Foun­tain head

Sabine Marcelis goes with the flow for Fendi’s lat­est De­sign Mi­ami col­lab­o­ra­tion

Wallpaper - - December - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: QIU YANG WRITER: YOKO CHOY

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

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