Design daily visited the Catalan design studio and growing accessories brand, Aparentment, a week or so ago in the city of Terrassa. Situated a little north of Barcelona in what was once the most important textile manufacturing area of Spain, I spoke with the studios founder, Josep Vila Capdevila about how the studio had evolved over its 17 years of existence and where the Aparentment brand was going in the future.
There is a little bit of rebelliousness at the core of Josep Vila Capdevila, so it seemed perfectly appropriate that there would be a neon sign of an 'A' in the studio's reception. Was it 'A' for Aparentment (which means 'Apparently' in Catalan) or perhaps a throw back to the punk days when an 'A' stood for Anarchy? Maybe it was a bit of both.
Capdevila had originally studied as a graphic designer but switched to industrial design and worked as an industrial designer for a large company after graduating. The boredom of this line of work prompted him to set up the studio in 1998 and he wasn't interested in returning to that type of work. While working for a fanzine as their contributing photographer Capdevila began designing and producing small inexpensive products - with the first of these released in 2000. These early products such as 'Brain Wash' - a soap moulded into the form of a brain - reveal Capdevila's interest in kitsch that still pops up in his work from time to time. The mainstay of his work however is clean and minimal. "I decided in 2011 to stop doing work for other companies. I gave myself a year to see how it would go. In the beginning it was a bit like the titanic but eventually the business grew" says Capdevila.
After a stint in a much bigger but absolutely freezing factory building, Capdevila brought the studio back to the original narrow office block in Rambla d’Egara in Terrassa and took over extra floors to gain the space he needed. The building manages to squeeze in a graphics area, workshop, photography studio, a reception area and small apartment (designed by Capdevila) spread across three floors. The compact nature of the studio seems to suit Capdevila allowing him to be involved in everything from designing graphics to making prototypes.
In addition to the Aparentment brand home accessories Capdevila has designed numerous objects for outside production ranging from tapware to dog feeding bowls. The objects above 'Crouch bar' side table (left) and Greedy Pivot (right) are examples of his clean minimalist style applied to more commercial projects.
Through some interior design projects Capedvila had become very comfortable working in marble and in the process had found some good companies to manufacture his designs. "About 3 years ago I designed a number of pieces for the Aparentment range made from marble which we called Marblelous and they were immediately very popular", says Capdevila. "I like the way marble ages, how it gains a beautiful patina. It reminds me of my grandmother’s house and all the objects she had in this incredible material. There is something very special about it".
"The first piece in the collection was the rectangular mirror on the solid marble back with the brass back. It started actually because my father had wanted a mirror and was always asking me why haven’t you designed my mirror yet?” says Capdevila laughing. "I never actually designed his mirror – I knew what he wanted by I didn’t want to design that style of thing..... but in thinking about it I designed the ‘Marblelous mirror’. I wanted to combine the three old-fashioned materials into one object – brass, marble and mirror but do it in a minimalistic way.
I think we did a great job but like everything that has been around for a while, other products come out and the design is no longer unique. We know we have to move our collection on to incorporate other materials and come up with new concepts so we are currently experimenting with more unusual marbles. We have introduced Marquina marble and introduced aged metals like brass and copper and solid oak. We don’t like electro-plated metals because they scratch badly and have no real character. We prefer to work with solid materials. Oak is cheaper than the marble (not hugely cheaper but definitely cheaper!)
Aparentment have introduced Marquina marble and are introducing aged metals like brass and copper into the collection along with some solid oak. "We don’t like electro-plated metals because they scratch badly and have no real character - we prefer to work with solid materials.
Although marble has gone from a material associated with the funeral industry to one of he most widely used stones in contemporary design, Capdevila still believes it is worth continuing to explore for its unique and luxurious qualities. "Marble still has a long way to go" says Capdevila. "We just need to take more of a risk on combinations and colours. We will be introducing a few new colours in the metal pieces, like lemon yellow and a pale pink to go with the existing Teal blue. We will continue to produce our accessory products in volume but we also want to begin to offer bigger items of furniture that are more limited edition in nature. The plan is to make a full sized table in marble, designed without any restrictions using the best quality workmanship we can find". This addition to the small batch production, low cost model that the studio has pursued so far, is something that Capdevila believes is good for the growth of the studio.
"We have decided to separate everything on our website – our photography studio, our graphic design department and our industrial design component" says Capdevila. "We will be redesigning the website so it is split into the three sections or maybe even three separate websites, so it stops being so confusing to those who visit it. Some people only know our graphic work, others only know us from the products or the photography. It's all about streamlining and allowing each discipline to present itself properly.
“Aparentment was originally all my own concepts but now it has grown into something closer to a brand and is no longer 100% me. I have a large input into every Aparentment does but it is a more collaborative effort these days ” - Josep Vila Capdevila
Over the last few years the brand has been trialling all the fairs they were attracted to and have been able to see which ones were a good fit for the brand at it's current stage of development. The brand has been on a gruelling show circuit presenting at the Greenhouse in Stockholm in February 2014, then at London Design Festival in September 2014 and at Maison & Object in January 2015, then Stockholm again in February 2015 and at Ventura Lambrate in Milan in April. "It’s too many to do every year" says Capdevila "but we are deciding which ones to concentrate on in the future. Currently our focus is more on improving our retail base for our existing products, so Maison & Objet is probably the most appropriate fair for us".
"There is a little bit of a conflict when other brands start approaching you to design for them when you have your own brand" says Capdevila. "We want to have the freedom to design products for both ourselves and for other brands but we really want to make sure these products have an individual style so that our products remain pure and that our work for others feels equally strong".
Capdevila currently has a product in the pre-production phase with the Danish brand Bolia which he hopes will come to fruition soon. The studio is slowly gaining the sort of reputation that is attracting interest from international brands and Capdevila is in discussion with several other producers but for now his main focus remains the growth of the Aparentment range. "We are a little Catalan brand but at the same time we are truly global, selling all over the world".