A furniture designer reaches for the stars
Ini Archibong has an unusual outlook for our self-centred times: that the talents we’ve been given should be used to benefit everyone around us. The 35-year-old Nigerian-American designer has what he calls “a philosophical stance”. Archibong grew up in California, in a religious community chosen by his parents, who emigrated to the US to attend colleges on the East Coast. After earning a presidential scholarship to the University of Southern California to study business, he found he was spending more time at his local Theosophical Society library. Spirituality took precedence over business and he dropped out, moving back home to take a job at a local architecture firm while completing a five-year course in environmental design at Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design.
Now based in Switzerland, Archibong shares similar design philosophies to Sé, the European furniture brand recognised for its elegant, graceful designs, pastel shades and nods to Gio Ponti. Sé’s founder-director Pavlo Schtakleff selected Archibong to devise its latest collection, “Below the Heavens”, the first part of which debuted during 2018’s Salone del Mobile Milano fair. Its 11 pieces included sculptural chairs and sofas, gently curved benches, a mirror and a 15-part handblown glass chandelier. Some showed a hint of whimsy, like the deep upholstered “Circe” chair, while others had been inspired by the sky: the “Eos” and “Helios” lights.
Sé and Archibong will present the concluding half, which will be more grounded and practical, at the fair this April: it includes a dining table, daybed, coffee table, executive desk and chair. “Ini’s design language is very original, but marries seamlessly with Sé’s timeless, luxury direction,” explains Schtakleff. “The intention was to produce pieces that were completely unexpected, but somehow still recognisably Sé.”
“The forms are more monolithic,” says Archibong, who had previously created pieces for Hermès, Lapicida and Bernhardt. “For these, my references include Stonehenge, Machu Picchu and Giant’s Causeway: to make you feel like you’re connecting the stars to the Earth. The first part was a little feminine, the second has a more imposing, masculine energy. It’s more direct.”