Sit down on the goat
von Unbekannt Unbekannt | 11/25/2015


Leder, Pelz oder Brokat – die Mode schwelgt in hochwertigen Materialen und aufwendigen Texturen. Das Möbeldesign hält sich einstweilen zurück.

"Fat" von Patricia Urquiola für B&B Italia / Yunya Watanabe fall/winter 2015/16, photos © B&B Italia, Watanabe

Raf Simons showed how it is done when he was Jil Sander Creative Director: He used upholstery fabrics from Danish manufacturer Kvadrat to fashion voluminous coats and evening dress for men and women. Understandably they were somewhat inflexible. Then in 2014 he turned the whole thing around and presented a collection of furniture fabrics for Kvadrat, which is much more varied than we are accustomed to seeing for furniture covers. It included softly shimmering velour, weaves made with bouclé yarns of Merino wool, while the latest additions are twills with fluorescent color effects.

We find the greatest overlapping between fashion and furniture in certain materials with special textures, mainly textiles, but also leather. Wood, metal, stone or plastic rarely feature in fashion. Yet direct comparisons are difficult. Basically, you can say: On the one hand aspects such as quality, comfort and durability are more evident in both areas, yet some fashions are short lived as ranges alter quickly, and there is an increased price pressure.

Chaotic, but highly effective

As such, the return of fur in clothing can probably be ascribed to the fact that luxury is interpreted and communicated differently today: Not through the superficial flaunting of certain logos or “it pieces” as in the 1980s, but solely through the prestige of the material itself and its exquisite finishing. The same holds for leather, which increasingly shapes entire looks. Currently there is an insistence in fashion on mixing different materials in an unconventional way and layering them over each other in an arrangement that at times seems coincidental if not downright arbitrary. Pioneering in this field are Prada, Gucci, Dries van Noten, Marni or Miu Miu, whose collections include an unusual mixture of materials aimed to provoke, which can also be read as mirroring an people’s lack of orientation and having too much choice.

Startling trompe l’oeil-effects attained using the latest printing and refining techniques are probably the most innovative things fashion currently has to offer regarding materials and texture. For example, for next summer Miuccia Prada has created outfits that seem to be made of tweed or neoprene. However, in reality it is double-face jersey with three-dimensional applications that merely resembles a classic checked English wool or is given a shine so it resembles the practical man-made fiber used in wet suits. Moreover, these special effects can only be detected close up or when touched.

Apart from these anomalies the collections have been given a shot of dynamism through the opposites of strong versus fragile” and “rigid versus flexible”. Patchworks are the simplest examples, but you also find striking examples of patent leather with lace, silk with boiled wool, knit with nylon, or the blending of highly divergent yarns.

While Rei Kawakubo, Hussein Chalayan and Junya Watanabe have been exploring the potential and limits of materials and textures since time immemorial designers such as Valentino, Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Saint Laurent, are using different materials and surfaces to revamp their style. And that actually works: because in an age which is constantly overtaking itself and becoming bored customers are increasingly looking for what they know and love but with a surprising twist.

Cozy, but luxurious

Once the post-modern game with reminiscence of the past was over and the transition to a functional, rather cool look had been completed, a certain coziness returned both to furniture and materials as part of the cocooning trend. The cool, white “showroom world” was replaced by the charm of the used with a weakness for the “vintage“. And alongside this retreat to the cozy nest young, emancipated women suddenly started to knit again – but not only pullovers and loop scarves; trees, bicycles and even lampposts received knitted attire.

Furniture saw a similar trend: Suddenly, poufs and cushions also got knitted covers. Or knit was abstracted to create quilted household fabrics – as the model “Picot” by Paola Lenti demonstrates or “Foliage” by Patricia Urquiola for Kartell. The popularity of light, untreated wood that you find primarily in the collections of young Scandinavian designers indicates a similar trend and reflects the greater environmental awareness of the younger generation. By contrast, high-quality materials like marble, brass and copper are en vogue again; their counterparts in fashion being fur, silk, brocade and cashmere.

As the collage principle has asserted itself in furnishings it is difficult to pick out a single prevailing material or a certain texture. Here, too, the mix itself is important. What has changed compared with the situation a few years ago is a much greater acceptance of hand finishing but also of materials and surfaces with a stronger tactile quality, or that come over as warm. Generally, there is a stronger focus on fabrics in interior design; ingeniously made covers give upholstery series a new look. Take for example the collections of Kvadrat developed in collaboration with designers such as Alfredo Häberli and the Bouroullec brothers. Even the classic hand-knotted carpet is back, albeit in more of an artistic version than a traditional design.

"Fat" von Patricia Urquiola für B&B Italia / Yunya Watanabe fall/winter 2015/16, photos © B&B Italia, Watanabe

Fashion: Using voluminous silhouettes and textured surfaces fashion design is attempting to disguise, question and modify the human figure. Junya Watanabe is an expert in fashioning dresses or coats that wrap themselves around the body like coarse, heavy nets or a fabric version of origami. By layering and draping different layers of fabric New York designer duo Proenza Schouler seeks to produce a sense of the three-dimensional.

Furniture: Whether “Ploum,” “Redondo” or “Ruché” – upholstered furniture not only stands out for its unusual shape, but also for ingenious, often quilted forms. Especially designers like Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec, Patricia Urquiola and Inga Sempé enjoy experimenting with elaborately quilted and woven fabrics. By contrast, there is a trend in outdoor furniture for coarse wickerwork as seen in the collections of Dedon, Kettal and Tribù. Dynamism even features in wallpaper through the use of three-dimensional structures. Such structured surfaces not only appeal to the sight; the tactile experience too becomes a journey of discovery.

