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The designer chats with Luo Jingmei about Danish design and her latest work over in Milan.
Lightness, simplicity and brevity of expression characterise Cecilie Manz’s creations. The Danish designer, whose portfolio includes designs like the popular ‘Caravaggio’ lamp for Lightyears and recently, Bang & Olufsen’s new ‘BeoLit 12’ portable player, met Luo Jingmei during Milan Design Week to talk about Danish design and her new ‘minuscule’ chair for Fritz Hansen.
Outside the showroom sits a craftsman demonstrating the stitching of the chair
Tell me about the ‘minuscule’ chair.
I was quite fascinated by this ‘in-between’ meeting [scenario] or landscape of leftover spaces, where you leave the conference table, go aside and actually do the real business next to the coffee machine or just in a corner. [The form was derived] very much from the idea of this private sphere where you can’t be looked at from behind so you [are] comfortable and relaxed when discussing or just having a conversation – the rounded shape was quite obvious from the beginning. And we also tried to [make it] not so fluffy where you’re sitting and it’s so soft you can’t get up. It should be firm and not too low.
The chair and low table version of ‘minuscule’
Why plastic for the legs?
So I had the freedom of shaping it the way I wanted. The curves – you can’t do it in iron or steel. The fact that it was matte and had this silky finish… I think it’s very nice. [It] makes plastic delicate. And the dimension of it is much slimmer than if we had done it in wood, etc.
The detail of the leather trim contouring the chair’s shell
Why did you decide to name this chair ‘minuscule’?
I actually find it hard to pronounce myself! (Laughs) Perhaps [because] it’s a bit understated, not shouting out in capital [letters, for the] in-between, going aside for small talk…
Sketches and models by Manz for the ‘minuscule’ chair on exhibition
Why do you think Danish design is so simple, that a little captures so much?
I think it’s something about how we live – maybe not today, but 100 years ago…the story of being modest and not using too much material, because we didn’t have much material. That’s shaping us; it’s a cultural thing. You could say, when you walk through Copenhagen everything is designed – like the bus stop, everything around you. Somehow it’s important.
’minuscule’ emblazoned out front at the Fritz Hansen showroom
What do you think is the current approach many contemporary Danish designers are taking?
You could say one answer is that we are struggling with our past because it’s so strong. (Laughs) I guess the challenge is to use it in a positive way. For example, companies like Fritz Hansen are still [making] old stuff [designed by] Arne Jacobsen but also new pieces like this [chair]… combining new materials and still trying to evolve. I guess that’s a key point.
What are your least and most favourite parts of Milan Design Week?
Phew! There’s too many – both good and bad. There’re a lot of not so good quality [products] that shouldn’t have been made; a lot of stuff are called design but have nothing to do with functionality – it’s just trends. On the other hand, you have the good quality [designs all] in one spot and that’s what’s so great.
Fritz Hansen is available in Singapore through Space Furniture.