So today we started in earnest! Off to Mid-Town to see the show rooms of Chilewich, Carl Hansen & Son, Herman Miller + Magis and Moooi. I have to admit I was super excited about this—yes these are only showrooms, but these showrooms are incredible. In Chicago we have some beautiful resources for seeing classic pieces of furniture like Luminaire, but we don't have this...
I'll start by admitting my ignorance to these companies, except Herman Miller, although I was aware of products from all of them. Actually, not knowing them was great—it allowed me to ask the dumb questions and feel free to really try to get to know the companies and the people presenting them.
Chilewich has an awesome story. Born of an interest in materiality and a search for application, Chilewich has become the gold-standard in place-mats. The showroom is a cornucopia of style and development. The first company to get into the use of this textile in the tabletop environment, which is now a household product, 99% of Chilewich's products are made in America by the same factory they started with over 20 years ago. Ok, now I'll mention this once as otherwise I'll have to repeat the premise a whole bunch, but I thought it might be a good idea to just ask one of those really broad stupid questions and have the ability to compare that throughout the experience, and so I did: What are three principals or qualities which represent your company? Chilewich's response: Authenticity, innovation and design (I'll call out the responses in bold to make it easier going forward). Authenticity through the culture of the company, producing only styles and lines which they stand behind and believe in. Innovation as the industry leader, willing to further push the boundaries of material and style, testing the boundaries of what can or can't be achieved. Their commitment to design shown through Sandy Chilewich's signature on every every decision effecting the product and its design.
The Carl Hansen & Son showroom was a masterpiece in clean Danish design. Carl Hansen focuses on storytelling and education to combat counterfeits—and when you sit down and hear the story of the company which only recently expanded outside of selling two chairs (one of which is the iconic Wishbone chair) and into the global market, you can see why. Everything about the products say hand made and attention to detail—and the beautiful woodworking detail on display is really unbelievable. The focus on passion is clear in everything from the design and layout of the showroom, to the pride in the craftsmanship on display in everything they produce. Carl Hansen's connection to it's roots and heritage is astounding—considering it's growth, the company has retained its values, use of traditional techniques and commitment to it's core Wegner aesthetic. The Danish principals are strong within the company too—with Carl Hansen planting two trees for every 100-150 year old tree which is used in the production of its furniture.
You know Herman Miller, right? Here's a refresher:
One of the most innovative and well-known manufacturers which has produced some of the most iconic pieces of furniture. Looking at the ergonomic studies on display, and the fact each design has a purpose it fulfills—a problem that it solves, it's easy to see Herman Miller's commitment to the user and their belief that a person is the most important thing in the room. Herman Miller's commitment to manufacturing in the US speaks to their belief in honest and authentic design through integrity and quality, but also to their firm pledge to positive environmental practices. This place (at least the ground level) is open to the public, go there and see some wonderful things please.
Moooi was a whole 'nother experience. This single level showroom packs a huge punch. Almost overwhelming, the presentation of wonderfully playful and interesting objects is like a tangy clementine—saturated and so tasty. Led by design ideas that revolve around concept or materiality, Moooi shows how weird thoughts can become families of products—using a keen eye to find early designs of successful designers. These edgy, eclectic ideas show their pursuit of the unexpected, and love of juxtaposition, but also need for those designs to evoke a welcoming emotion and warmth. I'll be completely non-journalistic and naughty here and say that Moooi was my favorite of the day—it packed such a a punch in such a small space and spoke so much to my personal interests in material research and "the weird".
I wanted to start (I know its suuuuper early in this experience, but if life has taught me anything its it never to early) to think about narrative for this experience, and on the lovely air conditioned subway on the way home I had a thought: we sometimes talk about people as snowflakes in terms of individuality and complexity, and meeting these companies today has helped me understand them in this way too. Stacked with their own principles and beliefs which they promote through their design, these complex and expressive entities are an individual's or a collective's curation of the world as they see it, through objects.