As with design trends of the past, design always lags behind literature trends by 10 to 20 years. The 1980s minimalism of literature gave way to a new cultural hybridity, where the individual’s physical self and cultural self can be two different halves of the same whole. The battle of theatrical and perfect versus the authentic and imperfect is leading to “a rejection of the minimalism that dominated the world we grew up in—a style that began as industrial and makeshift and gradually progressed to extravagant and precious.” This cultural hybridity is no longer restricted in time, place, style or the emotional range of the space.
Examples of the movement show a curiosity, almost ravenous appetite, for found objects and existing conditions, the use of unexpected materials in unpredictable ways, and the poetically juxtaposed. Decorating by the book is considered dry and unimaginative. These design rebels, referred to by the New York Times as the New Antiquarians, are spreading their rough luxe mantra of authenticity. The Future Laboratory is predicting authenticity as the next big thing and in their April 2009 trend report, called “Inspire: Rough Luxe,” stated, it “celebrates a heavy rawness erring on the artisanal. Because of the downturn, consumers are taking a bit longer to think about a purchase and they want to buy into a story.”
Valerie Steele, the director of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology, says of the New Antiquarians, “It’s way more than anti-modernism, this sort of deep spelunking into the past. It’s not aspirational and it’s not nostalgic. It’s a fantasy world that is almost entirely a visual collage. It’s a stitched-together, bricolage world, an alternative world. Authenticity is such a fed-up idea. But collecting these old things, it’s like there is an aura attached to them. It’s not some prepackaged product being foisted on you by a big corporation. Too bad it’s going to be commodified. Everything in the fashion world gets hoovered up.”
Axel Vervoordt’s philosophy is, “Make people happy; make them discover things in themselves; make them feel at home and love their house.” With a love of everything that is real, the Belgian designer will recreate anything he cannot find and make it real. He says his spaces have a “timeless, universal feel and are not fashionable.”
The well known architectural and interior photographer François Halard’s frequent commissions for Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ and House & Garden have caught the eye of Armani, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Yves Saint-Laurent, Hugo Boss and Ann Taylor. The photographer is fascinated by these artists and their creative dwellings, which has led to several collaborations. He describes the spaces as “autobiographical and a reflection of the soul.”
Rei Kawakubo, Japanese fashion designer and founder of Comme des Garçons, has been designing anti-fashion, austere, and deconstructed garments since the 1970s. She integrates graphic design, advertising and shop interiors as a part of one vision, deliberately synchronized.
Collectors like Hollister and Porter Hovey, sisters with an appetite for late 19th-century relics like apothecary cabinets and dressmakers' dummies, are turning their homes into pastiches of the past.
The New York Times article, The New Antiquarians, presented these modern rebels as searching for a “new vintage life,” as the smooth surfaces of modern design having lost its allure.
Sean Crowley, a neckware designer at Ralph Lauren, and Meredith Modzelewski’s apartment features Edwardian-style portraits, heraldic devices and mounted antlers. The connection between the objects and the impulse to acquire them is not nostalgia, they say. It is “the draw of authenticity, whether it's an aesthetic, a recipe or a technique.”
Ryan Matthew collects Victorian oddities like domestic taxidermy and osteological antiques. His shop, Against Nature, just opened last week in Manhattan.
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