Raw Edges design studio brings a sense of childlike wonder to three projects during Milan Design Week 2019
When London-based designers Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay first appeared on the scene in 2009 with the whimsical Stack shelves for Established & Sons, it was clear their foundling studio had a point of view. It’s in this spirit that Raw Edges has continued over the last decade, creating playful pieces that toy with perception for brands like Moroso, Kvadrat, Wonderglass, Swarovski, Moustache and Cappellini.
During Milan Design Week this year, the pair – who met while studying in Jerusalem followed by the Royal College of Art – released new collections with Louis Vuitton, Japanese manufacturer Conde House and Spanish rug company GAN, a trifecta of projects that show the breadth of Raw Edges’ design thinking and experimentation.
Design Anthology UK caught up with Alkalay toward the beginning of the week, a busy time when the studio’s installations were being finalised and presentation hiccups dealt with. Mer was unfortunately caught up at Palazzo Serbelloni, where Raw Edges was unveiling Dolls – the studio’s third collaboration with Louis Vuitton for its Objets Nomades collection. The Dolls family is made up of six chair components: 2 types of chunky base, 3 different backrests and a cushion that when assembled “look like little figurines, inspired by toys,” says Alkalay. Inspiration came a few years earlier when the duo designed an exhibition at Vitra Design Museum to showcase the work of American designer Alexander Girard. “He had a collection of thousands of folk dolls and we were so intrigued by the richness of material and colour and shapes, and we wanted to try to grasp that same feeling for Dolls. We wanted the design to look very friendly, almost like something a child would play with,” says Alkalay. “When you see kids they’re so excited about everything. They want to touch, they want to learn, they want to play and see how things work. With adults, we think we know everything already. We get bored easily. So as a studio we wanted to play with that.”
When you see kids they’re so excited about everything. They want to touch, they want to learn, they want to play and see how things work. With adults, we think we know everything already. We get bored easily. So as a studio we wanted to play with that
In the same vein, the new wool rugs for GAN are an example of how Mer and Alkalay can turn a simple idea on its head. Called Backstitch, the collection recreates the chaotic beauty of the backside of traditional embroidery in three designs produced by hand on looms by the GAN Women’s Unit. “When you get embroidery, at least European style, from the front you see something like a nice rose and lettering, and from the back it is way messier,” says the designer. “That really appealed to us. It’s so nice that something can be so unplanned and yet still have beauty. The idea is that simple.”
Which leads to Raw Edges’ new furniture collection, Crust, with Hokkaido-based manufacturer, Conde House – a collaboration supported by Japan Creative, which connects Japanese manufacturers with internationally known designers in hope of bringing Japanese craftsmanship and design sensibility to the world. Like with GAN, Raw Edges’ concept isn’t overly complicated. It focuses on the idea of two parts joining together and the material of Hokkaido, wood, along with Conde House’s technical capability. But as always, there is a slight twist: “Conde House was founded 50 years ago with the idea to bring European design to Japan, which is funny because if you look at the collection, there is nothing Japanese about it. It looks like it’s from Scandinavia.”