I am usually pretty cynical when it comes to big brands trying to ‘engage with a design audience,’ particularly when those brands fall outside of my, admittedly fairly arbitrary, definition of design. (Furniture design and product design in, for example, fashion design and automotive design out. I did say it was arbitrary – I have never won an argument defending it!) So when I heard that Fendi had a stand at Design Miami / Basel, I approached with caution.
And I had to eat my words, or my caution, or my hat, or something, because their stand blew me away. Entitled ‘Craftica’ it described itself as “a visual and tactile investigation into leather”. It was a celebration of a material and of the craftsmanship that brings it to life like no other I have ever seen. It could have melted the most cynical design geek’s heart.
Fendi invited Italian design studio Formafantasma to create a new body of work exploring leather craft and other hand-worked, natural materials. Reent winners of the Elle Decor Netherlands Award for ‘Talent of the Year,’ designers Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin were selected because “the young studio has already displayed an exceptional gift for inventive material investigations, as well as a highly refined and seductive aesthetic sensibility.”
They used discarded Fendi leather and worked with Fendi’s in-house craftsmen for parts the of production. They also incorporated other traditional leathers, as well as fish skins discarded by the food industry, vegetal processed leathers, and cork leather made from tree bark. The leathers were paired with marble, oxidized metal, glass, wood and other unprocessed natural materials such as bones, shells, and a sponge cultivated in a sea-farm as a substitute for industrial foam.
Far from the modern condition you might associate with Fendi, Formafantasma were inspired by, ”the symbolic connotations of leather, a material, that, more than any other, represents the complex relationship between humans and nature.” They said, “Leather as a material has the ability to evoke ancestral memories of when nature was foraged to produce food, tools and protection for the body.”
Drawing on these associations, they produced what they described as “contemporary tools for living”.
The collection includes objects ranging from implements to furniture: a grouping of glass lights hung with belts and hooks; a table made from Salleria leather, a room divider produced from vegetal tanned rawhide stretched over brass structures with marble weights; a series of four stools with fin-like legs upholstered in fish leathers; spoons and masks made with scallop-shells; and jar-like containers that combine glass with organic materials.
They also collaborated with illustrator Francesco Zorzi to create 28 hand-drawn images on goatskin parchment portraying the history of man’s use of leather.
Any display of such respect for craftsmanship and natural materials can’t be all bad, can it?
Further reading for the especially geeky: