We’re very proud and excited to collaborate with Quinze & Milan and FLOR during NY Design Week. These two companies represent everything that’s good about design: innovation, smart functionality, humor and a desire to make people happy. We wanted to find out more about the people behind these brands, and thought you might like to get to know them better, too. So we asked our own Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder Bradford Shellhammer to pick a person from each brand for a personal Q&A. Here’s what he came back with.
First out is Bradford’s conversation with PieterJan Mattan, the brand/creative director of Quinze & Milan. This is actually the second time PieterJan gets quizzed by Bradford. The first interview took place two years ago, and you can read it here.
BS: For those who have not encountered your work before, how would you describe Quinze & Milan’s products and philosophy?
PJM: Definitely colorful, carefree, whimsical and innovative. Quinze & Milan is unique because we offer a comprehensive selection of completely customizable furniture. We mainly work with architectural and interior design firms, and we aim to be a fresh and open-minded label that evokes creativity, comfort, quality, excitement and ingenuity.
Your signature material is QM FOAM, a durable concoction of polyurethane and other components. What’s so great about it?
Our work emerges from a desire to experiment. Experimentation allows us to discover completely new techniques, for ourselves as a manufacturer and for other designers and architects, and one of them is QM FOAM. In the late Nineties, Primary Pouf 01 with its delirious and over-the-top colors, started off the commercial success of foam-coating, and QM FOAM rapidly became a much appreciated material by both interior architects and residential customers. The material was a statement, it did away with the fabric upholstery that normally hides the foam from the eye, and was characterized by its obviousness and clear tight lines, allowing very abstract geometric shapes. It’s a durable, soft and playful water- and weather resistant compound that can be cleaned with just soap and water, making it well suited for public places and both in- and outdoor use.
For our collaboration, you built a huge mountain of your popular Primary Poufs as an installation. What was the concept behind that?
Pouf 01 stays our most popular item, and the stack installation we created has been a classic part of our showroom settings and product displays worldwide. We’re not your classic run-of-the-mill furniture business. It illustrates and reflects both the lightness and versatility of the product as well as the energy and vibe of the brand.
You’re also helping us with the design of our pop-up shop (thank you very much). What’s in store? Get it, in store?!
Ha! We love Fab, and loved working together on this project. The SoHo pop-up store looks great, and exclusively for NY Design Week on May 17th, Fab will be launching special flash sales for our popular Pouf 01, Jellyfish chair and new Pilot stool - which will be a US first! All pieces will be on display in the store, matching the eclectic selection of inspirational items from Fab’s Color Shop.
Quinze & Milan is known to collaborate with partners that range from backpack manufacturers to fellow design firms to us. What makes collaborations interesting for you?
Like everyone, we’re just very curious about the unknown, and as it’s all about design - the creative industry has become a great, unlimited resource with endless possibilities. Our collabs are unique experiments that allow us to mix our brand DNA and design approach with other iconic products, manufacturers and designers or brands that we admire. They feed our team’s creativity and allow us to go outside our comfort zone, into other worlds. A big firm has a harder time navigating those waters than a smaller cross-disciplinary firm like ours; we blend easily. Our studio is a think tank for ideas, concepts and visual culture. And it’s all about full engagement, you either join the club or you don’t.
The Pilot stool looks like a mix of a futuristic lounge seat and something you’d find in a farm kitchen. Can you tell us about the concept?
Pilot’s original design comes from two young Austrian designers, Patrick Rampelotto and Fritz Pernkopf. The organically shaped seat takes its cues from a new innovative 3D propylene technique, which we further developed and combined with legs in high quality European oak. But what we really liked about it, is its basic simplicity in form and function. It’s a very clever and compact piece, and just really well designed. We only work with designers that can capture the essence of our brand in a way that resonates with us.
Lastly, Fab’s hosting David Weeks and AREAWARE’s giant foam robot, whom you co-created. How was he born and what’s his name?
Keep it down, he was born on a journey from a relatively new planet, in a planetary system far far away in time and space. We gave him birth, but he was designed by Cubebot-genius David Weeks. Noel (Wiggins, AREAWARE) calls him Big Red.
From here we move on to our chat with Greg Colando, FLOR’s trailblazing President, who, together with the company’s Creative VP Chip DeGrace, has reinvented the concept of carpet flooring. Instead of dingy wall-to-wall coverings, FLOR offers modular squares in vibrant shades and patterns that are fun, creative, eco-friendly, practical and modern.
BS: One thing we have in common is that we believe that design can improve people’s lives. What are some of the ways that FLOR makes people smile?
GC: FLOR doesn’t copy trends, rather we take trends that exist in the marketplace and put our own FLOR spin on them. We cut them up into squares and let customers participate in the design process, creating something that is unique to their style and space, and that makes people smile.
You believe that design should provide solutions. Taking this to a global scale, what kind of problems do you think design could help resolve?
We need to build products that are responsible and speak to today’s living and economic conditions, and products that ensure we’re taking care of our environment as we create these solutions. Where and how do people live, what is their perspective on design, what are their outside interests? No matter what the answers are to those questions, we need to design towards the answers. It’s a bigger design philosophy and our products need to reflect that.
Your business model was a response to changes you noticed in consumer behavior. Can you tell me about what you saw and how it inspired FLOR?
Back in 2002, there were some trends that were coming into play, among them:
o The Internet was continuing its sharp incline as the place for consumers to conduct commerce.
o People were moving back into the city and thus needed products to fit that lifestyle.
o With the rise in urban development, hardwood floors were taking the main stage as the flooring of choice.
These trends led to a need for a smarter flooring solution that was more adaptable, portable and easy to live with; and the need for a place online to experience and purchase that solution… naturally, FLOR was born.
But that’s the past. What we’re focused on is today and tomorrow. The next generation of buyers has an appreciation for quality products and timeless design. This will re-cast DIY into the forefront as consumers will want to repair and sustain with their own personal touch, rather than dispose and repurchase. This inspires FLOR more than ever because we can’t wait to be a part of the creation and design of the next generation of consumers.
How has FLOR contributed to reinventing the design industry?
To many, design has always felt exclusive to those who had a hand in it or the ability to practice it. FLOR fosters collaboration between designers (us) and consumers, allowing consumers the chance to participate in the development of their products and solutions. We think it’s imperative that customers add their authentic pieces of how they live into the design of their solution.
FLOR allows consumers to create their own patterns and color combos. What’s your own favorite personal creation?
I’ve always had a love affair with Modern Mix. To me, it says it all with its luxurious look and feel, combined with the live-ability of the modular solution.
And, lastly, you’ve let us, along with Quinze & Milan, invade your Soho store for a week. Whatever made you do such a thing?
Partner with like-minded designers like Fab… showcase Quinze & Milan’s new product launch in our flagship store… participate in Soho’s one-of-a-kind ICFF design culture… how could we resist?