Every May, the New York design industry showcases what’s new and next – taking over the city’s boroughs in a marathon month that encompasses five fairs (ICFF, Wanted Design Brooklyn and Manhattan, Sight Unseen, and Brooklyn Designs) and countless events, in what seems more like a cultural event than a trade show. This year’s edition saw cross-disciplinary collaborations, show stopping showroom installations, emerging independent work and passionate debates amongst industry thought leaders – the most ambitious yet! A non-stop party for the eyeballs and constant inspiring “aha!” moments — we’ve distilled the whole spectrum of events into our top four lasting impressions. Let’s begin.

1. BLURRING THE LINES BETWEEN INDOOR, OUTDOOR AND BEYOND

Lighter, brighter surrounds to enhance productivity and wellbeing is the resounding focus for interiors this year. We saw strong botanical influences in lighting, flooring and furniture throughout showrooms and installations, combining natural elements with conventionally indoor settings and products to give environments a new and fresh perspective.

Top left: Kartell lighting. Top right, clockwise: WANTED Design Manhattan installation, Tom Dixon showroom, Kartell floral lighting, Deloitte Digital NYC ceiling. Bottom right: Luvere Studio at Wanted Manhattan. Bottom left, clockwise: Kartell & and La Double J Collaboration – seating and prints, Alessandra Branca interiors, Marcia Tucker interiors, A/D/O initiative.

The “mash up” of different environments creates a fully realised experience and we’re seeing this approach extend further with selected elements from spaces such as work, theatre, hospitality and outdoor combining and coexisting to reflect a more connected and integrated environment. Spaces are evolving to enhance our experience and benefit our wellbeing and lives. 

The Etsy mission fully realised through their new Brooklyn, New York HQ by Genzler. Image via http://bit.ly/2xPDNyP
Revealing the local landscape, beauty of Japanese history, craft and materials whilst highlighting the delicate cuisine to create geographically relevant materials and a fully immersive space by the Rockwell Group. Images via http://bit.ly/2JB7rN1

2. MEMPHIS MAXIMALISM

In case you’ve been living off the grid the past year, the 80s Memphis design movement has reemerged featuring loud colours and punchy graphics with maximum appeal to the visual currency of Instagram. As in the past, it seems this resurgence of maximalism is reactive to the abundance of sleek, “tasteful”, mid-century minimalism which has become so repetitive. The look has extended beyond fashion to become extensive installations seen at Sasha Bikoff’s technicolour staircase, Raquel’s Dream House and Camille Walala’s monolithic mural of an Industry City building facade… amongst others.

Top left, clockwise: Sasha Bikoff staircase, Ettore Sottsass Ultrafragola mirror and Steve Leonard gold chairs, Camille Walala mural, Raquel Cayre x Vibes Studio coloured stairs, R & Company furniture, Raquel’s Dream House Pink Cookie Monster, Barbara Ostrom Associates ceiling, Aliahn and Annie at Dream Machine Museum.
Staircase views by Sasha Bikoff Interiors at the Kips Bay Designer Showhouse.
Gaetano Pesce at Raquel’s Dream House.

An emerging theme at the Kips Bay Designer Showhouse – Maximalism is also taking on a 70s retro glamour look with chunky geometries, clean lines, tubular forms, soft furnishings and graphic patterns in muted, pastel colours such as peachy terracota, sage, olive green and mustards. We’re also seeing spots of bold retro colour and metallic finishes to add more luxury and glamour – taking strong influences from the fashion industry. Many cross-disciplinary collaborators this year included trendy downtown boutiques such as Opening Ceremony, Creatures of Comfort and Philip Lim in Sight Unseen’s curatorial project, further emphasising fashion’s collide with furniture and interiors this year.

Top row from L to R: Stefan Steil Interiors, DDC gold chair, Enylee Parker at ICFF. 2nd row from L to R: Drake / Anderson lighting, Rosie Li at ICFF, Emotional Brands at ICFF. Bottom row from L to R: R and Company “SuperDesign” leopard works, Opening Ceremony x Crosby Studios for Sight Unseen, MOOOI showroom.
Seductive salon moods by Drake / Anderson for the Kips Bay Design Showhouse.

3. EXPRESSION, MOVEMENT & PERSPECTIVES

Its been a tough year for brick and mortar retailers, with a string of closures on previously bustling streets, which explains showrooms and retail spaces thinking deeper and exploring the potential of the physical space. Kartell, Tom Dixon and MOOOI (just to name a few) covered every inch of their space with sensorially magical compositions through colour, form, materiality and sound. It was an organised flow through the set-ups, a journey of exploration to uncover moments of surprise and delight. The time spent in the space was memorable, conversations were created and connections were formed not only with each other but with the uniquely designed environment.