Yunya Watanabe fall/winter 2015/16 / "Ruché" by Inga Sempé for Ligne Roset, photos © Watanabe, Ligne Roset

Fashion: Fur has long been controversial but has recently re-established itself in fashion. Dyed, mixed with other materials or featuring as a single patch it has lost its traditional heaviness prompting Karl Lagerfeld to coin the phrase “fun fur”. Fur is no longer merely used in coats and jackets but also for dresses, pullovers or even on sneakers as an accessory detail.

Furniture: While fur is employed lavishly in fashion it is seldom used in furniture. There is a highly practical reason for this: a fur cover on seating would quickly become worn. Nonetheless, at the last Salone “hairy” poufs were frequently seen, say covered completely in black Mongolian goatskin at Driade. And sheepskin either real or fake certainly works as a cover, say for a “Plastic Chair” by Charles and Ray Eames.

Yunya Watanabe fall/winter 2015/16 / "Ruché" by Inga Sempé for Ligne Roset, photos © Watanabe, Ligne Roset

Fashion: What really appears to be trending now is combining things that are seemingly incompatible. Looks with highly divergent materials and textures, known in fashion circles as “hybrids” are being pushed – the more unconventional the mixture the greater the chance it gets noticed. It is a balancing act that is sometimes accomplished superbly and other times fails miserably. Aside from Marni and Dries van Noten another successful mixer of textiles is Japanese designer Chitose Abe with her label Sacai.

Furniture: As different materials have always been combined in one item you cannot talk of hybrids (the way the term is used in fashion at present) in furniture. More of a novelty are the hybrid materials. Particularly in the construction industry such composites are a huge topic, combining the advantages of different worlds with one another, say when wood is used with polyethylene to make water-resistant terrace decking or carbon grids are mixed with cement to make textile-reinforced concrete for round components. But they are increasingly cropping up in design, at least partly thanks to the new 3D-printing methods that can sinter together materials say to make Cristalplant which consists of minerals, polyesters and acrylic polymers. So-called multi-layer materials also belong in this category and following their use in the aviation, automobile and sports industries they are now taking furniture design by storm. For the last Salone, for example, Konstantin Grcic presented the chair “Kyudo” for Magis, whose legs are made of layers of wood and carbon fiber.

Walter Knoll / Dior fall/winter 2015/16, photos © Walter Knoll, Dior

Fashion: Since time immemorial shiny patent leather has been associated with decadence, which is why high fashion designers have tended to avoid it unless they wanted to deliberately toy with the fetish culture - like Jean-Paul Gaultier. We have Raf Simons to thank for the renaissance of patent leather outside the red light milieu: For his Dior collection for the summer 2016 he shows skin-tight patent over knee boots combined with short couture dresses. Comme des Garçons, Loewe and MSGM are following suit.

Furniture: glossy plastic, varnished metal or wood are not exactly a dominating topic in furniture design. Indeed, most recently there has been an emphasis on matt surfaces. Whether more gloss will enter our homes again, for example by way of reminiscences of past epochs, as Kartell has demonstrated in its re-edition of Ettore Sottsass objects is questionable. But there is no doubt where gold shimmering brass or copper are concerned. The latter have more than established themselves and are not only used for many new design items but also give a twist to classic objects - as with the lamp “Artischocke” by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen in gold or table lamp “LT 02 Seam Two” by Mark Holmes for e15 in copper. Berker even has copper-colored light switches.

Walter Knoll / Dior fall/winter 2015/16, photos © Walter Knoll, Dior

Fashion: The black leather dungarees by Hermès, lilac leather 1980s oversize coat or multi-colored leather patchwork sweatshirt at Loewe – tanned animal skin has escaped its stereotyping and is being put to new diverse uses across the clothing typologies. The scope ranges from “heavy” and “ coarse” through to “beautifully soft” and “paper thin”.

Furniture: The leather couch is still deemed to epitomize middle-class living, a valuable item acquired once many questions in your life have been resolved and you have furnished your home for the long term. Leather was and still is prominent in furniture design, above all for upholstered furniture such as sofas, armchairs, chairs and couches. But today leather covers are even considered for tables – take “Pegasus” by Tilla Goldberg for ClassiCon. What is new is that the leather is allowed to fall in folds as shown by the highly successful seating collection “Leya” by Freifrau.

Proenza Schouler fall/winter 2015/16 / "Yard" by Francesco Rota for Lema, photos © Proenza Schouler, Lema

Fashion: Velvet is venturing into new areas in fashion and stands for the desire to dress unconventionally yet remain fashionable. It is still associated with the culture of the hippies and bohemians in the 1970s and 1980s, but also the Victorian age - associations designers like Valentino, Givenchy or Chloé are translating in a poetic manner.

Furniture: Velvet is seldom used for covers as it is easily soiled and requires careful cleaning. But when designs are deliberately fashionable velvet is also employed – not only in the Raf Simons-collection for Kvadrat, but also on the stands of Walter Knoll and Driade at the Salone.

Proenza Schouler fall/winter 2015/16 / "Yard" by Francesco Rota for Lema, photos © Proenza Schouler, Lema

Fashion: Brocade, jacquards, lacework or macramés testify to the richness of many cultures regarding fabrics, a love of extravagance and decadence, but also craftsmanship and expertise. It seems like a journey back in time through their own archive: the line by Dries van Noten revels like no other in playing this textile abundance in particular complexity, a love of combination and brilliance.

Furniture: Whether it’s the marble table by Angelo Mangiarotti for Agape or the “Bell Table” with copper sections by Sebastian Herkner for ClassiCon: marble, brass and copper in the field of furniture can arguably be considered the counterparts to the high-end textiles employed in fashion. Admittedly, brass is not a precious metal but it does shimmer like gold and reflects our longing for a glittering past. Or does it represent the wish for a bright night life? As seen say with Tom Dixon or Delightfull.