Designing Luxury: Marcel Wanders
Among the group of designers and makers that work within the luxury field, there is a small number of individuals who, through their practice, are able to achieve a very rare feat. These designers can expand the definition of luxury through their design collections commissioned by a particular brand. When modern training and talent are combined along with peerless manufacturing expertise, the results can be lust-worthy.
In this new series, we will take a look at the designers creating the next generation of luxury. Their endless design inquiry often pushes the established limits of manufacturing with extraordinary results. The hiring of a star designer is not uncommon practice. In some instances though, the expertise and innovation these individuals bring to their field often transcend what is possible without collaboration.
For this edition, we will concentrate on the work of Dutch designer Marcel Wanders.
Marcel Wanders came to worldwide attention in 1996 for his iconic Knotted Chair, which paired high-tech materials with ‘low-tech’ production methods. While he designs for many firms, Wanders also maintains a very active private practice. While considered star-designers for their ability to fuse their style to a brand’s code, the majority of them offer genuinely stellar talent.
According to Marcel, his mission is to “create an environment of love, live with passion and make our most exciting dreams come true”. His work excites, provokes, and polarises, and never fails to surprise, due to its ingenuity, daring and singular quest to entertain the user.
Over the past few years, Baccarat has commissioned several collections from Marcel Wanders. Wanders dreamed up “United Crystal Woods”, a collection bringing together several design elements of the company: “La Fôret des Songes,” multipurpose candle jars decorated with a lace pattern etched to various thickness; “Les Rois de la Fôret,” monumental cut vases of polished metal or marble bases (the latter available as a limited edition only); “L’Ivresse des Bois,” a set of elegant wine glasses and carafes. And finally, “L’Esprit des Bois,” an improbable family of deer and stags, made of polished stainless steel and wood encased in etched crystal.
Wanders’ collections for Baccarat achieve the aesthetic equivalent of effortless elegance, objects of Savile-Row-garment quality, that allow their viewer to instantly assimilate them visually. They are future heirlooms.
Recently, Wanders produced his interpretation of the famous Baccarat Zenith Chandelier, named Roi Soleil (Sun King). This spectacular piece deconstructs the historical antecedent by redesigning the contours and softening its angles. The chandelier is conceived as an engineering tour de force. Its bent branches are stretched and distorted, while its crystal shades adorned with cut crystal motifs make the piece almost embraceable.
Wanders mixes innovative materials and techniques with references to well known historical styles and archetypes, so users can easily connect to the pieces. Combining Wanders’ love for organic form, Le Roi Soleil owes its execution to the extreme technological know-how of the masters at Baccarat. The spherical shape of the piece is almost an optical illusion, crystal distorted, spherically as seen through a magnifying lens. In a photograph, the piece could be dismissed as a piece inserted in the scene by a special-effects wizard.
As in his other pieces, the designer’s chief concern is to bring the human touch back to design, ushering in what he calls design’s ‘new age;’ in which designer, craftsperson and user are reunited. In his process, Wanders defies design dogma, preferring instead of focus on holistic rather than technocratic solutions. Like Rena Dumas at Hermès, Wanders is of a generation of designers capable of powerfully affecting the development of the definition of luxury. His approach of conceptualizing pieces whose function and form reflect and define our idea of modern luxury.