CAMILLE WALALA

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French-born, London-based pattern queen Camille Walala has created eye-catching street art, murals, homewares, fashion, accessories, and installations, all sporting her trademark vibrant digital prints. The textile design graduate collaborates with top global brands, from Converse to Nintendo, and is now the star of this month's London Design Festival 2017, designing key commission Villa Walala, a pop-up inflatable playscape guaranteed to brighten up your day!

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired your LDF17 project Villa Walala?
Villa Walala is about creating the unexpected. It's in an open square in Broadgate, a City area surrounded by big offices, where people meet up, have lunch and relax. I wanted to design a giant stress ball, something people could squeeze, that would take them by surprise. It's an inflatable, soft, flexible tutti-frutti space, with round shapes, and a very bright colour palette. There are also deckchairs on the grass in my style of pattern. When people take their usual route into work they're going to go, 'What the hell?' I want to create a reaction, to make people talk and smile.

What’s your design or style philosophy?
A lot of people call my style Tribal Pop. It’s bright, bold and happy! When I was younger I was influenced by the styles and objects that my parents brought into the family home. My dad, who is an architect, had quite an extension collection of Memphis pieces in his house, so for me the movement is interwoven with memories of my childhood. I was always surrounded by colours and beautiful pieces of design.

Which colours and patterns are you drawn to?
Much of my inspiration comes from growing up in the Eighties and the Memphis Movement. In 2008 I found a book about Memphis and was so excited turning the pages. This was design with an element of playfulness, and a sense of humour – I loved it. I use a lot of black and white with pastels, and block colours. I have also drawn my pattern inspiration from African tribes like the Ndebele, known for their geometric painted houses. I find them both full of joy.

ABOVE: Camille Walala with her graphic, patterned WALALA X PLAY project – proof stripes, and dots, never go out of fashion!
BELOW: Like a cool bouncy castle, the huge, inflatable 3D Villa Walala installation on Broadgate's Exchange Square is the hero commission for this week's London Design Festival, intended to be interactive and foster a sense of community

You started your studio in East London in 2009. What got you into design?
I came to London in my twenties to learn English and was working in restaurants. I like colour, putting colours together. I can't really draw so I did a printed textiles course at the University of Brighton. I still have a really childish drawing style, I can't even draw a flower!

How did you make the leap from textiles to wall art?
I still work on a small scale in terms of patterns, as you do with textiles, and then apply it to a bigger scale. I do a lot of sketching, and collage, and play around a bit. I don't like working on computers much. I prefer the playfulness of collage, and then finish pieces off on the computer when you need the measurements or precise colours.

ABOVE: Pattern, colour and reflective surfaces make for a merry maze at WALALA X PLAY, an interactive installation on until 24 September 2017 at NOW Gallery in Greenwich Peninsula

Tell us about current installation WALALA X PLAY at NOW Gallery on Greenwich Peninsula
When the gallery asked me to create an interactive installation I was petrified, as I'd only done textiles and wall art before. I love the fun fair and wanted to make people bring out their inner child – to get lost, like in a hall of mirrors – so we came up with a playful design. I simply wanted to give them a good time. I was worried that no one would come, but we had so many turn up we had to create ticketed time slots. Young and old people were telling me afterwards how happy it made them. I was so touched!

ABOVE: Walala x Better Bankside's 'Colourful Crossing' art work animated Southwark Street in South London for London Design Festival 2016; Creating pastel-pretty murals to brighten up North West London's Park Royal Centre for Mental Health with charity The Nightingale Project
BELOW: The iconic 2015 'Walala Dream Come True Building', on the corner of Great Eastern and Singer streets in Shoreditch, London, commissioned by TV post-production company Splice

Who are your design heroes?
Nathalie Du Pasquier [a founder member of Memphis, who now paints]. She doesn’t want to hear about the Memphis movement these days, as now she just wants to do something new. As an artist you have to please yourself first. I also love Sonia Delaunay, who emerged in the Twenties and Thirties, and was one of the first artists to do Art Deco and make it accessible to everyday life. Her colours are beautiful, and she designed costumes, ceramics, and textiles, making art you can enjoy in your home. I recently got the chance to see some of the earliest work by Op Artist Victor Vasarely, another hero, at Fondation Vasarely in Aix-en-Provence.

