As always, the September edition of Maison & Objet, the trade-only home show held in Paris twice a year, offered a peek at the latest trends and innovations.
The fair is organized into three main sections – Maison, Objet and Influences – but with so much to see, it’s not always easy to decipher specific trends. For help, I turned to the Observatoire de Maison & Objet, a section of the fair in which seven trendsetters or “thinkers” predict the new trends and sum them up for the rest of us.
Vincent Grégoire of the Nelly Rodi Agency, who directed this season’s predictions and scenography, chose the theme “House of Games,” a great antidote to the difficult current climate. In today’s troubling world, says Grégoire, “We see a resurgence of social games with a playfulness the complete opposite of our current era. To escape events that tend to weigh us down, we want to rework and play with codes. Games become a way to fight the dictates of standardization.”
That lack of standardization became my theme for the fair. With so much “stuff” out there, the projects that intrigued me the most were the ones that have a social benefit, create collaborations or reuse waste materials.
Here are some of my favorites:
• The Tel Aviv-based social project Iota designs handsome objects for the home – rugs, cushions, stools and even swings – made with crochet knitted (knitted with one needle) strands that are then knotted into various
shapes. The objects are handmade by people in communities around the world with high rates of unemployment, to whom Iota teaches the necessary skills. Community support and sustainability are its bywords, and most of its profits are reinvested in social welfare and educational projects.
• Based in the Netherlands, Rescued creatively transforms leftovers and waste into useful new objects. Used cooking oil and pickle
jars become candles, for example, while animal bones are carved into spoons, and old newspapers are made into flowerpots. Its products are made by skilled craftspeople with disabilities.
• Rubber Killer, based in Thailand, recycles inner tubes from abandoned vehicles (bicycles, cars, trucks and tractors) and turns them into such new products as messenger bags, tote bags, backpacks, wallets, straps and sandals,
made by skilled local workers who are paid fair wages. The company sets aside part of its profits to offers scholarships to Thai students.
• Design Network Africa, run and funded by The Danish Centre for Culture and Development, brings together a number of African design companies. One example is
Uganda Crafts, which works with women’s groups in the country to weave colorful baskets from sustainable banana and raffia fibers.
• Meccano is no longer just a toy for kids. The company has now repurposed the principle of its building sets to create Meccano Home, a
line of furniture that can adapt to its environment and be personalized by its owners. The components for office, kitchen and living room furniture come in various sizes and colors.
• The just-opened Paris store Empreintes, launched at Maison & Objet, is billed as “the new Merci” (the famous Paris concept store at 111 boulevard Beaumarchais). Located in the Upper Marais (5, rue de Picardie), the four-story concept store designed by Elizabeth
Leriche also has a café, library and projection room. An initiative of the Ateliers d’Art de France, the French federation for fine craft professionals, the store will sell unique and limited-edition pieces handmade by French craftworkers.
• The diva lives on! Zaha Hadid, the world-famous architect who died earlier this year, was represented at the fair by her product designs. Zaha Hadid Design creates such pieces as sculptural jewelry and limited-edition
furniture, often made with innovative techniques and materials.
Scalability and abstraction have always interested me, but after seeing so many social projects that reuse waste and give back to communities, I was left wondering if the world really needs a vase in the shape of one of Zaha Hadid’s skyscrapers. This is marketing and (self-) promotion at its best!
Many of the fashion houses were also present at the trade fair – exhibiting their ranges of furniture, bed linens, accessories, wallpaper and so on – and on. I wasn’t impressed. Call me cynical, but this endless brand expansion doesn’t have much to say to the world.
We all know that the world doesn’t need another chair – or another table, sideboard or armoire. But there’s always room for reinvention and experimentation, and projects that have a social benefit, create collaborations and reuse waste materials will have the most potency. Things with a story to tell are the ones I’ll buy.