If there was an award for the rock-star of design it would go to Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, for his flamboyant style and exquisite and edgy take on everyday objects.
The New York Times called him the “Lady Gaga of the design world – a constant font of energy and ideas that are impossible to ignore.”
Indeed, a quick peek into Marcel Wanders’ rather impressive and extensive portfolio reveals an exuberant line-up of products and interiors. Born and raised in Boxtel, Netherlands, Wanders graduated from the Institute of the Arts Arnhem in 1988. He catapulted to fame with his ‘Knotted Chair’ for the Dutch design brand Droog in 1996. The macramé-inspired Knotted Chair is made up of threads of aramid and carbon fibres which are knotted into the shape. Epoxy resin is then used to harden the fibres, following which the chair is left to dry, “leaving the final form in the hands of gravity.” The chair is now in many museums including the V&A, London.
In 1995, Wanders opened his own design studio in Amsterdam, where he continues to be based. In 2001, Wanders founded the design label Moooi (which means “beautiful” in Dutch, but with an extra O to emphasise the uniqueness of the designs). Wanders acts as Art Director for Moooi and has created whimsical designs for the company such as the “soft and puffy” Monster chair, the gorgeous Sponge Vase that is made of porcelain but looks like, well, sponge, and the ‘Killing of the Piggy Bank’ vase which depicts the dying out of physical currency as digital transactions take over. The vase captures the exact moment the poor Piggy Bank was struck, hammer and all.
Wanders’ fun-loving and adventurous take on everyday objects is seen in his designs for reputed international brands. His designs for seating are especially celebrated. Apart from the Knotted Chair, some of his most eye-catching designs for chairs are the Sparkling Chair (2010, Magis) which glows in the dark; the oversized and beautifully-red Tulip Chair, a “fresh and happy chair” (2010, Cappellini) and the Crochet Table (2001, Moooi).
Marcel Wanders also has an extensive range of lighting designs to his credit. The ‘Happy Hour Chandelier’ includes a ‘Dancing Angel’ – a woman hanging upside down from the chandelier for 20 minutes, serving drinks and little spoons of chocolate mousse to the crowd beneath her. The Can Can (2011, Flos) looks deceptively simple from the outside but in an intimate setting, the festive design is revealed.
Wallpaper and carpets also form a large portion of Wanders’ design work. The popular Hexagon design (2004), the lace-like Couture (2008) and the intricate ‘Join’ range of carpets (2011) are good examples of Wanders’ interest in new ideas for old things.
Tableware and Home Accessories have also received the Wanders touch. For Alessi, Wanders created an entire collection of plates and tableware, followed by a recent collection of matching non-stick cookware topped with decorative silver lids. The award-winning ‘Dressed’ series of plates was also created by him for Alessi.
Additionally Wanders has created a line of cosmetics for MAC (2010) inspired by the Dutch painter Vermeer, and a range of skin-care products for a Tokyo-based cosmetics company called Cosme Decorte (2010).
Apart from designs for his own company, Wanders collaborates with several other international brands. A gifting range for Marks and Spencer (2010), a Gazebo-style tent and luggage for Puma and an extensive range of Christmas products for Target (2009) took the Wanders signature-style to audiences worldwide.
Marcel Wanders is also an accomplished and award-winning interior designer with a variety of interiors to his credit. The Mondrian South Beach Hotel in Miami is a fantastical, over-the-top place complete with a floating staircase. The ‘Hotel on Rivington’ in New York is another example of a classic, yet edgy design replete with hexagon print wallpaper, water tables, a glass ceiling and very unusual doorways. On the other hand, in Jakarta, Wanders conjured up a serene, “semi-transparent” private residence with a night garden that invites the residents to relax. Accolades have also poured in for other Wanders-designed hotels such as the Kameha range of hotels and the Lute Suites, an innovative hospitality concept where 18th century restored suites are spread across the city of Amsterdam. His latest interiors project was for the Andaz Amsterdam Hotel, by Hyatt (2012).
What next for this rock-star of product and interior design? While the design work continues, Wanders is currently preparing for a major retrospective to be held in 2014 at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Netherlands’ premier modern art museum. In the meantime, he continues to go back to basics: to collect colourful beads that tell a story, that are then woven into necklaces that he wears, a look as iconic as his designs.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy Marcelwanders.nl