Grand De­signs

They’re in­stantly recog­nis­able, but what makes some New Zealand images and de­signs en­dure when oth­ers burn briefly then fade? Donna Chisholm looks at what’s in­spired some of our best-known home­grown work and asks the ex­perts to ex­plain the se­crets of grea

North & South - - In This Issue -

Novem­ber 1992. It’s 5.30pm and on The Strand in Par­nell, Auck­land, an ex­pec­tant crowd of around 100 is wait­ing for the Gow Langs­ford Gallery’s lat­est, and ar­guably most con­tro­ver­sial, ex­hi­bi­tion to open. The artist has fash­ioned a big sign out­side, de­lib­er­ately in cheap poly­styrene: “Tiki”, it says. Dick Frizzell is noth­ing if not a stir­rer, but if a por­trait of the artist as a young(er) man were painted tonight, he would look un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally anx­ious.

“I was shit­ting my­self,” he says. “My knees were trem­bling. I felt like the mata­dor wait­ing for the bull to come out the door. I thought, ‘Oops, what have I done?’”

What he’d done, over and over again, was tinker with the tiki. His ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tured dozens of paint­ings of the im­age, re­worked and reimag­ined to re­sem­ble any­thing from Casper the Friendly Ghost and Goofy the dog, to Hans Arp and Pi­casso ab­stracts.

“I just wanted to open the sta­ble door and let that horse out about whose cul­ture it is. We live in New Zealand – we are all part of this,” he says.

He’d be­come fas­ci­nated by the cul­tural taboos sur­round­ing the tiki months ear­lier, when on a “tiki tour” of the coun­try, he dis­cov­ered com­mer­cial repli­cas of the sym­bol had been al­most com­pletely erased – even the fa­mous Air New Zealand plas­tic sou­venir was no more. Frizzell ar­gued this was a form of cul­tural cleans­ing and a dan­ger­ous prece­dent. “I have three rules in my line

of work: noth­ing’s sa­cred, ev­ery­thing’s up for grabs and never ask per­mis­sion. You can never get any good without the bad hap­pen­ing as well. If you de­cide a cul­ture at any one point is per­fect, let’s keep it, you ring fence it and cut off the oxy­gen that comes from the trash, and the cul­ture withers and dies.” Cul­tural trash, he says, has to be there, seething away – a glo­ri­ous com­post heap of bad and good ideas.

Re­ac­tion to the ex­hi­bi­tion was swift and, in some quar­ters, ex­co­ri­at­ing, with Frizzell dubbed a “spir­i­tual as­sas­sin”. “It was a hell of a ride,” he writes in his 2009 book Dick Frizzell – The Painter. But it was a ride that ul­ti­mately led to the most fa­mous work of his ca­reer when, three years later he pro­duced “Mickey to Tiki” for a child cancer char­ity auc­tion in Welling­ton.

The wa­ter­colour and gouache on pa­per, which Frizzell calls the source of the Nile be­cause of ev­ery­thing that flowed from it, fetched $4000 at the auc­tion. In 2013, it sold for more than $100,000. Frizzell turned it into a litho­graph – “Mickey to Tiki Tu Meke” – in 1997, then in 2012, launched a new edi­tion, re­vers­ing the im­age and colours.

To­day, it’s among the most ubiq­ui­tous images in New Zealand pop­u­lar cul­ture, adorn­ing ev­ery­thing from spec­ta­cles cases and wine-cooler bags to posters, T-shirts, belt buck­les and skate­boards. “We drew the line at sta­tionery for The Ware­house. I’m sur­prised I baulked at that, but I did,” the former ad­man laughs. “You spend a pe­riod of your life think­ing, ‘I’m sick of this one thing defin­ing me’, and then you reach a point where you say, ‘I’m fuck­ing lucky, I’ve got two or three things out there that still hold up cul­tur­ally.’” Cer­tainly the heat has dis­ap­peared from the claims that he’s ap­pro­pri­ated and bas­tardised Māori cul­ture. “The mana of the tiki hasn’t been di­min­ished in the slight­est. Quite the op­po­site.”

Lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally, Māori art and crafts – and, later, Pākehā rep­re­sen­ta­tions of them – are still the most read­ily iden­ti­fi­able and en­dur­ing ex­am­ples of New Zealand “de­sign”. They were the start­ing point for Michael Smythe’s award-win­ning 2011 book, which aimed to trace its tra­jec­tory and de­fine a Kiwi style.

“Scan­di­na­vian de­sign is clean and whole­some. Ital­ian de­sign may not al­ways work but it has flair and style. Swiss de­sign can be pure to the point of steril­ity. Ger­man de­sign is ra­tional, ro­bust and re­li­able… What, if any, in­gre­di­ent is New Zealand prod­uct de­sign adding to the global salad?” he asked in the in­tro­duc­tion to New Zealand by De­sign. Af­ter con­clud­ing that Māori ob­ject de­sign “set a stan­dard that has yet to be ex­ceeded in New Zealand”, Smythe of­fered an as­pi­ra­tion for what con­tem­po­rary local de­sign­ers could of­fer the world.

“I call it the ‘de­sign of de­light’. It is nei­ther opu­lent nor ster­ile. It is ac­com­plished with a light touch rather than a heavy hand. It de­lights in what it is, who it’s for and how it’s made. It is di­rect and to the point, and it doesn’t take it­self too se­ri­ously. It of­fers ‘ no bull­shit’ hon­esty with a twin­kle in its eye. It re­flects the clar­ity of our light and the fresh­ness of our air. At its best it de­liv­ers the tin­gle up the spine…”

Good ex­am­ples of “de­signs of de­light”, he says, in­clude David Trubridge’s lights, Peter Haythorn­th­waite’s flip file, pen holder and fly-fish­ing cab­i­net – and, yes, Frizzell’s tiki, too.

“He’s bro­ken a lot of bar­ri­ers between art and de­sign and Māori and Pākehā,” says Smythe of Frizzell. Orig­i­nally one

of the sternest crit­ics of the tiki ex­hi­bi­tion, he wrote a blis­ter­ing review in which he la­belled it of­fen­sive, but has since “com­pletely changed my mind. I re­alised Māori [de­sign] was not only strong enough to with­stand that sort of ban­ter but was ac­tu­ally strength­ened by it. Dick had stud­ied the thing deeply and he’s done it with con­vic­tion. Māori art, which I re­de­fine in my book as Māori de­sign, is pur­pose­ful. It’s never just dec­o­ra­tion. It’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It al­ways has mean­ing.”

The same isn’t al­ways true when they’re re­worked by Pākehā, for ex­am­ple in artist Gor­don Wal­ters’ koru-in­spired ab­stracts which, since De­cem­ber, have been re­pro­duced on um­brel­las, scarves, tote bags, place­mats, coast­ers and cush­ion cov­ers, nearly 40 years af­ter the paint­ings were first ex­hib­ited.

Says Smythe: “I once said to Gor­don that his ‘ Paint­ing No. 1’ was the best state­ment of the ben­e­fits of a bi­cul­tural so­ci­ety I’d ever seen. He said, ‘You’re most wel­come to that in­ter­pre­ta­tion, but the point of my paint­ing is that it has no mean­ing.’ He was en­gaged in pure ab­strac­tion.”

Those images, how­ever, are widely per­ceived to­day as some­thing quintessen­tially Kiwi. Lucy Ham­monds is one of three co-cu­ra­tors of the Wal­ters ret­ro­spec­tive ex­hi­bi­tion New Vi­sion, at Dunedin Pub­lic Art Gallery. She says what’s in­ter­est­ing about Wal­ters and his vis­ual legacy is the di­ver­gence between what he set out to do and what other people have brought to his work. “It’s a sort of aspirational iden­tity po­si­tion that many people now at­tach to the iconog­ra­phy he de­vel­oped. It’s quite separate to what he was in­ter­ested in and try­ing to achieve with his ab­strac­tion at the time.”

