by Anmol AhujaAug 13, 2021
“Freedom is like a bank account full of money. If you don’t want to spend it, and therefore get rid of it, it’s worth nothing. Because then freedom is important but completely irrelevant: it’s spending freedom that is relevant.”
A prerequisite to cracking it in the design world seems to be to discover the creative streak early on and to continue flexing it. Marcel Wanders, who described himself to be a “curious kid” with a “penchant for breaking stuff more than building" on his UNSCRIPTED chat this week, was ironically all of four when he built his first creation: a plank with a stick propped up by nails for a mast. It floated, and with his brother, he claimed to have built nearly 30 of these ‘boats’: one among many unknown and interesting facts that the designer revealed in his exclusive video interview with STIR. Between that, Wanders’ first brush with the freedom in creation, and his own studio today owning a koi carps decorated studio boat named Float that the team often takes out for a ride on the canals of Amsterdam , the globally renowned Dutch designer believes that dreams do come true.
Wanders’ story is a dichotomous one: it easily fits the mould of the “head full of bubbles, like champagne” type of people, as he shares himself, at several places in his illustrious life, leading to the creative juggernaut he has become. Yet, there is no shortage of incidents that defy and charm at the same time. In his signature, wry, self-deprecating sense of humour, the maverick product designer who has also routinely left his unique ‘neo-rococo’ mark as an interior designer dictates his expulsion from Design Academy Eindhoven, the place where he also realised his true passion for the craft, to be a pivotal moment for him. Having graduated cum laude from the Artez Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Arnhem in 1988 a few years later, and successively putting himself through three other arts and business schools following that, Wanders’ odyssey into unlearning had only begun at that point.
Having gained significant attention with his breakthrough product, the Knotted Chair, in 1996, Wanders founded his eponymous studio in Amsterdam at the turn of the century. Comically enough, the Knotted Chair is his only product to have been broken under use, that too under the guardianship of his dear friend, Richard Hutten. Springing from his first, Wanders and his studio today have collaborated with and designed for brands including Louis Vuitton, Alessi, Laufen, Christofle, Hyatt, Natuzzi Italia, Poliform, (view the studio's extensive design collections on STIRpad) and many more. His latest is a special-edition revival of his Jardin d'Eden collection for Christofle for its 10th anniversary.
I have been wrong so many times, and it’s something that I have learnt to live with graciously. I think it’s wonderful that the world stops me at some point.The designer, however, has remained tethered to the city since his formative years, despite having to travel a lot for work. One of the most anecdotal philosophies that he adopted emerged from a lament over the same: five years, five cities came to be an embodiment of the designer’s permanent wanderlust, leading him to live in Paris, San Francisco, Milano, Budapest, and Mallorca, every year, starting 2013. Incidentally, his heart, his daughter, brought him back home to the Venice of the north.
The 6 feet, 4 inch tall designer is also known to sport a distinct sartorial taste, almost veering towards the monochrome. A colourful standout, and yet again, an obvious temptation for us to ask about, was the necklace he often wears. The now 58-year-old creator revealed the necklace to be a “father-daughter thing”, reminiscing on a sunny Amsterdam afternoon wherein the duo went in to a beads store with the intent of engaging in a common activity neither could tutor the other in. The ‘rainbow necklace’, as he dubs it, is Marcel’s reincarnation of the same necklace he made at the store, resulting from Marcel going on a spree to find and make special stones for the next year-and-a-half. The necklace that he then prefers to adorn in the winter months became his “diary of thoughts” for himself. He had nearly 25 of them made.
Springing from one emotional connect to the next, Gabriele Chiave, creative director at the studio along with Wanders, is a name and entity inseparable from the mighty Marcel Wanders name. Gabriele was the first word that came to his mind when questioned about “partnerships” and “couches”, a combination as effervescent as the two leading designers, the latter leaving Wanders chuckling. The designer duo have together taken the studio to its current heights. Some of their most iconic products, including the One-Minute Mickey Mouse sculpture, the Diamond sofa and armchair for Louis Vuitton, the Mondrian Hotel, Doha, and the Le Roi Soleil and Jeux de Cristal for Baccarat are testimony to that. As Wanders put it, "Minimalism was functionality, and functionality was overvalued."
Learn more about the unscripted part of Marcel Wanders’ life on his 58th birthday by tapping on the cover image to watch the complete video.
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji (Consultant, Content Adviser, STIR), UNSCRIPTED is a STIR-original series of quick-witted video interviews with leading design professionals who give us an undiscovered peek into their lives. A melting pot of quests, revelations and quirks, the series spans releases a new episode every Sunday as designers reveal unheard and unknown nuggets from their lives, in response to 30 questions.
All photographs © Marcel Wanders. Images may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced, or used in part or whole without obtaining permission. The photographs in this video are not licensed for personal, commercial, or public use, or use in the public domain in any form.