Online | Design

Feast of Flesh

Milan, Italy

British designer Faye Toogood channels an unapologetic female energy into a Milan exhibition that celebrates the shapes and sexuality of the human body. D/A UK catches up with the designer to discuss her creative evolution

Faye Toogood in Milan
cc-tapis rug and Tacchini lounge

The Rude Arts Club is exactly as its name suggests. Almost everything inside this Milan Design Week exhibition, taking place at the showroom of Italian carpet brand cc-tapis, refers in some way to bodily parts. Squishy leather and satin sofas emulate rolls of flesh, while rugs hanging from the walls combine abstract forms of willies, boobs and fallopian tubes with splashes of blood red and pink. For its designer, London-based Faye Toogood, the show is more than just a mischievous provocation. “This is a desire to express a female energy and power, be it bodily and sexually,” explains the Toogood studio founder. “There is a confidence in womanhood that I’m trying to express.”

cc-tapis Rude collection
Toogood's paintings in the Rude Arts Club

The project marks the latest step in a creative evolution that Toogood says began a decade ago when she gave birth to the first of her three children. “It changed everything,’” she says. At the time, she was one of few prominent women in furniture design. Her initial response to this male-dominated world was to try and prove that gender made no difference to her talent or ability. “I was working with steel and welding, and I cut off all my hair,” she recalls. But with motherhood, the desire to be treated like one of the boys faded away. Soon after, in 2014, she launched her now-iconic Roly-Poly chair. Characterised by its chunky legs and voluptuously curved seat, this design – recently named by the New York Times as one of the most defining pieces of furniture from the past 100 years – set the tone for a series of works with a softer and more organic feel.

Model of Squash Chair for Poltrona Frau
Squash pocket mirror prototype

This form language is visible in the various products that Toogood is presenting during Milan Design Week, which includes two new pieces – Assemblage 08 – from her eponymous brand. A particular standout is the Squash armchair she has developed with leather furniture specialist Poltrona Frau, featuring a cushioned backrest that, while not explicit, echoes the form of a bare bottom. But it is the works at Rude Arts Club where Toogood is more in-your-face about the statement she wants to make. “I want my gender to be part of the conversation,” she says.

Toogood paintings inspired by Francis Bacon
Faye Toogood
Satin sofa by Tacchini and cc-tapis rude rugs

The exhibition is a presentation of two collections. The first is the series of rugs with cc-tapis, which recreate a series of paintings by Toogood. Inspired by the expressive works of Francis Bacon, these sculptural carpets combine suggestive shapes with a range of tufting and shagging techniques, resulting in multi-textural pieces that the designer describes as “rugs to roll around on, with lumps and bumps to grab hold of.” These are accompanied by the Cosmic Collection, a range of furniture from Italian brand Tacchini, which brings a sense of 1970s glamour into the mix. They include cushioned mirrors, curving shelves and quilted pendant lights made from a surprisingly paper-like fabric. “I have always used nature as an inspiration,” adds Toogood, “but this is much more of a human nature, the depth of who we are as beings.”

Rude Arts Club is open from 15-21 April 2024 at Piazza Santo Stefano, 10