re­nais­sance MAN

Mov­ing from de­sign-art to Ap­ple gad­gets with­out miss­ing a beat, Marc New­son’s tal­ent lies in his abil­ity to fuse lux­ury with mass ap­peal. As he launches a new lug­gage range for Louis Vuit­ton, we nd out the se­crets of his suc­cess

Architectural Digest (UAE) - - Style Icon - WORDS AMY BRAD­FORD

f you some­times find your­self won­der­ing where the trend for “de­sign-art” came from – os­ten­ta­tious, out­ra­geously ex­pen­sive pieces of fur­ni­ture de­signed to be looked at rather than used – then you should study Marc New­son’s rise to fame. Along with his close friend Jonathan Ive of Ap­ple, Aus­tralian-born New­son was one of the first su­per­star de­sign­ers of the mil­len­nial era; the clos­est that most in the in­dus­try get to be­ing a house­hold name. He made his rep­u­ta­tion on the back of the Lock­heed Lounge, a riv­eted alu­minium chaise longue on wheels that he made by hand as an edi­tion of 15 in 1988, when he was still a young grad­u­ate from Syd­ney Univer­sity. At the time, it looked gloss­ily fu­tur­is­tic, like a jet fuse­lage crossed with an alien space­ship; New­son said that he’d had a vi­sion of “a glob­ule of mer­cury”, all liq­uid curves that might morph into some­thing else at any mo­ment. He also, ap­par­ently, de­scribed his work as “ut­terly un­us­able” (at­tempt to lie on it and you’re likely to slither off ), but its lack of func­tion prob­a­bly only en­hanced its no­to­ri­ety. The space-age, biomor­phic look that dom­i­nated de­sign through much of the 1990s and 2000s owes much to New­son’s Eureka mo­ment.

It took al­most a cen­tury for Eileen Gray’s one-off Drag­ons arm­chair to be­come the most ex­pen­sive piece of 20th-cen­tury fur­ni­ture ever sold at auc­tion (it made $25,044,315 at Christie’s in 2009, after the death of its owner Yves Saint Lau­rent). The Lock­heed Lounge, how­ever, mush­roomed in value within 20 years of its cre­ation. It holds four world records for the costli­est piece of fur­ni­ture by a liv­ing de­signer to be sold at auc­tion, with one of the 1988 edi­tion fetch­ing $3,083,537 at Phillips in 2015.

New­son was not the first per­son to cre­ate de­sign-art of this kind, but he’s cer­tainly one of its best-known ex­po­nents (he’s the only fur­ni­ture de­signer to be rep­re­sented by the pres­ti­gious Gagosian gallery, which also has Cy Twombly and Damien Hirst on its books). That sen­sa­tional sale at Phillips came a few months after the an­nounce­ment that he would be join­ing Ive on the de­sign team of Ap­ple. Link­ing up with the world’s most fa­mous brand was en­tirely in char­ac­ter for New­son who, de­spite the home-made char­ac­ter of his early works, has shown ex­tra­or­di­nary nous when it comes to choos­ing the brands he works with. His port­fo­lio in­cludes col­lab­o­ra­tions with, among oth­ers, Her­mès, Dom Perignon, Louis Vuit­ton, G-Star Raw and Nike – a strik­ing mix of lux­ury and street chic that has helped to make him one of de­sign’s most de­sir­able names.

That’s not to say that New­son’s all about the su­per­fi­cial ges­ture, though – quite the op­po­site. What he likes to do is break bound­aries, tak­ing ma­te­ri­als and tech­nolo­gies from one spe­cial­ist field and ap­ply­ing them in new con­texts. “One of the re­ally in­ter­est­ing things about what I do is that I get to work with peo­ple in dif­fer­ent sec­tors,” he ex­plains. Over the course of his ca­reer, he’s segued smoothly from fur­ni­ture de­sign to tech­nol­ogy (cam­eras for Le­ica and Pen­tax, and sun­shine yel­low kitchen ap­pli­ances for Smeg), fash­ion (his train­ers for Nike are made us­ing next-gen­er­a­tion tex­tiles, a field that fas­ci­nates him), plane in­te­ri­ors (for Qan­tas) and con­cept cars (for Ford).