What’s currently exciting you in design or style?
The bigger the better! I want to do a Vivid Sydney light projection on the Sydney Opera HouseI don’t want to move away from my current style but I’m interested in some rounder shapes. I’d like to push my creativity in terms of pattern and colour – although I'm not going to start doing flowers!

Where do you find inspiration?
I try not to look at things any more. You can accumulate too much information in your head. I prefer to do my own thing. I like to play with shapes. I go travelling a lot, and love taking pictures. I went to Mexico recently, checking out Luis Barragan's buildings and taking pictures of pattern, and the colours were so beautiful.

Where’s next on your travel wish list?
Vancouver for the Interior Design Show festival. I’m doing a talk there on 30 September. And then New York to see the Ettore Sottsass retrospective at The Met Breuer. I’m also going to Brixton in London to work on a mural for an after-school care facility for charity. The place has very bright lights and awful colours on the walls. I’m going to put that right! 

Have your worked on other social design projects?
I recently did a mural in a psychiatric hospital with pastel colours. It was nice to be a part of it. Being in a mental health institute that looked drab would make you feel even worse. It's depressing, like no one gives you any value. It was for a charity getting artists to paint these spaces and the patients really liked it. A little colour and pattern can create a warm feeling and make a big difference. I’d like to do a council estate one day – the uglier the better!

What’s your social media of choice?
I definitely like Instagram. It’s my best agent and I get a lot of my work through it. It offers so much possibility to be seen and discovered. When you share colourful stuff I've found people follow you more.
camillewalala.com

Villa Walala is at Broadgate's Exchange Square, 100 Liverpool Street, London EC2 from 16 to 24 September 2017 (7am to 9pm), behind Liverpool Street Station. Find WALALA X PLAY at NOW Gallery, The Gateway Pavilions, Peninsula Square, Greenwich Peninsula, London SE10 until 24 September 2017; book free ticketed 15-minute timed entry sessions in advance (10am to 7pm weekdays, 11am to 4pm weekends).

Pictures: Charles Emerson, Jenny Lewis

MARTYN THOMPSON

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Australian photographer Martyn Thompson is well known for his enigmatic imagery which has appeared in style bibles including Elle Decoration, Vogue and Architectural Digest. Now a native New Yorker, he has turned his eye to designing esoteric fabrics for the home. We go behind the lens to see what makes him tick...

BY DEE IVA

What prompted you to start designing textiles?
I’ve always loved textiles. Thirty years ago I was painting fabrics, making them into clothes and selling them in a small shop in Sydney. I began taking pictures of them and my photography career was born out of that – it took over. So coming back to fabric isn't a total stretch. I had started exploring new ways to reproduce my photos and discovered the digitised jacquard loom. Although a little suspicious of the first results I soon fell in love – there’s a depth to the tapestry-like weave that speaks to the tactility I search for in my photos. I realised the potential for interior fabrics and began to develop the idea.

Tell us about your new 'Rock Pool' textile collection.
I was in Limeni on the Mani Peninsula of Greece on an editorial assignment. Standing at the end of a jetty staring at the rocks in the water below, I saw all these colours – amazing – like a painter's palette – dancing on the surface. I took a small cart load of photos and these became the basis for the 'Rock Pool' collection.

ABOVE AND ABOVE RIGHT: Martyn Thompson in his Manhattan studio
BELOW FROM TOP: Thompson's watery 'Rock Pool' design can be used to upholster walls as well as furniture. The chair is covered in a mix of 'Whitewash' and 'Painted Galaxy'; A range of Thompson's earlier designs including 'The Accidental Expressionist' and 'Melting' are used to cover these cushions; 'Ripple' from the 'Rock Pool' collection covers the wall, the small sofa is upholstered in 'Blotch' from the 'Accidental Expressionist' collection

Does your photography inform your designs?
It’s very literally an extension of it. Each of the fabrics begins as one of my photographs before we edit and develop the image into a repeat pattern. My photography has always been very much about a certain quality of light and a particular muted colour palette. Happily these qualities translate beautifully to the jacquard loom process.

ABOVE: The 'Green Buterflie' scarf from Martyn Thompson's first accessories collection is printed on silk and uses designs from his interiors collections

We hear you were quite the club kid in the Eighties…
Ahhh... that was the early Eighties. A lifestyle choice that didn't bode well for my university studies! I always loved dressing up and was a real show off on the dance floor. I started making my clothes when I was quite young and was totally enamoured of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. I didn't really think anything could get better than New Romanticism, but when their Buffalo Girls collection came out I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It’s still my fave fashion moment ever. I guess music was my first great love – and I admired performers like Siouxsie and the Banshees as much for how they looked as for their sound – though the music was fabulous too of course.

