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Maison & Objet - The Sporting Life

September 12, 2011

Each season, the organizers of SAFI commission - some of the most influential designers and thinkers of our time - project their concepts of what they foresee for the future onto the stage at Maison & Objet.
I must admit that I approach those presentations with caution, if only because many times their execution falls short of the concept headlines. However, there is one - among roughly a half dozen such presentations here - which did intrigue and fully captivate me, and I believe that its premise is both valid and, if fully realized, could have a big impact on future design thinking for both apparel and home.
In fact, the beginning signs have already begun to surface in apparel.
Francois Bernard, the designer who presents this concept here, believes that sports will become a major source of inspiration and influence on home design. His thesis is this:
"Our age is one of high performance - high performance that's required at every level. On the human level, we are required to stay young, fit, good looking and healthy to meet the challenges of high performance."
The designer believes that the same will be expected in the future of objects and furnishings by using high performance techniques and materials imported from horse back riding, football, tennis and other sports thereby breaking with the historical formal language of design.
If you think that we have already had all manner of sportswear inspired by sports from Nike to Polo and Lululemon-, think again. This is an entirely different proposition fed by technology and digital and virtual applications.
The designer is proposing nothing short of re-inventing objects and textiles by using sports as a departure point in a totally new way. Examples to prove his point: re-invented chairs using carbon fiber, rubber and plastics with an "athletic feel" that meet high performance requirements such as flexibility, light-weightness, qualities that are and can be both supple and taut. Ball court netting is used for the seating part of a bench, protective padding for sleeping, skateboards for shelving - all taken from sports activities and sports venues.
I was just getting excited and comfortable with this idea when I picked up the International Herald Tribune this morning to come across one of Suzy Menkes' insightful reviews of some of the newest fashion collections that opened in New York just the day before.
Here, in part, is what she said: "The digital revolution has transformed the fashion industry. A new generation at home in cyberspace is pushing ahead and challenging that the American is primarily about sportswear..."
On Victoria Beckman - "Whether the soccer energy of her husband has infiltrated her psyche or whether she just wanted change, her powerful new vision included athletic straps at the shoulders of her garments as the only decoration, color blocking and industrial zippers. Altuzarra came forth with a performance sportswear vibe emanating from protective utility padding.
"Pabral Gurung used a sport sensibility to toughen his collection using tulle-like athletic inserts and cutting a racing back out of silk."
These may be just straws in the wind, but we should watch closely to see how fast and how many will follow suit in further exploring the idea of sport-like high performance design for apparel and home.
Given that sports are an integral part of the DNA of every country in the world, it could