Surprise and delight moments at the new Tom Dixon showroom launch on Greene St, NYC.

Designs are more expressive with familiar products now in motion and changing to redefine our experiences. Objects need to be observed from different angles to see the entire perspective and its varying forms such as Tom Dixon’s new MELT range – giving birth to completely new designs and expressions. We attended an exhibit of upcoming artists who created multi-disciplinary works with emotion and expressions of feeling as the core function – re-thinking built constructs.

Emerging artists creating work with emotion as function at the ‘Thing-like Being’ exhibit

New developments such as OLED and 3D-knitting technology allows common products to be flexible, with new possibilities to bend and move. The Spun Chair phenomenon by Thomas Heatherwick for Magis gives conventional materials a twist and adds rotational movement to the sitting experience. Technology is advancing traditional materials, manufacturing and application, allowing us to rethink and experiment to provoke change, more expression and dynamic uses.

Top Left: Rhode Island School of Design works. Top right: Luke Lamp Company. Bottom right, clockwise: MOOOI stool with moving tassels, MOLO shape shifting urchin light at ICFF, The Coast Studio Either/Or lighting concept. Bottom left: Susan on the Spun Chair by Thomas Heatherwick for Magis.
Vases by Gaetano Pesce made by resin to add movement and expression, reimagining conventional forms

4. INTERGALACTIC WONDERS

If Elon Musk is doing it, it must be worth exploring! The moon, stars, space and beyond have always been sources of inspiration but there seems to be a larger focus on the subtle textures, forms and abstract interpretations this year. We saw cosmic drivers throughout our visit in installations, lightings and furnishings – an influence we’re interested to see develop into the stupendous wonder and mystery that our galaxy inhabits.

Top left, clockwise: MOOOI showroom, Liz Collins Cave of Secrets installation, Artemide Skydro, Artemide Light, ABC Home cushion, Richard Clarkson Studio cloud light, Wanted Design Manhattan Lighting, ABC Home Moon Table.
Lighting by Ayala Serfaty

… and some more splendid moments from NYCxDESIGN below.

Spring time in Lower East Side, Manhattan NYC.
The Principal’s “Golden Arch” installation for Sight Unseen at Saturdays NYC.
Heavenly Bodies at the Met.
The Sharpley family before SOHO Design District opening night.

What an absolute feast for the senses! It was a trip that made us wish for more hours in the day AND collapse from over stimulation at the same time – so many inspiring and motivating moments to take away.  We’ve tried our hardest to condense our thoughts into four main takeaways but if you’d like more information please get in touch via aming@tsar.com.au. 

 

To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, TSAR co-founder Kerrie Sharpley reflects on her journey as a textiles artist, business partner and most importantly a mother.

Tell us your story. What path lead you to textiles and then to start your business?

Everyone had a hobby when I was growing up – knitting, cake decorating, wood work, china painting. It was the women mentors in my life that were the greatest influence.   Being shown the art of doiley embroidery at the age of 7 was the beginning of a long love affair with stitching and textiles.

I became a textiles teacher after studying the subject at university, then took a solo one-year backpacking trip through Asia. Indigenous textiles dictated my travel destinations – I worked with Batik Artists in Indonesia, embroidered with tribes in the Golden Triangle, wove on a backstrap loom with women in the Philippines, knotted rugs in Nepal, block printed and made felt in India and wove string bags in Papua New Guinea. The traditional textile creators were almost exclusively women. They were generous, fun-loving and caring.

Kerrie visiting textiles heaven – the Golden Triangle Hill Tribes, Chiang Mai in 1984.

My obsession with textiles took me in all sorts of directions – working as an artist-in-residence at schools and hospitals, exhibiting original works, designing costumes, teaching millinery and tailoring and dress-making for brides, before meeting David in 1987. This was when I began my 30-year career in custom designed and made rugs and carpets, drawing and colouring my designs by hand whilst David made the rugs himself – a very different time.

TSAR royalty – Kerrie and David Sharpley

We moved to Granada, Spain when my first son was two to set up and train in hand tufting in an 80 year old rug making business. I was extremely fortunate to work with Antonio Molyon, a designer of classical style hand-knotted rugs with 44 years of experience.  When we returned to Australia I found that I was one of a few who knew how to design European classical style rugs.  It was a bonanza.

