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Paris Design Week and Maison & Objet 2013 – Creative Energy

Paris Design Week was originally dreamed up as an accessory to the more professional trade show, Maison&Objet, but it took over the streets of Paris and a remarkable life of its own in the three short years since its birth. It was as if the creative energy held within the event space was simply too great to be contained, overwhelming its walls and flooding Paris with a creative force which pervaded exhibition spaces, showrooms, trendy hotels, restaurants, and bars with everything from light installations and cutting-edge furniture designs to contemporary film screenings and chocolate tastings. For one week in September, Paris is turned into a night and day celebration of everything from the visual and graphic arts to the contemporary and cutting-edge applied arts of the design movement. The result: a Renaissance of sorts that has left in its wake the lasting influence of creativity and a reborn interest in Design long after the week has ended.

Let us first turn to the birthmother and nucleus of this weeklong movement: Paris Design Week and Maison & Objet 2013 - Creative Energy. The theme of this year’s design trade show was all about Energies and there could not have been a more diverse spectrum filling the giant convention-space-turned-labyrinth of pop-ups and exhibition niches radiating with creativity.

The energy generated within the space formed a particularly stark contrast against what was going on outside. After a reprise of August sunshine, the first day of the salon was marked by rainfall, and for Parisians, the foreboding reminder that this was just the first of days upon months of grey to follow. The contrast between the rainy, melancholic city and the Maison et Objet beaming with the forefront of design creations is a poetic one, indeed. Except the reality of the situation was far less glamorous. After commuting farther into the North of Paris than I had ever ventured, I left the métro only to be greeting by my second shower of the morning. By the time I arrived at the buses that would take the other design enthusiasts and myself to the Parc Villepinte where the show is held. I was drenched and dreading the thought of having to make my through the enormous space trying to take in every exhibition in my now soaked and slippery five-inch heels. Maybe at New York or London art fairs one could get away with a fashionable motorcycle boot ensemble, but not in Paris, here, there are expectations to uphold.

Paris Design Week and Maison & Objet 2013 - Creative Energy

What is it all about?

The three-day internationally renowned trade fair puts into the spotlight the forefront of what is trending in the design world. Maison&Objet is divided into three universes that fill the warehouse space with Energies from the luminous and the electrifying to the uncanny and the psychedelic. Illuminations, Funtasy, and Psychotropia form the central nervous system of the various design-trends and the visual and conceptual aesthetics of the salon.

The energy that fills Elizabeth Leriche’s Illuminations space, is that of light with interactive works that aim to show us the evolution into the “New Age of Enlightenment,” with installations that modify our perception and offer an immersive experience into a technicolor world of shadows and lights. The “Energie de la lumière” theme popped up throughout the entire trade-show with everything from large-scale installations such as the glowing black and white geometric space of Hall 7-Le Nuage to pieces by designers and interior architects that stand far closer to the side of light contraptions and modern museum pieces than every-day table lamps and ceiling lights.

Funtasy, put together by Vincent Grégoire, brings us “Energie de la fantasie” and with it an unceremonious uncrowning of all that is serious with a simple intent of rendering our lives more playful. The design trends that inhabit this space are presented to us with a degree of self-mockery and iconoclasm. From the surrealist and the bizarre to the amusing and quirky. Ferrucios Laviani et Fratelli Boffi’s took a Louix XV bureau and punctured it giant blue cavity and appropriately dubbed it, F* the Classics. Provocative creations and surrealist graphic designs bring together classic aesthetics and the electro-pop digital designs of an age where technology reigns.

With Psychotropia we find the “Energie de l’imaginaire” as we delve into the realm of the psychedelic and thought provoking. It is in this domain that design pushes us to transcend the real and enter into the deeper dimensions of space, form, and even our own minds. The trends that arise from this space reference the surreal and eroticism in design, reaching deep into the psyche of the spectator, luring us into the seductive world of the strange and uncanny.

The energies that fill this space are meant to liberate; to liberate our imaginations and our very conception of what design stands for. It is a celebration of the creative potential that can be exacted onto all things, even those which have so sacrilegiously come to be considered as “every-day objects” by some. What is displayed at Maison et Objet is anything but commonplace.

With that said, one thing to note about the salon is that little sign of a camera crossed out with a giant X. I consider this a thinly veiled reminder that this is one of those occasions to bring out the "I’m just sending a text message while holding my phone at this awkwardly straight angle." The installations and designs on display are sometimes just too stunning to let slip into the realm of memory. Just don’t get caught.