She says Wal­ters, who died in 1995, even­tu­ally ac­cepted that his ab­strac­tions “never quite got away from what he was seek­ing to get away from, be­cause their mean­ing in New Zealand cul­ture was in­ex­tri­ca­bly con­nected. I think people see them as the mar­riage of mod­ern New Zealand, of iden­tity, the re­la­tion­ship with Māori art and tra­di­tion and the treat­ment of the works aes­thet­i­cally.”

Like Frizzell’s tiki, Wal­ters’ ab­stracts also sparked the ap­pro­pri­a­tion de­bate. In an es­say writ­ten for a book on the ex­hi­bi­tion ( it closed in Dunedin on April 8 and opens at Auck­land Art Gallery Toi o Tā­maki on July 7), Auck­land Univer­sity as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor Dei­dre Brown, who teaches de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture, says the main pro­tag­o­nists even­tu­ally moved on to other in­tel­lec­tual con­cerns and the de­bate faded from aca­demic art his­tory. She says Wal­ters’ own doubts about whether the koru- de­rived form in his work was suf­fi­ciently re­moved

from its cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal ori­gins and tra­di­tions, led him to pro­gres­sively aban­don it.

Brown be­lieves Māori cul­ture has never got the credit it de­serves for its con­tri­bu­tion to much of New Zealand de­sign. “I guess that ap­pro­pri­at­ing prac­tice comes from a par­tic­u­lar age and the think­ing is now that most con­tem­po­rary de­sign­ers wouldn’t do it un­less they were try­ing to make a point, like Dick Frizzell,” she told North & South. “I don’t think ‘Mickey to Tiki’ is him be­ing ridicu­lous. It’s him try­ing to ex­press the story of how things change and raise ques­tions that make us think, which is what good art should do. It lifts that work from graphic de­sign, which we think of as be­ing some­thing highly com­mer­cial; it’s not like the koru on the back of the plane.”

Frizzell’s work, and his back­ground in art, ad­ver­tis­ing and graphic de­sign, has blurred the some­times fine line between art and de­sign – his “Four Square Man” ap­peared first in a paint­ing of Kings­land shops in 1982 be­fore be­ing churned out on sou­venir-store tea-tow­els.

North Shore photographer and graphic de­signer Reuben Price is the man re­spon­si­ble for trans­lat­ing some of the best-known New Zealand art, in­clud­ing Frizzell’s and Wal­ters’ work, into de­sign-store sta­ples. Rev­enue from sales is shared 50-50 between his com­pany, 100% New Zealand, and the artist, or in Wal­ters’ case, the artist’s es­tate.

Price says it’s dif­fi­cult to iden­tify which de­signs will en­dure and which will quickly fade. “You put it out to the uni­verse and the uni­verse de­cides if it’s pop­u­lar.” In New Zealand to­day, he says, the uni­verse has de­cided it likes birds. “You could put a bird on any­thing, se­ri­ously. People love na­tive birds. And baches and car­a­vans – I think they re­mind them of their child­hood.”

He’s sur­prised the “Mickey to Tiki” range re­mains such a strong seller – the big­gest of the com­pany’s 45 prod­uct lines. “I can’t be­lieve ev­ery­one doesn’t al­ready have one. When I first saw it, I thought it was the most ge­nius thing I’d ever seen, but we only started pro­duc­ing it [ for de­sign stores] two or three years ago. If I see some­thing too of­ten, I’m turned off, be­cause I wouldn’t want some­thing that’s ev­ery­where.”

