As part of editing Belle magazine's Milan Report 2014, I had the good fortune of meeting and interviewing some great designers while attending Salone del Mobile and Milan Design Week. In the June / July issue of Belle there are eight mini-profiles of some of the most influential designers who were presenting new work at the fair - from Atelier Oï to Patrick Norguet. One of these interviews was with the British duo Doshi Levien. The finished profile as seen in Belle is repeated here with additional images to show some of the sketches, influences and some of the variations available in the new products. Doshi Levien bring colour, texture, craft and an interest in storytelling to the field of design along with a strong sense of cultural awareness. They are, as Elle Macpherson would say, 'the full package'.
Meeting Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien, of London-based company Doshi Levien, you immediately understand why they are so attractive to brands as designers and collaborators - as a duo they combine intellectual rigour with a spirited attitude to materials, colour and form. With numerous significant pieces for Moroso and Cappellini over the last decade, 2014 saw their new work presented by four major brands at the fair. ‘We have an approach, more than a style, as each project has a different set of criteria. We move from a sense, or a feeling and then translate that into physical materials’, says Levien.
Their ‘Almore’ chair for B&B Italia is an exercise in precision, utilising the best industrial craftsmanship to create a sensuous and capacious feeling that is emphasised by the highest quality leather. “It is important for a piece to have clarity and with the two shells overlapping so beautifully, not too much else is necessary’, says Levien.
Working with young Danish company, Hay for the first time, the designers embraced the opportunity to produce two large armchairs at completely different ends of the market. ‘Hay are a tour de force who are really looking at products for people who love design that is affordable, and while they had a strong idea about price point, it didn’t impact the idea’, says Doshi. Doshi Levien knew they wanted something sharp and defined, but also generous and comfortable, so the idea of an industrially produced shell covered in leather, combined with a soft duvet-like interior, evolved. “We pushed Hay to work with textiles in the ‘Uchiwa’ chair. To us textile becomes an integral part of the expression of a piece of furniture’, says Doshi.
‘Shanty’, their new sideboard for BD Barcelona, takes it inspiration from improvised structures made from corrugated iron. ‘BD Barcelona represents Spanish flamboyance at its best because it is combined with intelligence and a focus on ideas. ‘Shanty’ is a strong concept but it is also beautifully executed by the manufacturer,’ says Levien. It is also playful as the drawers and doors don’t necessarily marry with the colour divisions as one would expect.
Even the rugs for Spanish rug specialist, Nanimaquina combine signature geometry and colour with raised sections of tufted wool and subtle threads of gold. The duo revel in the combination of colour and form - something they see as an inseparable because one effects the other so profoundly. The marriage of shape, texture and colour is carefully considered every step of the way.
With Doshi Levien the thinking is never static or predictable. For an insight into the mindset of Doshi Levien, watch the film produced for the 'Rabari' rugs by Nanimarquina, below.
I just couldn't resist a couple of images of Doshi Levien's past work - these two are my particular favourites: the 'My Beautiful Backside' sofa and the 'Paper Planes' lounge chair - both for Moroso. There are many others I could have shown from Cappellini, BD Barcelona and others by Moroso, as the work of Doshi Levien is always intriguing. For more of the joyful designs of Doshi Levien, visit their website.
For more interesting interviews and profiles on key designers from Milan 2014, pick up a copy of the June July issue of Belle magazine.