A WORLD OF COLOUR
Monotony isn’t a part of India Mahdavi’s design vocabulary. The Iranian-born, Paris-based designer shares how her itinerant worldview has influenced her exuberant celebration of colour and texture
India Mahdavi has been heralded as the new queen of colour—she’s known for using colours in strikingly sensual ways, while crafting individualistic spaces that are unique to their locations. As she puts it: “A colour is also a texture—it depends on the environment, of where you are, of what you want to do with it.” Take London’s Gallery at Sketch restaurant, one of her most iconic projects. Clad in textures of powder pink on everything from the plush seats to the walls and ceiling, the restaurant has since become an exemplar of her dramatic yet visually cohesive aesthetic. After working as Christian Liaigre’s artistic director for seven years, the Paris-based designer (who trained in architecture) opened her own studio in 1999. This was followed by an accompanying showroom and a furniture line in 2003. Since then, Mahdavi has transformed restaurants, brasseries and retail stores into fantastical realms. In recognition of her body of work, she was also awarded France’s Officier Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2015. Most recently, Mahdavi created the Talisman table for Louis Vuitton, as part of the house’s travel-inspired Objets Nomades collection—a fitting collaboration for the cosmopolitan designer. She shares more about her peripatetic upbringing and how it has influenced her technicolour take on design.
How has your global perspective shaped your collaboration with Louis Vuitton?
I would like to say that I am the ultimate nomad. I have moved so many times from country to country; I grew up in the US, in Germany and in the south of France. I see the Louis Vuitton Objets Nomades collection in a big sense—it isn’t just about objects that can travel. So the Talisman table is a multicultural object, and a hybrid object that doesn’t have to have only one function. It’s inspired by oriental tables, which appear at tea and disappear for the siesta. This table encourages you to enjoy your tea, to enjoy the siesta and to enjoy all those moments that you can have.
Which countries have influenced you the most in terms of your design aesthetic?
I think my attraction to colour comes from my childhood in the US, in the mid-1960s. My early memories are completely in technicolour. I remember waking up to Bugs Bunny and Tex Avery cartoons on the colour television, with everything in bright colours. The American design from those days is linked to my happy memories. I think that I’m also very structured—that comes from my years in Germany. I had to start learning German, which is a very structured language. When I moved to France, it was French elegance that inspired me. Those are the countries that influenced me visually. And I should not forget my Middle Eastern background, because Egypt and Iran give me a sense of comfort—it’s soothing, and something that’s very soft and sensual.
Among the decorative objects that you have designed, which are your favourite pieces?
I like textiles very much, I like to work with basketwork, as well as ceramics. Why should I have a favourite? You wouldn’t ask which fingers you prefer on your hands; no, you like all of them.
Could you share more about your upcoming projects?
There are many designs coming up. Apart from the Louis Vuitton project launched at Milan Design Week and a rattan collection called Henri, Henri, Henri, I’m doing a lot of residential work—homes in the south of France and in the US. I’ve just decorated the Ladurée boutiques in Geneva and in Los Angeles. I have other projects coming up, but I can’t really speak about them yet, so you’ll just have to wait for a while. You know, it’s a surprise!
“A COLOUR IS ALSO A TEXTURE—IT DEPENDS ON THE ENVIRONMENT, OF WHERE YOU ARE, OF WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WITH IT”
LEFT TO RIGHT The Ladurée boutique in Geneva; the powder pink interiors of the Gallery at Sketch in Mayfair, London; Mahdavi’s travelinspired Talisman table for Louis Vuitton consists of an accordionlike foldable base, and a tray