That period was an incredibly creative time, is there anyone who particularly inspired you?
There was a general spirit of getting on with stuff to just do it. For me, a young queer kid, this felt like a time outside of boundaries and prejudice. Boy George, Marilyn, Jimmy Somerville and other 'out' singers were a total inspiration. Homosexuality was still illegal where I grew up and I think these people gave me permission to exist.

What are your favourite design hotspots in the Big Apple?
The Future Perfect design store (below left) – David Alhadeff is a total advocate of what is new and is helping many new designers build their careers. I’ve always really admired Paula Rubinstein for her quirky take on vintage objects and textiles. Other favourites are Federico de Vera on Crosby Street – he has a really beautiful vision – and I love the new Oliver Gustav shop on Howard Street (below right).

Do you have any design heroes?
Yes plenty… to name a few, Gio Ponti, Mariano Fortuny, Vivienne Westwood, Susie Cooper.

Where's on your travel wish list and why?
Well, I'm crazy about Iceland. I love that there is still a sense of the unexplored and the impenetrable. It’s so ancient looking and can get really remote, really fast and you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere with no one – not a sensation that's commonly achieved where I live in Manhattan!

What's your social media of choice?
I have an Instagram account but I'm disappointed that it has become such a commercial medium. I think that Tumblr can be really beautiful, especially the 'pin up' board format – that's my favourite.
martynthompsonstudio.com 

Pictures: Lauren Coleman (The Future Perfect)

PATRIZIA MOROSO Moroso – Part 1

Italian furniture brand Moroso’s creative director, Patrizia Moroso, is known for curating bold collections that break new ground in interiors. Her collaborations have developed the careers of many of design’s biggest names. Currently touring Australia with Hub furniture to source new talent and launch limited edition upholstery by seven local fashion and accessory designers, Patrizia caught up with the Fizz.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What's happening on your current Australian trip with Hub furniture?
I’m here for two weeks for Moroso doing launches and presentations with Hub in Melbourne and Sydney, and also visiting Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art. Australia is a country I love. The first time I came in 2003 I was with Patricia Urquiola at the beginning of our work relationship, and we became real friends during that trip. We spent an amazing long weekend in the desert centre at Uluru. We also went to Melbourne and Sydney, which were super-fantastic, modern and bright, and everywhere women were managing the museums, galleries and shops. So there is a sort of genius loci [spirit of place] here I think, and now in this modern period it belongs to women. Australia is a very contemporary continent, a little different from the rest of the world, with a lot of potential.
 

ABOVE: Design guru Patrizia Moroso
BELOW: A trio of Alfredo Häberli's iconic 2003 'Take a Line For a Walk' armchairs for Moroso in fabrics by Australian jeans label Nobody Denim, fashion designer Martin Grant and messenger bag brand Crumpler

ABOVE: Four 2005 'Smock' chairs by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso upholstered by Australian fashion talents KuwaiiAkira Isogawa, Lisa Gorman and Steven Khalil

What kind of fresh talent are you hoping to find through the Moroso Design Speed Date project?
The Design Speed Dating was organised by Hub’s team to introduce me to some young Australian designers, with 20 short pitches in Melbourne and 20 in Sydney, to source potential collaborations. It’s an interesting exchange between someone that usually works in furniture design and some young talents that usually work in fashion or other disciplines. If someone is bright when designing a printed fashion fabric that’s not so far from when we are imagining the cover for a chair. It’s like imagining the perfect dress for someone, so when you are changing the skin of the object, you are also changing its personality and attitude. We wanted to mix things up. 

ABOVE: Black-and-white upholstery for Alfredo Häberli's 'Take a Line For a Walk' chair by Melbourne bag and luggage brand Crumpler; Melbourne fashion label Kawaii's fabric on Patricia Urquiola's 'Smock' chair; Detail of 'Smock' chair upholstered by patterntastic Melbourne fashion brand Gorman

How do you identify great collaborators?
Nothing is precise, like everything in life, so I leave things a little up to destiny. I’m interested in people that I like, so in the end you find your friends and companions in life in the same road that you are walking. What makes a synergy between people is that they probably share interests, experiences, ideas or emotions. I’m quite empathetic about who I’d love to work with. It’s like the way you usually know who will be your friends in two minutes. They could already be famous and great designers, or they could be young and having their first design experience with me, it’s a very human response.