Price does a lot of work with Te Papa, for the mu­seum’s shop, and says the re­la­tion­ship has taught him about what is and isn’t ap­pro­pri­ate in the use of Māori art. “I wouldn’t put a Māori de­sign on din­ner­ware, for ex­am­ple. When I took Wal­ters on, I thought he wasn’t a Māori de­signer but was in­flu­enced by it, so I’m com­fort­able with that. We could re­pro­duce Goldies, for ex­am­ple, be­cause there is no copy­right, but we choose not to.”

He ap­proached the Wal­ters’ es­tate for the rights to six to eight of the ko­ru­in­spired images last June. “I’ve loved them from the mo­ment I saw them. They’re so time­less you could ask a mil­len­nial when they were cre­ated and they could have been yes­ter­day.” Re­orders came in quickly, although some stores have no idea where the im­agery on the prod­ucts came from. “Some of them don’t get it – they say, ‘You’ve re­leased a range that’s all stripey, haven’t you?’”

For de­signer David Trubridge, fa­mous in­ter­na­tion­ally for his fur­ni­ture and light­ing, art and de­sign are part of the same cre­ative process. “I don’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate them or use those words as nouns. To me, they are verbs, things you do in the cre­ative process. The third one is craft.”

In 2004, Ital­ian de­sign house Cap­pellini bought the rights to his “Body Raft” lounger, and the Pom­pi­dou Cen­tre in Paris bought his “Icarus” light in­stal­la­tion in 2012. But his most pop­u­lar de­sign – by far – is the kit­set lamp­shade, the “Co­ral” light. He made the first one in 2003 on a teach­ing stint in Perth and it changed the di­rec­tion of his ca­reer. “I dis­cov­ered a niche in the mar­ket no­body knew ex­isted.”

His com­pany sells about 10,000 of the lights, worth $ 3.5 mil­lion, each year. Trubridge says without it, he’d have two staff; with it, he has 20. The light con­sists of a sin­gle ply­wood shape re­peated 60 times to form a poly­he­dron.

“As a kid, I used to play around mak­ing poly­he­dra out of card­board, so I went back to that ge­om­e­try to find some­thing I could make in an af­ter­noon. I asked my wife what we could do with it and she said, ‘We can put a light bulb in it’, so I did that. There was ab­so­lutely no sense this was a new de­sign, it’s just some­thing that hap­pened. What’s re­ally im­por­tant is that it’s the artis­tic process com­ing through, rather than as a de­signer say­ing, ‘Well, I need to de­sign a new chair.’ I’d say, ‘What the hell for? We have a mil­lion chairs in the world, what’s the point in de­sign­ing another one?’ I can’t de­sign to or­der. That way, you’re on the wrong foot­ing from the start be­cause you’re com­ing at it from a fixed point of view, rather than to cre­ate some­thing for the fun of it.”

Good de­signs are al­ways time­less, says Trubridge. “There has to be some­thing about it you can’t place in a par­tic­u­lar era. I think the per­fect sphere is such a fun­da­men­tal form that we all re­spond to it in­tu­itively.”

Ox­ford-born Trubridge has lived in New Zealand since 1985, and is based at Whakatū in Hawke’s Bay. New Zealand fauna and flora and Māori craft have heav­ily in­flu­enced his work, with other lights styled on hi­naki (fish traps), flax, kina and kōura. Sus­tain­abil­ity is a key driver of the work he pro­duces. “In to­day’s world, it has to be en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble in terms of choice of ma­te­ri­als, pro­cesses, pack­ag­ing and shipment. If it’s not en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble, it’s ir­rel­e­vant and it’s bad de­sign.”

He’s tired of what he calls “clever-dick de­sign” that’s based largely on a witty idea. “It’s a one-line joke and in a very crowded com­pet­i­tive mar­ket, you can un­der­stand people do­ing it. But once you have the idea, you al­most don’t need to make any more. I saw a ta­ble in a Lon­don de­sign show where they’d used an axe at each cor­ner for the legs and wedged the axe blade into a slot in the top. That’s a gim­mick. It’s a ta­ble with axes. It’s not good de­sign. Good de­sign comes from the heart.”

