S TA R R Y cons tel lat ion
In the parallel universe created by New York’s Apparatus, lights, furniture and objects manifest as ancient totems blazing into space-age form.
THERE’S NO TALE as compelling as a New York success story. When Jeremy Anderson and Gabriel Hendifar moved from Los Angeles to the Big Apple in 2011 it was to take up a job in PR and look for work in fashion, respectively. Within a year they had launched what has become one of the most directional and respected lighting brands of the decade.
Apparatus was born of necessity, flourished in a climate of renewal as the world readjusted after the GFC and is maturing into a brand with the confidence to turn out work that is at once personal and political. Their latest collection, called Act III, is based on a nuanced reading of Hendifar’s Iranian origins. It includes a series of ‘Median’ lamps composed of translucent alabaster discs intersected by fluted brass canisters, at once space age and timeless.
Another group, called ‘Talisman’, deploys beads of agate, jasper and jade fixed to leather-bound metal, elegant totems reminiscent of statuary found in the city of Persepolis, once the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. Vessels and candlesticks mounted on marble spheres form a suite titled ‘Shiraz’ in reference to the ancient Persian hometown of Hendifar’s grandmother. The accompanying film showcases his mother’s ethereal singing and features a little boy home alone in a fantastical modernist palace with vertiginous views across a majestic desert landscape.
“For a long time I tried to insist the film is not autobiographical,” says Hendifar. “But Act III is really intensely personal, and all along the way there were victories and defeats. We’d produced this collection of objects that was meant to be made in Iran using a traditional style of marquetry I’d experienced as a child. It represented a bit of treasure that came from this place. The first time we got physical samples of it, I had this tangible thing in my hand that [originated from] the land my family came from. It was so moving and it felt like such a triumph, but then we realised we couldn’t make the things there because of the current political situation.”
Hendifar was born in LA not long after his parents emigrated to the US in the wake of the Iranian revolution which culminated in the overthrow of the Shah, ending 2500 years of continuous Persian monarchy. Hendifar studied film and costume design, dabbling in music and performance. His first interior commission came from the mother of a friend who’d seen his set design for the high-school production of Guys and Dolls. “The most expensive, lavish production the school had ever seen,” he says. After graduating, he decided to concentrate on fashion, eventually working for Raquel Allegra, a designer obsessed with deconstructing, shredding and otherwise “giving garments a sense of soul”. The designer also grew her business from four to more than 40 staff during Hendifar’s tenure. There were invaluable lessons learned there.
Somewhere along the way he met Jeremy Anderson, a blond-haired boy from the Midwest, a PR executive with a penchant for pottery. They fell in love, moved in together, and the seeds for Apparatus were sown. “We were redesigning our apartment and couldn’t afford anything we wanted,” Anderson recalls. “At the time there was a lack of things that blended modern materials but felt like they had soul. Everything was so slick so we started experimenting.”
These experiments lead to their assembling their own light fittings from industrial components in sleek steampunk-meetsmodernist style with a twist. A gallery-owner friend thought he could sell some, other friends placed orders and an acquaintance blogged about them. “Then Remodelista picked them up and it went from there,” says Hendifar.
By that time the pair were living in New York. Anderson was holding down an executive position at a PR agency, moonlighting on the wiring and patinas of Hendifar’s lighting designs and doing the accounts into the night. Within the year he’d quit to dedicate himself to the nascent brand now globally renowned as Apparatus.
The early work displayed a respect for modernist geometries but pushed the material palette beyond patinated brass (a mainstay of the plethora of small, hipsterish New York design studios that flourished this past decade) into the evocatively exotic via handcrafted leather, python and even horsehair – what Hendifar calls ‘‘surfaces that tell a story”.
The Act II collection of 2017 explored the ethics as well as aesthetics of the turn-of-the-century Vienna Werkstätte – when traditional craft and modernism bubbled effusively together, until the rise of fascism. (The pair launched the collection in New York with an über-glamorous ‘Werkstätte disco’ at their 30th Street studio.) “There’s an interesting thing that happens between Jeremy and me, almost an alchemical [process] which pushes both of us outside our comfort zones,” says Hendifar.
Now with a staff of 50, showrooms in Manhattan, Milan and LA and a network of savvy retailers around the world, Apparatus is gearing up for the next chapter of its story. “I feel like I’m able to take a step back a bit and focus on my own practice which is ceramics,” Anderson says. “I’m kind of the chairman of Apparatus, involved in strategy, but not in the day-to-day.”
Hendifar smiles. “And I get to keep dreaming, to sort of conjure things up knowing that there’s this big, incredibly efficient machine that can put it together and get it out into the world.” Apparatus products are available exclusively through Criteria, Melbourne; criteriacollection.com.au; apparatusstudio.com.