His lat­est project, launched last Novem­ber, is for Louis Vuit­ton – a range of soft lug­gage to go with suit­cases and per­fume bot­tles that were un­veiled by the brand in 2016. As ever, New­son has paired his trade­mark stream­lined shapes with his love of ma­te­rial in­no­va­tion. The Hori­zon Soft duf­fles and trol­ley bags sweep aside the neg­a­tives as­so­ci­ated with soft lug­gage. Nei­ther floppy nor prone to col­lapse, they’re lightly struc­tured, de­signed to min­imise weight and max­imise vol­ume, and made from a high-tech stretchy yarn, which is wo­ven and heat-formed so it re­tains its shape. Stitch­ing is al­most en­tirely elim­i­nated, re­placed with sec­tions of tape fused to the fab­ric, and zips and pock­ets made us­ing ul­tra­sound cut­ting tech­niques. It all sounds very state of the art, but New­son’s idea is rooted in some­thing much older and more fa­mil­iar. “It’s es­sen­tially knit­ting,” he says of his tech­no­yarn. “I had al­ready been aware of knit­ting pro­cesses in var­i­ous in­dus­tries, in­clud­ing the au­to­mo­tive, fur­ni­ture and yacht­ing

“By def­i­ni­tion, de­sign is

dis­rup­tion. If it’s not new, then what’s the point?”

sec­tors. Very few things are new – what is new is ap­pro­pri­at­ing a tech­nol­ogy that’s been used in one in­dus­try and em­ploy­ing it some­where else.”

New­son trav­els non-stop and de­signed the lug­gage with his own ex­act­ing stan­dards in mind – the TSA-ap­proved pad­lock can be op­er­ated with one hand, while the wheels are prac­ti­cally silent. But al­though func­tion­al­ity was at the fore­front of his mind, his taste for bright colour also comes through. The vivid yel­low and orange bags that sit along­side Vuit­ton’s trade­mark khaki brown have ap­peared numer­ous times in his work, with pri­mary reds and grass greens also mak­ing up his sig­na­ture palette. In fact, he veers be­tween these bold hues and more un­der­stated sil­ver, white and black, re­flect­ing a yin and yang bal­ance in his work – and an ea­ger­ness to con­found ex­pec­ta­tions. In 2015, not long after the launch of his first big project with Ive, the Ap­ple iWatch, New­son de­signed a lim­ited-edi­tion tea ser­vice in hand-ham­mered sil­ver for Dan­ish her­itage brand Ge­org Jensen. Only ten sets were made – at a cost of $103,815 each, they em­body New­son’s taste for the ex­trav­a­gant – and at first sight, they seem like a cel­e­bra­tion of tra­di­tion. Un­til, that is, you get down to de­tails. The de­signer spent months work­ing with 3D rapid pro­to­typ­ing tech­nol­ogy to achieve the ves­sels’ or­ganic shapes, in­clud­ing a sin­u­ous han­dle that looks like ivory but is, in fact, “sus­tain­ably sourced” mam­moth tusk. Only New­son could add quite such an es­o­teric touch.

Since the iWatch, there’s been no high-pro­file Ap­ple launch with New­son’s name at­tached, and ru­mours are rife about what he’ll do next. There’s been talk of an Ap­ple car, while New­son him­self has spo­ken of his in­ter­est in in­cor­po­rat­ing tech­nol­ogy into gar­ments. It could be some­thing to­tally un­ex­pected; last year, he and Ive cre­ated a ring made en­tirely from lab-grown di­a­mond, pro­duced in a large block us­ing nan­otech­nol­ogy and cut us­ing wa­ter jets (it sub­se­quently sold for $256,000, with pro­ceeds go­ing to Bono’s (RED) char­ity).

Speak­ing to the BBC after news broke of New­son’s ap­point­ment at Ap­ple, Deyan Sud­jic, di­rec­tor of Lon­don’s De­sign Mu­seum, de­scribed the de­signer’s “he­do­nis­tic” streak. “Where Jonathan Ive is the the round­head, Marc New­son is the cav­a­lier,” he said. Per­haps the big­gest clue to his next move comes from New­son him­self. “De­sign, by def­i­ni­tion, is dis­rup­tion and in­no­va­tion. If it’s not new, then what’s the point? Dis­rup­tive is one of the words that is used a lot at the mo­ment. Peo­ple will look at [my Louis Vuit­ton lug­gage] and call it dis­rup­tive; five years ago they might have called it cool or in­no­va­tive. What­ever peo­ple call it, it will be dif­fer­ent.” marc-new­


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