Another Kiwi de­signer with Trubridge­like ver­sa­til­ity is San Fran­cisco-based Jamie Mclel­lan, whose port­fo­lio in­cludes ev­ery­thing from beer taps to lights and chairs. Five years ago, he

“I CAN’T DE­SIGN TO OR­DER. THAT WAY, YOU’RE ON THE WRONG FOOT­ING FROM THE START BE­CAUSE YOU’RE COM­ING AT IT FROM A FIXED POINT OF VIEW, RATHER THAN TO CRE­ATE SOME­THING FOR THE FUN OF IT.” DAVID TRUBRIDGE

teamed up with former All Whites soc­cer in­ter­na­tional Tim Brown and turned his hand to feet – specif­i­cally, shoes. The re­sult, in 2016, was All­birds, en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly merino sneak­ers that were im­me­di­ately crit­i­cally ac­claimed, with Time mag­a­zine hail­ing them as “the world’s most com­fort­able shoes”. Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern is a fan – she’s been pho­tographed wear­ing them, and gifted pairs to Aus­tralian PM Mal­colm Turn­bull and his wife Lucy on a trip across the Tas­man in March.

So strato­spheric has been the brand’s rise – it’s sold a mil­lion pairs of All­birds in two years and now em­ploys around 100 people, com­pared to just four when the shoes launched – that Mclel­lan closed his New Zealand stu­dio last year to move to the US to work full- time for All­birds.

“We wanted to de­sign a shoe that wouldn’t be­come ob­so­lete, but be­come a clas­sic for the 21st cen­tury,” he told North & South. “It sounds re­ally grandiose, but you have to have those lofty things when you’re try­ing to de­sign a prod­uct.”

For Mclel­lan and Brown, along with com­pany co-founder Joey Zwill­inger, the com­pany’s name helped form the vi­sion of the prod­uct. “All­birds was an ir­rev­er­ent name that re­ferred to what New Zealand used to be be­fore people set foot on the is­lands, and that was what we de­cided to pur­sue – this quirky, play­ful, in­clu­sive ter­ri­tory that was about tread­ing lightly and thought­fully and wasn’t ex­clu­sive and high­brow,” says Mclel­lan, who’s found lit­tle dif­fer­ence between de­sign­ing shoes, chairs, lights and beer taps.

“There are al­ways bet­ter ways to pro­duce and con­sume, and that in­volves de­sign, not just in terms of styling, but also ma­te­rial science and un­der­stand­ing the im­pact of not only our prod­ucts, but of us as a busi­ness on the world. De­sign has to en­cap­su­late those things and if it doesn’t, it’s not de­sign, it’s just whimsy.”

Com­fort was key. “If your old man says he’s bought a pair of com­fort­able shoes, you can gen­er­ally as­sume they’ll be pretty ugly. Our shoes look sim­ple, but we’ve worked hard to craft a beau­ti­ful sil­hou­ette, and they have a small amount of whimsy – we in­ten­tion­ally made rather large eye­lets on them: the one lit­tle em­bel­lish­ment, I guess. We didn’t want our prod­ucts to be too aus­tere and this

gives them a lit­tle bit of per­son­al­ity.”

De­sign­ers In­sti­tute CEO Cathy Veninga says at de­sign events she at­tends, “prac­ti­cally ev­ery­one is wear­ing All­birds”. The de­sign, she says, has “a light­ness and beau­ti­ful sim­plic­ity” that are cru­cial to its suc­cess. “Great de­signs have to be aes­thet­i­cally beau­ti­ful and they have to func­tion, but they also need to com­mu­ni­cate.”

