Doshi Levien - Belle magazine profile.

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'.

 One version of Doshi Levien's new rug 'Rabari' for Nanimarquina, in progress on the loom.

One version of Doshi Levien's new rug 'Rabari' for Nanimarquina, in progress on the loom.

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.

 'Almora' is a large lounge chair that has something of the classic Scandinavian feel of a Hans Wegner chair despite being a far more contemporary form. 

'Almora' is a large lounge chair that has something of the classic Scandinavian feel of a Hans Wegner chair despite being a far more contemporary form. 

 The chair exudes a feeling of quality - in the leather and overall detailing. The two interlocking cones that form the seat and back present a beautiful solution to creating shape while concealing the mechanics.

The chair exudes a feeling of quality - in the leather and overall detailing. The two interlocking cones that form the seat and back present a beautiful solution to creating shape while concealing the mechanics.

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.

Doshi Levien's new 'Uchiwa' chair commissioned by Hay offers a lot of chair for the price.

 The 'Uchiwa' chair for Hay was inspired by Japanese fans of the same name and features a soft fabric interior and moulded leather exterior.

The 'Uchiwa' chair for Hay was inspired by Japanese fans of the same name and features a soft fabric interior and moulded leather exterior.

‘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.

 The 'Shanty' cabinet for BD Barcelona Design is a playful study of colour and shape - much like a 3D collage.

The 'Shanty' cabinet for BD Barcelona Design is a playful study of colour and shape - much like a 3D collage.

 Entrance to Humayun tomb, Delhi. An example of the improvised structures in corrugated iron that inspired 'Shanty'.

Entrance to Humayun tomb, Delhi. An example of the improvised structures in corrugated iron that inspired 'Shanty'.

 In grey, the 'Shanty' cabinet takes on a completely different personality. Also in green, black, white and petrol blue.

In grey, the 'Shanty' cabinet takes on a completely different personality. Also in green, black, white and petrol blue.

 

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.

 Nipa Doshi walking on the new 'Rabari' rugs for Nanimarquina. Photography by Albert Font.

Nipa Doshi walking on the new 'Rabari' rugs for Nanimarquina. Photography by Albert Font.

 The 'Rabari' collection of rugs come in three designs and in three sizes: 170 x 200, 200 x 300 and 300 x 400cm. Photography by Albert Font.

The 'Rabari' collection of rugs come in three designs and in three sizes: 170 x 200, 200 x 300 and 300 x 400cm. Photography by Albert Font.

 Each rug takes 8-10 weeks to complete on a horizontal loom where for the larger ones, three artisans work together to weave them.

Each rug takes 8-10 weeks to complete on a horizontal loom where for the larger ones, three artisans work together to weave them.

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.

 Doshi Levien's 'My Beautiful Backside' sofa for Moroso from 2008 was inspired by a miniature painting of an Indian Princess sitting on the floor of a palace surrounded by cushions.

Doshi Levien's 'My Beautiful Backside' sofa for Moroso from 2008 was inspired by a miniature painting of an Indian Princess sitting on the floor of a palace surrounded by cushions.

 The back of  the 'My Beautiful backside' sofa is a work of art in itself.

The back of  the 'My Beautiful backside' sofa is a work of art in itself.

 The asymmetric 'Paper Planes' lounge chair for Moroso from 2010, in two seater sofa form.

The asymmetric 'Paper Planes' lounge chair for Moroso from 2010, in two seater sofa form.

 'Paper Planes' started with a fabric designed for Swarovski Crystal and developed into a chair for Moroso.

'Paper Planes' started with a fabric designed for Swarovski Crystal and developed into a chair for Moroso.

For more interesting interviews and profiles on key designers from Milan 2014, pick up a copy of the June July issue of Belle magazine.