In tandem with Los Angeles’ fast-expanding art scene, the city’s design community is also having a moment of heightened productivity, with affordable space and easy access to manufacturing meaning more studios are setting up on the west coast. But what’s defining this particular moment of renaissance in LA’s design?
According to Fredrik Carlström, the Swedish-born founder of Austere, it’s playfulness. 'Not sure if it's the sun, or the more affordable work-life balance or the influx of new people, but the LA design scene is more playful and less constrained by commercial reality than design coming from, say New York or London. LA has such a burgeoning scene of… everything, frankly. What was once thought of as a one-industry town is now a real epicenter for creativity in general, and design in particular.'
In recognition of the current mode of autonomous Angeleno productivity, Austere – a space dedicated to showcasing design talent and innovation, with tangential programmed events, exhibitions, lectures and screenings in-store – opened a survey of contemporary design, Site Specific LA, curated by Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov of the digital magazine Sight Unseen.
Showcasing a selection of furniture and products from some of the best established and emerging studios working in the city now, the show includes pieces such as Jonathan Zawada’s ‘Affordances Table’, and the Professor Chair by Only Love is Real. Other new names to watch include Ouli, based in Echo Park – who produce ‘physical and non physical designs’ with an earthy quality – and Silverlake’s Waka Waka, with their pragmatic, no-fuss handmade objects and furniture.
Aside from offering a comprehensive view of what’s happening within the local scene now, with design items for sale in time for the holiday season, Austere also presents a Mast Brothers shop. The chocolatiers have built an installation specific to the space, taking over part of Austere's downstairs space. Mast Brothers’ founder Rick Mast lived in the city for several years, and the temporary shop is a precursor to their first independent store opening in the Arts District in January 2016. Among the items available to buy is a limited edition chocolate bar, made in collaboration with Austere, with a wrapping inspired by vintage Swedish candies, that Carlström enjoyed growing up in Stockholm.