Veninga says although New Zealand de­sign­ers such as Mclel­lan, Danny Coster (Ap­ple, Gopro), Grant David­son (Philips) and Matt Holmes (Nike) have gar­nered global at­ten­tion and high­pow­ered jobs over­seas, the aim is to have Kiwi de­sign­ers based here and work­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally. “We want to be a de­sign mecca to the world.”

A study last year by De­signco, a con­sor­tium led by Massey Univer­sity Col­lege of Cre­ative Arts Pro Vice- Chan­cel­lor Pro­fes­sor Claire Robin­son, as­sessed the value of the de­sign in­dus­try’s con­tri­bu­tion to the New Zealand econ­omy at more than $10 bil­lion.

Veninga says that should en­ti­tle the in­dus­try to more gov­ern­ment sup­port. “The Gov­ern­ment hasn’t un­der­stood that although global com­pa­nies need in­no­va­tion, de­sign is a quin­tes­sen­tial tool within that. Noth­ing will sell un­less it’s got at­tractabil­ity. De­sign has al­ways been con­sid­ered the pretty pic­ture at the end of the process. Around the board­room ta­ble, they look to the past to learn from their mis­takes to plan their fu­ture. De­sign­ers look to the fu­ture and find the so­lu­tion.”

De­sign writer and author Dou­glas Lloyd Jenk­ins says much of the best New Zealand de­sign is re­ally craft. His 2006 book, 40 Le­gends of New Zealand De­sign, in­cludes a num­ber of ce­ram­i­cists and pot­ters, in­clud­ing Crown Lynn’s Frank Car­pay and Mirek Smisek. “There were a lot of big-name artists like Gor­don Wal­ters and Mi­lan Mrk­isich who had de­sign ca­reers they kind of hid be­cause they moved on to art and didn’t want it sul­lied by de­sign. But their de­sign work is beau­ti­ful and more ac­ces­si­ble than their art work and is wor­thy of be­ing col­lected.”

In Jenk­ins’ view, de­sign is all about func­tion­al­ity. “It’s got to work. There are some things in the world of de­sign that are quite iconic for the wrong rea­sons – a clas­sic ex­am­ple is Philippe Starck’s “Juicy Salif” lemon squeezer. You can’t squeeze a lemon with it. It’s the stu­pid­est ob­ject. It’s bad de­sign – it’s highly recog­nis­able but it falls short to me.” The glass squeez­ers found in most kitchens are a much bet­ter ex­am­ple of great de­sign, he says. “They’re lovely to look at, highly func­tional and sur­vive for gen­er­a­tions.”

He says when people ask him if there is a New Zealand de­sign style, “they want me to say, ‘Yes, it’s this in­cred­i­bly glam­orous, in­cred­i­bly so­phis­ti­cated, very ur­bane thing.’

“But we’re not a so­phis­ti­cated people. We’re not a glam­orous or ur­bane people. We’re a prag­matic, rel­a­tively dour, rel­a­tively joy­less so­ci­ety. People want me to show them some­thing they hadn’t no­ticed and say we could sell it over­seas for bil­lions if we tried. The idea of our ‘num­ber 8 fenc­ing wire’ in­ge­nu­ity is also a myth. I don’t think we’re par­tic­u­larly in­ge­nious.”

Although Jenk­ins thinks of New Zealand de­sign as earthy, grounded, prag­matic and “not al­ways beau­ti­ful”, for fash­ion de­signer Dame Denise L’es­trange- Cor­bet, co- founder of WORLD, beauty is at the heart of great de­sign. “Chances are, if it’s some­thing re­ally beau­ti­ful, it’s not go­ing to be some­thing re­ally cheap. Noth­ing in

the $2 Shop stops me in my tracks, and I don’t think it ever will, apart from think­ing how ugly it is. Good de­sign, be it a build­ing, a chair, a shoe, a ho­tel foyer or a cheese grater, stops you dead in your tracks. You should want to ad­mire, de­sire, aspire and ul­ti­mately ac­quire it. It has you ly­ing in bed at night think­ing about it, the pull is so great. It has you ques­tion­ing ev­ery­thing about it: ‘Who did it?’ ‘ How did they do it?’ ‘ I have never seen any­thing like this be­fore’ or even ‘What is it?’ You can love it or hate it, but it has grabbed your at­ten­tion.”

