Between them they embody the Canadian new wave. At the head of MSDS Jessica Nakanishi and Jonathan Sabine are surfing on a design wave that combines a minimalist approach and an avant-garde aesthetic. We met them in their Toronto studio in the middle of two different worlds.
Jessica exudes a thoughtful calmness, Jonathan a conscientious coolness. She is of Japanese origin, whereas he has English, Norwegian and West Indian roots. The duo discretely follows a creative path that takes them from Toronto to Copenhagen and back again, from one North to another as it were. Their studio, MSDS, all brick walls and a pale- coloured interior, is located in a former toy factory in The Junction, one of Toronto’s hippest districts. Lines and materials set the tone in this industrial space where prototypes seem to just float. Since we first met during Toronto design week in January 2015 everything has accelerated for the two designers. After a first collection of pleated terracotta vases for Umbra Shift, they have created a range of futuristic lights for Danish brand WOUD, a convertible cabinet for Bruun Munch. Some other new, Canadian-made pieces are also on the cards in Scandinavia. This year, the opening of the Toronto Design Offsite Festival took place in the offices of Shopify, which were designed by MSDS to look like an assembly of containers
and geometric elements. MSDS is a role model for many young Canadian designers who are struggling to break through in the context of a rather conservative local scene.The studio, created in 2010, has an almost symbiotic approach to design that is attracting more and more interest from Nordic companies on a quest to find essential designs. One such example is ‘Annular’, the duo’s ceiling light whose light source is not inside its cone-shaped shade as you would expect but, thanks to the possibilities of LED technology, set around its outer rim. “We like to play with the possibilities of materials by using all the new technologies that are within our reach,” Jessica points out. Following the same logic, the ‘Source Materials’ collection, which was presented at Stockholm furniture show last February, explores the materials and heritage of the craftsmen of yesteryear. A single material ( stoneware, aluminium, wood or composite) is used for each piece and conveys the object, lamp, table or chair’s original concept. For example in their ‘Ancestor Chair’, Jessica and Jonathan referenced an early 17th century chair design that predates the iconic Windsor chair. “This chair that predates the Windsor model was designed to be easy to make,” Jonathan explains, “It was sparing in its use of parts and fixings and was made from simple components. We thought that its spartan aspect was in fact very contemporary. Our interpretation, which we intended as a tribute, retains many of the chair’s main features and much of its character.” The chair displays a formal simplicity that is in the same vein as the work of contemporary design’s founders: for sure, these are two talented designers you should keep your eye on!