She’s young, she’s independent and she lives in Paris. Wendy Andreu created an intriguing fabric that was on show at PlasticScene in September during London Design Festival 2018 – the best show of the event for my money. Featuring discarded hiking shoelace ropes from the archives of French lace manufacturer Société Choletaise de Fabrication, her work stood next to that of Max Lamb, James Shaw and Dirk Vander Kooij. More name-dropping: fashion designer Rick Owens and designer Faye Toogood have both commissioned her for research. And this year, the Fuorisalone of Milan is waiting.

The use of hiking shoelaces is just one manifestation of a textile and technique that has been in development since Andreu’s student days. ‘The fabric consists of a composite of cotton rope and silicone,’ Andreu explains. ‘The rope isn’t woven but pleated in a certain pattern and glued with the silicone. It started in 2014 with a project at the Design Academy Eindhoven. The assignment was to create a new material and work from it. I’m used to working with steel, so to challenge myself I researched the opposite, a soft material: textile. I quickly learnt that I’m definitely not meant to be a textile designer,’ she says, laughing at this last remark. ‘I simply couldn’t handle any of the machines. I put a lot of effort in it, but kept on failing, up to the point that the teacher said I wasn’t cut out to manipulate textile. I was horrible. So, instead of sewing I started gluing.’

Double Pyramid, 2017. Made for Core Studio - Hardcore Expo. In collaboration with Bram Vanderbeke. Photo: Core Studio
The gluing proved to be successful. At first she focused on the characteristic of the fabric being waterproof – hence its name Regen, which is Dutch for rain – and made raincoats, caps and bags. Due to the stiffness of the fabric, the items maintain their own shape instead of adapting to the body. Later, design objects followed such as the seating elements that hold intrinsic architectural qualities. The texture of all these objects is remarkable. The white cotton rope lines are unequally stained with black silicone that seeped through the cotton rope creating an irregular pattern. Every object looks different.

Although Regen is a textile, the fabric is not woven but shaped immediately in 3D, resulting in zero waste. ‘I set up a laser-cut steel template and coil the rope around it, then fix it with silicone,’ Andreu says. ‘When the silicone is dry I remove the key axe in the middle of the template in order for the metal construction to fold and be removed.’

CROWD. Cotton rope, silicone, fabric. Commission of The Société Choletaise de Fabrication. CROWD is a concept for a window display. It consists of fourteen faces that are handcrafted with colored cotton rope and silicone following the drawings of illustrator Giada Ganassin.
Andreu designs the metal templates herself. She has a rock solid background in the field. In 2011 she graduated in metalwork at the renowned École Boulle in Paris before heading off to the Design Academy Eindhoven where she graduated Cum Laude in 2016. These skills have proved interchangeable. Next to Regen she actually still designs metal interior objects. Together with Belgian designer Bram Vanderbeke she creates design-art objects inspired by the templates she applies to create textile. ‘We studied together in Eindhoven. During our time there Bram was more interested in the template than in the fabric.’ Together they’ve created steel pyramids that have been part of exhibitions in Eindhoven (Hardcore, 2017), Brussels (Collectible 2018) and Paris (Maison&Objet 2018).

Andreu is a designer of a new generation that is very aware of what the effects are of design on the environment. Designers today have to live with the new design paradox: the will to create versus the world that doesn’t need any more product. ‘It is a huge dilemma. On the one hand there’s capitalism, on the other the utopia of anti-capitalism. As a designer you’re in the middle. You want to let your creativity flow, but it’s not possible unless you sell products. As a result, the new generation actually does what our grandparents used to do: keep the production on a small scale. We realise mass production isn’t part of the future.’ Andreu doesn’t want to flood the world with her work.

Regen - Seating Elements. Photos: Vanni Bassetti
Wobbly Carpet. Photos: Vanni Bassetti
More and more young designers are choosing the path of independent, small scale and ecological production, resulting in new ideas for new sustainable materials. The Design Academy Eindhoven acts as the heimat of this new consciousness. Take Dirk Vander Kooij’s recycled plastic designs, the objects of Roxane Lahidji made of salt or the bowls made of cow blood by Basse Stittgen as illustrations of its beacon-like impact, a place where Andreu highlights both the teachers and students levels of commitment to the cause. The new materials of this current generation of engaged designers also express a new sense of aesthetics. They’ve got rough edges and look sort of unfinished, organic. It’s the style of a generation who’s going back to the drawing board, of a generation grown up in a world in transition.

This article originally appeared in DAMNº71. 

DAMNº71: A Woman’s Work / Saskia de Brauw & Vincent van de Wijngaard / Wendy Andreu / Broken Nature / Cyber-urbanism / ecoLogicStudio / Geo-Design / Alexandre Humbert / Navine G. Khan-Dossos / Leonard Koren / Movie interiors / Radical Cut-Up / Miko Revereza / Klaas Rommelaere / SAVVY Contemporary / Shapereader / Thonik / Andrew Waugh

This article appeared in DAM71. Order your personal copy.
Wendy Andreu. Photo: Ringo Gomez-Jorge