What's your role in fostering talent at Moroso?
I just try to find someone interesting and we try to make something together. I give a chance to young people or to people that have interesting ideas. I always hope young designers can one day develop their own super story. After a collaboration what they do is not up to me, of course, but many times they have become pretty famous, like Doshi Levien or Tord Boontje and many others that started their career with Moroso. In many cases they were going to be someone with good ideas and great work anyway, it’s not because of me, I just try to spot them early!

ABOVE FROM LEFT: Regular Moroso collaborators include Spanish superstar Patricia Urquiola and Dutch designer Tord Boontje

What fuels your long creative relationship with Patricia Urquiola?
When I first met Patricia she was a young Spanish girl working in Italy, in a fantastic design firm. She wanted to establish her own studio but it was not easy to find someone who would put faith in a young woman. Back then the world of design was not full of women – now it’s different, fortunately you can find a lot – but at that time it was more difficult, so when we met each other it was like an instant click. For me it was clear she had a great talent, but also it was easy for me to communicate with her because she was a woman, and for her it was the same, throwing her ideas to someone understanding. And so we started collaborating and now she is a huge, important name.

ABOVE: Patricia Urquiola's striking Moroso booth design for the 2016 Milan Furniture Fair eschewed fixed walls for lightness. ‘Patty put together the idea of colour, toile fabric and transparency to divide the space, so it was like a labyrinth of rooms where you could lose yourself a little,' says Patrizia Moroso

How do you like to work with designers?
Many companies have a strict relationship with one designer, like in fashion where you have a brand producing a name. I try to give many designers a chance to do something in our collection. That way you can find a multiplicity of ideas and styles, and that makes me happy. It’s more like real life, where every day you meet very different people, and I love that diversity. I love the inspiration that comes to me through designers, like when Tord Boontje’s romantic idea of nature changed the minimal, functional aesthetic that was everywhere around 2000. He’s a unique man that has a special sensibility like a Romantic late 19th-century artist. For me that was absolutely fascinating, so wow, yes, we had to explore this thing! To give visibility to ideas is fantastic. Sameness, and standardisation, kills everything. I try to do something different from normality or banality. 
moroso.it  hubfurniture.com.au

See Moroso's limited edition chair collaboration with Australian designers at the Hub showrooms at 63 Exhibition Street, CBD, Melbourne and 66-72 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills, Sydney until Christmas 2016. Patrizia will also take part in a free talk in Sydney on 10 October 2016 (book for limited places). For more insights click on Part 2 of our Q&A.

Photos: Limited edition chairs, Jenah Piwanski; Tord Boontje, Angela Moore

THEO WILLIAMS Another Brand

Acclaimed UK designer Theo Williams – formerly creative director of Habitat and head of design for John Lewis Home – has collaborated with manufacturer Qualita to launch his own furniture company Another Brand, the home of beautiful, no-nonsense pieces where quality is king

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

How did you get into the industry?
I started in graphics at Manchester University before switching to industrial design. There was a competition to design a radio, which I won. I used to live with a bunch of DJs so I took the idea of a wheel that spun through the stations from them. The next thing I was in Milan, needling people and designing products for studios such as Marco Zanuso, Prada and Alessi.

Describe your style in three words
Simple, honest, rational. I hate the phrase ‘form and function’ but it’s true. There should always be a reason for something being there. When I’m coming up with a new design, I start with a list of functions that the product must have before moving on to its finish and colour. That is what gives an object its design edge and transforms it into the thing of the moment. The shape doesn’t.

How did Another Brand come about?
After all these years working with lots of designers and big brands, I wanted to work directly with the manufacturer. We play to our strengths. They hold the stock and take care of distribution, while I come up with the designs. By partnering up with Qualita, we have created a new business for them and an opportunity for us. The idea is to work with a variety of manufacturers to create a cohesive collection of products.

