cologne. * Reception: Tuesday, 19 January 2016, 18:00 – 23:00, at Kunsthaus Rhenania. Save the date!