Syrette Lew knows how to make an impression. When she finally decided to launch her own studio Moving Mountains in 2014, she did so with a bang — debuting her first collection of furniture at ICFF and sweeping up the Editor’s Award for Best Craftsmanship, followed by the Metropolis Design Distinction Award and a host of other accolades. 'That was kind of the real beginning of Moving Mountains,' she says.
Lew doesn’t take any of it for granted, going so far as to say that the name of the studio itself is as much a tribute to her homeland of Hawaii’s northwestward movement, as it is to the feeling of launching a venture of her own. 'Sometimes it literally feels like you’re moving a mountain,' Lew says. On top of that, Lew is committed to working with regional craftsmen and fabricators, resulting in a series of pieces that are playful, yet refined, and have been described as the unlikely pairing of 'Shaker meets Memphis'.
The Hawaii-native's bold, contemporary aesthetic put her on the radar of Cadillac, who recently invited her as one of three studios to create a custom pieces using materials from their exclusive design library — the same high quality samples of laminated woods, carbon fibre, and brushed aluminium that are used in their first ever XT5, a new crossover vehicle for the luxury car company. Always one to push against the unknown, Lew is using this project to reimagine a piece of furniture she’s never designed before: a chaise lounge.
'Like Cadillac, the chaise lounge has a long and interesting history,' says Lew. 'It evolved from the daybed dating back to ancient Egyptian times. In both ancient and classical art, important figures were often depicted in repose on a piece of furniture, signifying power and prestige.'
Cadillac invited Lew to kick off the project with a tour of the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan and a behind-the-scenes look at some of the inspiration behind their own designs. 'Visiting the Cadillac Design Center was like stepping into a mid-century Mecca,' says Lew of the building designed by Eero Saarinen.
Named a National Historic Landmark in 2014, the sprawling 600 acre campus is a stone’s throw away from The Cranbrook Academy of Art, a proximity that yielded several collaborations and partnerships during the mid-century with its graduates and faculty, including Saarinen, Florence Knoll, Charles and Ray Eames, and Henry Bertoia.
'Interestingly, the chaise lounge and daybed had a resurgence during this period,' says Lew of the mid-century. 'Some of the era’s most iconic interpretations were designed by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, the Eameses, and Bertoia. It’s no surprise that all four designers’ work can be seen peppered in the buildings of the GM Tech Center.'
For her own interpretation of the chaise, Lew plans to meld mid-century influences with her own striking aesthetic, using Cadillac materials to bring the final design to life.