Kerrie pioneering European classical style designs in Australia.
Kerrie as design lead for the Palazzo Versace Hotel Project in QLD – still there today.

TSAR expanded beyond Australian shores in 2014, a resurgence of the business that took us on another great adventure. We took our family to live in New York for two years simply because we could! Life in New York is an endless opportunity and an Aladdin’s cave for the creative spirit.

The NYC showroom opening in 2014.

What’s been your favourite aspect about TSAR and being part of the textiles industry?

I have always loved the next challenge.  It has not always been directly related to design or textiles but it has led to my ever-expanding skillset and developing interests in data, analytics and business management. I love finding ways to streamline work practises, to make the workplace a more productive but less stressful place to be.  We all spend a great proportion of our lives in a workplace, so my goal is to make it an enjoyable place to excel (literally, I love an excel sheet).

You’ve been in the industry for many years, do you think being a woman and a mother has impacted your career?

I’ve had the privilege of being able to tailor my work-life to fit around raising three wonderful children.  David and I decided early on that my responsibilities in the business would match my need to be a mother first and foremost. I was very lucky. I didn’t ever feel that gnawing guilt and frustration that many women who lack flexibility in their workplace experience. Whichever way a woman chooses – to work full-time, be a full-time mother, strike a balance between both or not have children, she will be faced with the challenges of people’s opinions, societal norms and pressures as well as staying true to themselves.

Kerrie and her son Aliahn colouring designs together.

How have you seen the role of women in the industry evolve over your career? What are the shifts you’ve noticed?

It seems to me that in the last 50 years there has been a total flip. There’s a much more sophisticated understanding of a woman’s many roles in life and the choices we make. There is more compassion, support and the path in business, motherhood, whatever it may be has less obstacles. A lot of very lucky women today have the choice to design their own lives – but of course, there is still a long way to go. Unsupported interrupted careers, glass ceilings, unequal pay are a blight in a woman’s life pursuit.

Beyond the workplace, I think we are seeing profound shifts in the paradigm of women’s rights. Women today are more united than ever! The result of truly unfortunate and deeply disturbing events in politics and the entertainment industry has led to the next uprise – we’re smashing and questioning the behaviours of the powerful, the rich and the system as a whole, this time with different tools that reach world wide. Women are coming together to support each other more than ever – it’s an exciting time.

Kerrie and the TSAR women from the Melbourne HQ.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt in your career?

If you can – love your work, always set a challenge, acknowledge your successes and don’t be afraid of not being perfect or the best.

You don’t have to go to war to speak out.

What are some of your rituals that keep you grounded, motivated, focused and continuously creative?

I have always had a studio or a corner at home. It’s the reverie of time in the creative zone that is addictive and clears the way to make the most of life. I weave creativity into our lives at all levels.

Apart from that, I think I was born creative so can’t help it.

Kerrie’s button and patterned fabric collection in her studio.

Who and what inspired/influenced you to be the creative you are today? Who do you admire?

Colour. My earliest memory was being mesmerised by the sun illuminating scarlet roses outside our kitchen window.  I was very young.  Then there were the flowers that my aunt grew. She taught me about gardening, a passion I still have.  Then there were the parrots my father kept, I collected the feathers for their brilliant colours.

Kerrie’s obsession with bold colours wherever she goes – in her studio and on the streets on NYC.

As for my biggest inspirations, I admire people who are able to be true to themselves – despite societal pressures, any imposed rules or consequences.  I meet these people every day, and they come from a myriad of backgrounds and professions. What truly inspires me is seeing a person following the beat of their own drum.

What’s next? Can you share some of your current projects/visions/goals?

I have just spent the summer revisiting a technique that I learned over 35 years ago.  Stay tuned on that one, I will be unveiling a very exciting project in the near future.

I also love hanging around young people, they are so inspiring and quite frankly much funnier than most people my age. I want to share my skills with those who yearn for a creative voice so am working on my dream of an open studio where people can come hang out, create and learn about textiles.

I’m also deeply concerned about the future of the planet. I know we have the capability to correct our behaviour, to practise more sustainably and focus on making daily improvements. I continue to create, recycle and mend my own clothes to avoid destructive fast fashion. I believe that nurturing creativity to develop inner strength and resilience will provide the tools to make choices for the good of all.

If you could sum up your view of the world in 5 words?

On the cusp of change.

(All images from Kerrie’s personal archive)