She says she had just that re­ac­tion when she first spot­ted Starck’s lemon squeezer in a Pon­sonby shop in 1990: “I had to have it. I still have it. I don’t use it. I’ve never squeezed a lemon on it, but I didn’t buy it for that. I have four teapots and I don’t drink tea.”

She de­spairs at cheap knock- offs of de­sign clas­sics. “I hate generic. It makes me want to chuck. It’s an in­sult to the de­signer, that their idea has been taken and wa­tered down us­ing the cheap­est ma­te­ri­als, so some­one can make a quick buck. It shouldn’t be al­lowed to hap­pen – you can’t do it with a song, art or a book, but fash­ion and fur­ni­ture de­sign seem to be open slather for the ruth­less.”

L’es­trange- Cor­bet is also crit­i­cal of local fash­ion de­sign­ers who make their cloth­ing off­shore. WORLD is one of the few that still man­u­fac­tures at home. “So many have gone off­shore that the in­dus­try is hang­ing by a thread. Where are the stu­dents com­ing out of [de­sign] schools go­ing to go? There won’t be any­one mak­ing any­thing here.”

The WORLD la­bel she cre­ated with Fran­cis Hooper shot to promi­nence in 1995, when its “21st Cen­tury Origami Dress” won the avant-garde sec­tion of the Ben­son and Hedges Fash­ion De­sign Awards. “We’d en­tered ev­ery year since 1988. You fill out the form and send in $70 to en­ter. One morn­ing, we got a call from [pre­sen­ter] Maysie Bestall- Co­hen, say­ing, ‘ I’ve got your form and your money but I haven’t got your gar­ment. We’d com­pletely for­got­ten to make one. We had 24 hours to drop it off to her. Fran­cis said, ‘Go to Whit­coulls and get some­thing. So I came back with a roll of raf­fia, a piece of black card and a piece of white card and made it on a man­nequin. So for $10, I got a $5000 prize.” The dress is now held at Auck­land Mu­seum. WORLD gar­ments are also in the col­lec­tions of Te Papa, the Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria, Mel­bourne and the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art in Syd­ney.

Af­ter 30 years in de­sign, L’es­trangeCor­bet has lost none of her pas­sion for the art of de­sign. “There is noth­ing I love more than a de­sign that chal­lenges me. It ex­cites me, it makes me want it, it talks to me, it makes you sit up and take note, it lit­er­ally screams at you from across the room, the shop or the street.”

Michael Smythe – shod in his red All­birds – with the koru flag he de­signed, based on Gor­don Wal­ters’ work. He says New Zealand de­sign of­fers “‘no bull­shit’ hon­esty with a twin­kle in its eye”.

Top: “Paint­ing No.1”, by Gor­don Wal­ters (above), who died in 1995. He de­scribed it as “pure ab­strac­tion”.

David Trubridge (cen­tre) and his “Co­ral” pen­dant light (top) – about 10,000 of these lights sell each year. “Good de­signs are al­ways time­less,” he says. “There has to be some­thing about it you can’t place in a par­tic­u­lar era. I think the per­fect sphere is

Above: San Fran­cisco-based New Zealand de­signer Jamie Mclel­lan, and his “All­birds” shoe. “Our shoe looks sim­ple, but we’ve worked hard to craft a beau­ti­ful sil­hou­ette.”

For fash­ion de­signer Dame Denise L’es­trange-cor­bet, co-founder of WORLD, beauty is at the heart of great de­sign. Pic­tured right are her “21st Cen­tury Origami Dress” and beloved “Juicy Salif” lemon squeezer by Philippe Starck.

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