Raf Simons creates dystopian neighbourhood with Kvadrat in Milan
It’s no small feat during the marathon that is Milan Design Week for a project to make you want to stick around a while. But Kvadrat’s exhibition at Garage Ventuno in collaboration with Raf Simons did exactly that. Now in its sixth iteration, Kvadrat and Raf Simons presented four new textiles in an extraordinary exhibition that encompassed both mid-century architecture and the darlings of the London culinary scene.
Within the industrial space, the Antwerp-based designer installed what can only be described as ‘Raf Simons Suburban’: a vaguely dystopian neighbourhood rendered in the designer’s unique vision. Entitled ‘No Man’s Land’, it consists of a series of prefab wood and steel structures by mid-century architect Jean Prouvé. Outside the cabins’ front doors, shredded textiles are scattered across the floor in lieu of grass, Le Corbusier Lampe Diabolo lights act as street lamps, fences are colourfully constructed from textiles — Novus 1 and Novus 2 both from the new collection — and a monumental front garden featuring a luscious bed of wildflowers by longtime collaborator Mark Colle sprawls outwards towards the entrance. It is exactly what one imagines the suburbs would look like with Simons in charge.
Within the three Prouvé buildings, there is a seating area for visitors — decked out in Rietveld Utrecht chairs by Cassina — a home and a workshop, inside which Kvadrat has narrated the production process that goes into making their sophisticated textiles. The collection includes four new upholstery fabrics influenced by Simons’ interest in fashion, art, music, design and architecture: Atom, Phlox, Novus 1 and Novus 2, which make use of heavy structures like corduroy and jacquard-woven bouclé in wool, cotton, linen and viscose. ‘I am interested in all the qualities that have an origin in fashion like bouclé, tweed and corduroy. Because of the density that is needed for furniture in order to make it last in the long run, it becomes even more interesting I think,’ Simons explains of the new collection.
The job of the neighbourhood’s cafe went to London’s Rochelle Canteen, who have been serving up classic dishes from its much-loved menus, including radishes and cod’s roe, braised squid and roast quail. The cafe strikes a serene balance in comparison to the somewhat eery installation, with bistro style tables decorated with fresh flowers and gently lit from above by the factory’s skylight. Between the snacks and the atmosphere, spending a few hours during the hectic week feels like time well spent. §