ABOVE: Theo in his studio in Queen's Park, London
ABOVE RIGHT: The 'Tavolini Primo' tables are designed to tuck in together, each at varying heights and widths. Available in assorted colourways, the 'Primo' circular tables have a painted solid oak top and base and a natural oak leg, and are sold flat-packed in a kraft box
BELOW: The 'Tavolini Strada' set of three rectangular tables nests together in varying heights, lengths and widths and comes in five finishes, Light Grey, Petrol Blue, Yellow, Flame Red and Latte Oak

What was the idea behind the new Tavolini designs, launched at London Design Festival 2015?
The premise was to have something that you can pick up and walk away with in a lovely box – an impulse buy; the prices also reflect this. All the tables are different. There are oak, glass, metal and fabric tops… We’re a one-stop-shop for small tables.

How are the products made?
When it comes to designing for Another Brand, we consider the manufacturer’s capabilities. It all works backwards from what they can or cannot do. 

What’s coming up next? 
There’s going to be more Tavolini and we’re moving into upholstery and lighting. Theo Williams Studio has also been commissioned to co-design a capsule of accessories for McLaren Honda Formula 1 team in 2016 until further notice.

ABOVE FROM TOP: The circular 'Tavolini Primo' side table trios have a small footprint but are big on impact; In clear or smoked glass with oak legs, the 'Tavolini Ponte' coffee table has retro Italian styling
BELOW: Another Brand's earlier 'Cubo' range by Williams includes tables, storage and seating for dining/living rooms, office, bedroom or hall. Finishes, colours and sizes can be modified to suit you (we love this graphic blue). Qualita produces the furniture in London and Lithuania

What are your influences?
I quite like a grid. I’m drawn to things that are graphic-led and well thought out. I love proportions, posters and packaging books – things like that. A lot of my influences are from Italy. There was a certain formula to working there but it was liberating and instinctive. Also, back in the day there were no computers, so everything was drawn by hand. 

You spent 15 years working in Milan and two years in Amsterdam before moving back to London. How do the cities compare?
Milan was the exception to the rule. Everything was possible back then. The creative energy was enormous. For my first job as design director at NAVA Design, I didn’t speak any Italian and they just said: ‘Invent, think, create and see what we can do.’ They trusted designers to make things better. I remember aesthetics, taste and style being relative. It wasn’t judged on seasons or trends just good ideas and solutions. It was the attention to detail and perfection the Italians taught me; they were simply perfectionists at design, printing and production. I remember them fondly. They were my second family.

In Amsterdam I began working with a corporate structure for a couple of years, which was creatively driven but without the instinctive nature of Italy. Nobody really owned anything. It was inspiring for the first year but I missed the spontaneity and instinctive nature of the Italians.

London for me seems to have all of the above and more. After 17 years away from the UK I can feel an undercurrent entrepreneurial spirit, which I think defines British creativity, with a bit of wit thrown in. There’s a natural impulse where people are just getting on with it and this creates an organic point of view and personality. There is a tradition in the UK where designers are interested in the processes, but we have moved away from traditional manufacturing towards innovative creative solutions. Reacting to the market is one thing but the depth and choice of the colleges and mixed nationalities studying here creates this entrepreneurial spirit; if only they had more opportunity to make and not just design. A few more workshops and manufacturers would be useful. The ideas are plentiful. It’s the making of them that’s hard.

BELOW: We love the slender forms and bright weaves of Theo’s 'Tavolini Lago' occasional tables, which feature an innovative fabric top. Usually used for outdoor parasols, the Sunbrella material is red wine-proof...

Who are your design heroes?
Achille Castiglioni, James Irvine (who was a good friend of mine), Jasper Morrison, Marco Zanuso and companies such as Alessi. When you look at that Philippe Starck lemon squeezer, it’s ridiculous. It’s everything they don’t teach you at school. 

Where’s on your travel wish list?
I’ve got to go to Shanghai but I’m not sure that’s on my wish list as such. I’m taking my son to New York in April, which is exciting. I promised him we would do the Shard, the Eiffel Tower and next it’s the Empire State Building. 

If you weren't a designer, what might you have been?
A storyteller. I have piles of short stories that I have written, all based on my childhood. All of the stories are true.

ABOVE LEFT: Philippe Starck's iconic 'Juicy Salif' lemon squeezer for Alessi c 1990
BELOW: All of Another Brand's flat-pack 'Tavolini' tables come beautifully packaged in a set of three

Is there anything you wish you had designed?
I’ve always wanted to build a brand from the bottom up, which is what I’m doing now. 

What’s your social media of choice?
I like Instagram the best. I don’t do selfies on the beach but, instead, use it for things I see and love.
anotherbrand.co.uk; theowilliams.com