Letter: What’s Timeless Design?

Returning from the 56th annual Milan furniture fair, the biggest gathering of manufacturers and designers in Europe that showcases an absolute wealth of innovation and new design, it struck me that three very specific moments stood out.

1. Mark Eley of fashion brand Eley Kishimoto taking snaps with a customised Polaroid camera.

2. The extraordinary array of marble seemingly used everywhere (but, hot news, pink onyx is the new uber-luxe material du jour).

3. A short film about the Austrian artist Peter Handke and his poem, To Duration, shown at the showroom of Italian superbrand B&B Italia.

It seemed hugely ironic to me, that here, in the midst of this festival of the new, my memorable trio are related for being comments on timelessness. Handke’s poem, written 31 years ago, is a thoughtful ode to the passing of time. The Polaroid camera was invented by Edwin H Land in 1943, declared over in 2008 due to low film stock, but brought back from the brink of extinction because one man, Florian Kaps, decided it couldn’t be allowed to die. And marble, well it’s a product that’s millions of years old.

It made me reflect on how happy I am to belong to a generation that straddles both analogue and digital. To recall cassette tapes, four TV channels, home phones with answering machines, Space Invaders on a Commodore and out of order public telephone boxes perhaps enables a more fulsome appreciation of Ocado, online banking, iPhones, Amazon Prime, Instagram, Twitter and Netflix. In other words, if you’re aware of what life was like before the things deemed so commonplace today, you don’t take them for granted; you truly appreciate the improvements they lend to life.

The point is, as we inevitably move forward, exploring new design solutions, embracing ever smarter technology and the opportunities therein for change and betterment (how about a wardrobe with an in-built system that automatically airs and detoxes your clothes?! From Lema. Or a sofa/bed-in-a-closet that really does convert from proper sofa to standard-sized comfortable bed. From Flou.), let us not forget the foundations on which such progress is built. To dismiss them is to fail to acknowledge the ties that inextricably connect all things together. Whether Polaroid, as the first instant image maker, or marble, which will outlast us all, just by existing.

First featured as my Editor’s Letter in the June 2017 edition of ELLE Decoration UK

ELLE Decoration Subscriber cover June 2017

ELLE Decoration Subscriber cover June 2017

 

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