A chair made out of rope soaked in glue. A candle-shaped electric lamp that turns itself off when you blow on it. Marcel Wanders' products sound odd, but their sly beauty and functionality are making the 38-year-old Dutchman Europe's hottest young designer.
Wanders is art director and resident guru of the pioneering design firm, Moooi. The name comes from the Dutch word for "beautiful," but with an extra o for "extra beautiful," he says. Wanders started the firm a year ago to provide a haven for young designers who had challenging ideas that might otherwise be ignored. At the firm, he and other freelance designers come up with unusual designs for everyday objects, mainly household items, that defy conventional ideas of beauty.
European companies such as Italian furniture chains Cappellini and Flos are snapping up Wanders' designs. Cappellini is producing Wanders' most famous creation, the Knotted Chair, which he dreamed up in 1995. It's made of a hand-knotted net of rope soaked in glue and looks like macramé or a fishing net but with a high-tech lightness and strength. The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Art, among others, feature it in their collections. Flos is making the candle-shaped lamp, called the BLO lamp.
Meanwhile, Italian fashion retailer Mandarina Duck has commissioned Wanders to design a line of handbags--wrinkled creations inspired by the sleep lines he noticed on his face one morning--as well as the interior of its much-hyped London store, set to open this summer.
Born in Boxtel, just south of Amsterdam, Wanders studied at the Academy of Arts in Arnhem and worked mostly as a freelance designer before founding his first firm, Wanders Wonders, in 1995. Now, having gained some renown, Wanders is taking a stab at social activism. In his recently hatched Can of Gold project, gilded soup cans sell for $200 each--and the proceeds go toward food for the homeless.
So far, 200 cans have been produced for sale in galleries in Hamburg and Washington. Take that, Andy Warhol.