How To Take on Design Week

How is one supposed to tackle an event of such mass proportion? It is easy enough to get lost within the Maison et Objet enclosure but turning to the streets of Paris for a week-long celebration of the design industry including 236 participants spread out over 150 locations throughout Paris is an entirely different expedition to take on. When first taking a look at the tiny pocket map that unfolds to twenty-times its size, every inch of which is covered with minuscule text directing you to the hundreds of exhibitions, lectures and after-party receptions taking place from day to night throughout entire Paris over the six-day stretch, it all might feel slightly daunting.

But like any music festival, art show or fashion week, there is always a rhyme and reason at the heart of such large scale events, at the very least to ensure that you don't get lost... And Paris design week is broken down into seven “parcours” or thematic itineraries to direct people to their design-field of interest.

Design in France

Art & Design

Food & Design

Design & Architecture

Iconic Design

Digital Design

Design and Mobility

What There Is To See

In a celebration of French living and luxury, the five-star hotel, le Royal Monceau-Raffles Paris, opens its opulent halls to the design community for the second year in a row…. Quand Jim se relaxe by Matali Crasset, Marc Newson’s Bumper Bed, iconic pieces by contemporary French furniture designers Bruno Domeau and Philippe Peres, and a private screening of Sylvie Adigard’s latest film on designer Ora-Ito, Ora Ito et le Maroc; l’art en plein ciel. And in her first show in France, Nelly Rodi presents Etude sur les Couleurs. Whether through film or exhibition, these designers offer an encounter with the creative world and the designer as artist.

As one of Paris’s most iconic convention spaces, Le Grand Palais brings us yet another art trade and design show with Révélations. Although set on a much smaller scale than Maison et Objet, the airy-glass domed space invites us on a treasure hunt through over 250 exhibitors from the large scale with galleries, luxury design-houses, and foundations, to the smaller scale of individual craftsmen and artisans.

Of particular note this year was the significant overlap of fashion and design. The house of Christian Lacroix lent out its St. Germain boutique as a converted showroom for the Italian design laboratoty Fabrica’s latest exhibition, Drawing Glass. The concept was to bring design illustrators away from a computer by asking them to sketch an object they wished to be rendered in glass by glass-blower Massimo Lunardon.

Rick Owens on the other hand, transcends his very identity as an artist by entering into the realm of the decorative arts with his exhibition at the Carpenter’s Worskshop Gallery. His design aesthetic clearly resides at his core as his furniture designs take on the very embodiment of the stark, sleek and raw avant-garde pieces he sends down the runway.

Young Talent

If Design were mapped out like a spider’s web, these well-known designers and exhibitions would occupy its center point where the lines of the thread are most concentrated. Lesser-known designers would normally inhabit the outer portions, but it is thanks to The Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design for organizing NOW! LE OFF, a space where young and experimental avante-garde designers are brought into the forefront and offered to compete for the Rado Star Prize.

The most celebrated and talked about aspect of Design Week is the center of this web, but without the outer parts, it would collapse. The idea is that the base of the design world rests on the shoulders of these innovators. Although it is the more famous designers who appear to occupy the most essential place in the design community, it is in fact the emerging talent—the design-school students, experimental artists, and the still-unknown—that will come to define the future of design. It is the younger generation of innovators who embody perhaps the most essential energy source of design week and a creativity that inspires even the most veteran of participants.

The Point

Design is an ever-evolving reflection of our time. It pervades our everyday life perhaps more than any other art form to the extent that it at times occupies an almost unconscious place in our lives. Design week takes the artistry and innovation of its domain out from the shadows, inviting us into an intimate space of creatives, spectators and creation. In the end, what this week truly offers us is a chance to enter into this dazzling world of expression, imagination and eccentricity. For one week, we have at our finger-tips the most concentrated collection of French design and the international design community. It is a chance to enter into a fairyland-funhouse of light installations, avant-garde furniture designs, and the cutting edge of all that is visual, graphic and conceptual with the rest of Paris’s most-talented, eclectic, and iconic creatives.

Photography credits: Paris Design Week – Maison et Objet 2013
Chahan Minassian, Jimmie Martin, Maison Martin Margiela, Odile Decq, New Talent Paris, Raphael & Rejean, Bruno Moinard, Maria Pergay, Frank Demarcelle, Ora-Ïto, Cabinet Alberto Pinto.

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