Sabine Marcelis goes with the flow for Fendi’s latest Design Miami collaboration
Sabine Marcelis makes a splash in Miami
Water has been an occasional creative motif at Fendi since 1977, when it commissioned the short film Histoire d’eau to launch its debut ready-to-wear collection for women. The first film made specifically for a fashion brand, it followed the adventures of young American actress Suzy Dyson in Rome, drawing a connection between her exquisitely crafted outfits and the splendour of Rome’s fountains and architectural icons. Four decades on, Fendi picks up this theme once again with rising Dutch design star Sabine Marcelis, who has created an installation for Design Miami exploring the tranceinducing beauty of water in motion.
‘Water is such an interesting material because of its changing shape and appearance,’ says Marcelis, whose mastery of glass and resin brought her into the spotlight. ‘It’s very undervalued and I think it’s nice to showcase its beauty in a luxurious manner.’ Her new exhibition, ‘The Shapes of Water’, will mark the tenth anniversary of Fendi’s collaboration with the design fair.
Women designers remain something of a rarity in the field of high design, but Fendi has used Design Miami as a platform to work with creatives such as Maria Pergay (W*177), Cristina Celestino (W*213) and Chiara Andreatti (W*225). ‘Over these ten years, I have noticed that women designers pay more attention to the context while men focus on the one-of-a-kind piece,’ says Silvia Venturini Fendi, doyenne of the Roman house. ‘We loved Sabine’s approach to special materials and her use of colour to highlight the shapes of her design,’ she continues. ‘Her projects are visually very strong. We wanted to do something different this year, and she seemed a perfect choice.’ Marcelis began work on her commission with a visit to Fendi’s HQ in the Eternal City. ‘I realised how Fendi is profoundly embedded in Rome,’ she says. In 2013, the fashion house set up the Fendi for Fountains initiative and restored the Trevi Fountain and several other water features as part of its commitment to culture. Using water as a material, Marcelis has now created ten cast-resin fountains, each of which represents a Fendi icon.
‘I started experimenting with resin at Design Academy Eindhoven. It has this beautiful interaction with light; it can be completely opaque or transparent,’ says Marcelis. ‘It’s also liquid, so you can put it in crazy moulds to have exactly the shape you want.’ Each of her fountains is grounded on a plinth of travertine, the same stone found at Fendi’s HQ (W*201), and a fundamental element of Roman architecture.
Marcelis wanted to bring something different and unexpected to the table. The results are poetic yet playful – two of her fountains incorporate Fendi’s famous FF logo, created in 1965 by Karl Lagerfeld, while the entrance to the exhibition will feature a fountain shaped like Fendi’s iconic ‘Peekaboo’ bag (which also celebrates its tenth anniversary this year) cast out of resin and sitting in a shallow pool of water.
The closed layout of the exhibition filters out the noise of the fairground to allow visitors to listen to the water. Some of the fountains are really quiet; others are louder. The designer has choreographed them so that as one walks through the space, these differences are noticeable, giving the installation both visual and acoustic qualities. The serene simplicity of the fountains is deceptive; a complex mechanism provides the magic unseen. ‘You shouldn’t know what is hiding underneath the plinth, and that it’s been programmed by three different people. You should only see how the water flows and hear its sound,’ says Marcelis.
Beyond the Fendi commission, Marcelis is working on the interiors of a residential building in Moscow designed by MVRDV – her first project on such a scale. She is also developing new designs with a metal manufacturing technique that the studio has been testing for a while. ‘I often worry that people just think of me as a resin and glass person,’ she says. ‘So I’m constantly working with factories and specialists to define new ways of manufacturing materials.’
MARCELIS’ FOUNTAINS ARE INSPIRED BY, FROM LEFT, FENDI’S HQ, THE PALAZZO DELLA CIVILTÀ ITALIANA; ITS SKILLED FUR TAILORING; THE LEATHER STITCHING OF ITS SELLERIA LINE; A LABYRINTH; THE COLOURS OF A ROMAN SUNSET