The Life of Design In-Betweeners

Inspiration is not always a random step in the world around us. As I find myself once again in the my hometown of New York, I can’t help but immerse myself in its glorious art-scape. With friend and talented artist, Leah Durner, by my side, I spent an inspirational afternoon at the two Met locations soaking in impeccability – with a sumptuously simple coffee break in the middle.

Even halfway around the world though, it seems Italian culture wants me to find it. A harmonious relationship of my two locations often finds them mixing in the most unexpected of ways. The Ettore Sottsass exhibit at the Met Breuer was one of these moments.

“We are pursued all the time by enigma. It is what the culture of rationalism, of American consumerism, doesn’t want to hear or understand.” – Ettore Sottsass.

Sottsass was an undeniable trailblazer  – for me personally and those I’ve worked with in design from my start. His influence with the design group Memphis recently filled the pages of my Compendium. The Met Breuer brought the Italian designer’s now-iconic aesthetic and seminal designs to fore in this well-curated show.

Layered complexities coexist with purposefulness of form. Leah and I agreed: From his palettes, shapes and mixed surfaces – like a burled wood chest with sun-hued drawers and brushed gold knobs –  his work criss-crossed the lines of art and design. The work is so cleverly characterized by boldness. A broader design discourse than most, he brought architectural elements to life with anthropomorphic designs – while always maintaining the essential dignity of the object’s functionality. There is no way to define categorization with Sottsass.

Walking out of the Breuer, Leah and I decided to continue on to the main Met, just a few blocks up and to the left, but not before after a practically wordless accord, passing Sant’Ambroeus. Here is deliciously authentic espresso served in properly-sized porcelain cups, like a mini-Milan on the Upper East Side.

The vibe of Rei Kawakubu’s lines are timeless. Why do I want to meet these ladies somehow?

Moving to Fifth Avenue, the theme of not-to-be-categorized genius continued into the Rei Kawakubo exhibit at the Met Costume Institute. Thousands might have noticed her creations and variations on the attendees of the 2017 Met Gala, whose theme was, Commes de Garçons or Art of the In-between.

In the show itself, each vignette of outfits was a playground of patterns stitched and bundled together with intricacies unfolded far beyond the garments themselves. Kawakubo’s works overlap ideas of art and fashion. She not only creates a particular look, but she expresses a story with it. Stories that bring light to femininity, juxtapositions, childhood, punk, fetishes, death and more.

Both I and my exhibition companion found ourselves alternating between observing, sharing and adoring – pinging our own histories and styles with pure admiration inspired by this pair of out-of-the-box designers. The shows themselves were enhanced by this uplifting exchange.

No matter where I find myself design is a constant story in every step. Whether you seek the creative spirit on your own, or it finds you in the unlikeliest of places, there is no doubt that true beauty speaks to us no matter the material. Sottsass and Kawakubo assure us of that.