A Touch of Divinity
Exhibition Every Colour Is Divine, Salone del Mobile, Milan, 09–11 April.
Two years ago in Milan, Kvadrat impressed many visitors during the Salone with a refreshing exhibition, presenting innovative applications and variations on the Hallingdal 65 - one of the company's most successful and longstanding fabrics - by emerging and established designers from all areas. For this year’s edition of the fair, the Danish textile company has once more invited a varied bunch of highend international designers and curators to explore the various possibilities of yet another of Kvadrat’s upholstery materials, Divina. The whole project is being exhibited during the Salone, accompanied by a book. DAMN° spoke with two of the five curators, namely Hans Maier-Aichen and Constance Rubini, who each commissioned their personal choice of designers.
“Divina very much looks like felt”, says Constance Rubini. “It’s a homogeneous, smooth, deep, and fascinating textile that has quite some structure and comes in very strong colours. For ‘my’ four designers – Muller van Severen (BE), Francois Dumas (NL), Max Lamb (UK), and Martino Gamper (IT) – this was, of course, a challenge, and they all came up with very surprising and high quality applications. I’ve chosen designers who have the ability to work with such a challenging material, and who could enjoy it too.” All of the participants received a small fee, which enabled them to take the time to explore this fabric, and to arrive at playful results. The keyword: total freedom, as there was no briefing and no limitations were stipulated. The only condition was to use or integrate Divina into their project. Hans Maier-Aichen: “Some of the protagonists had never touched textile before, and were therefore able to balance their outspoken design professionalism with a strong kind of impartiality and curiosity specific to a fresh, amateur approach. This enabled them to create something unexpected and surprisingly different.” Hans Maier-Aichen selected 10 designers: Werner Aisslinger (DE), Richard Hutten (NL), Klemens Schillinger (AT), Gonçalo Campos (PT), Katharina Wahl (DE), Jerszy Seymour (DE), Anton Alvarez(SE), Robert Stadler (Austria), Studio Minale Maeda (NL), Silvia Knüppel (DE), and asked them to try-out new stuff and to get rid of repetition. “Most designers know too much about design – the result of this is mediocrity and adapt-ism.” Kvadrat seems to offer designers a chance to free themselves from autopilot mode and explore new grounds. “The aim was to play, explore, and contemplate; particularly not to shape a product within the common marketing conditions. The book, more specifically, will reveal the interesting process behind each of the projects. As the saying goes: it is not the road we walk that is important, it’s the walking!”
Both curators praise Kvadrat for its steady engagement and daring attitude, which is rare these days, since overwhelmingly, design brands and companies tend to go for what sells, which immediately translates into creative anaemia and superfluity. Investing in creativity and innovation is most needed. “Kvadrat is one of the very few brands in the world that is intellectually, financially, and practically able and willing to organise a complex project like this. Kvadrat cultivates a different kind of sensitivity for quality and innovation, since with a project like this there is no direct profit in sight. Only in the long run does it offer perspectives”, Hans Maier-Aichen explains, believing that the future of design lies in the hands of innovative companies and designers. “We need a new climate of making. In front of the dramatic overproduction of everyday objects of mediocre quality, young designers swerve in alternative territories and directions and search for expressively individual solutions. Some develop their own working tools and machines to generate a completely new product approach. Like one of ‘my’ designers, the Chilean-Swedish Anton Alvarez, who constructed his own wrapping machine, which enables him to manufacture furniture quite spontaneously. Or look at the surprising ways of Jerszy Seymour, who I call the enfant terrible of design. He experiments with new materials and acts within what he calls amateur diagrams.” And then Hans Maier-Aichen puts it even more radically: “Perhaps we need even more of a recession in order to force companies to leave their comfort zone and to get the industry more interested in innovative products from emerging designers.” ‹