One of the many options for furniture design in the last 15 years, is that of limited editions. Products that are already in the catalog, reissued in special versions in a few copies, or new products designed by celebrities or personalities from other fields. Or again, new products designed by archistars in a few pieces: all of these are occasions to involve an alternative public to the regular buyer of furniture, with a foray into art and fashion.
The popularity of limited editions and the growth of the trade shows of ‘collectible design’, have been going hand in hand since 2005, the year of the first edition of DesignMiami. The ‘limited edition’ is not an absolute novelty of the last 15 years, but the profusion of authentic pieces of furniture – really functional, not only for collectors – maybe means a further leap.
The social networks focused on photos, until a few years ago mostly interested in fashion, are extending their influence also to the furniture/design sector, and from here come personalities such as Virgil Abloh, Millennial from Rockford, Illinois, a 360° creative who has already made two major collaborations to his credit: Vitra and Ikea.
Who is Virgil Abloh
Born in the US in 1980, Virgil Abloh is an engineer and architect, and today also a fashion designer, an entrepreneur, and a designer. Rather than being a designer, he is an entrepreneur-creative, who, after working with Kanye West, opened a concept store in Chicago – RSVP Gallery – then continued with his fashion label, Off White, and, since 2018, is the art director at Louis Vuitton Men’s collection.
Virgil Abloh, of course, counts 4.5 million followers on Instagram, and designed Hailey Bieber’s wedding dress. It would seem as far as you can imagine from a style icon for a product like Vitra’s, or democratic like Ikea, as you would think. But it seems not.
The Prouvé collection for Vitra, re-interpreted
On the occasion of DesignMiami Basel 2019, Virgil Abloh designed a special installation at Zaha Hadid’s Fire Station, at Vitra Campus. The exhibition Twentythirtyfive tried to imagine what the home of today’s teenagers could look like in 2035. Abloh furnished the imaginary house with products by Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Arnio and Jean Prouvé, some original, others reinterpreted in his version.
The designer redesigned the Petite Potence lamp and the Anthony chair by Jean Prouvé in a limited edition. All the pieces of this collection, included the brick that completed it, have been sold.
Abloh pointed out that this exhibition had been an opportunity to bring Jean Prouvé’s projects closer to a younger audience, probably often lacking in knowledge on this subject. His, therefore, could be defined as a ‘messenger’ function, someone who conveys the value of historical design to the younger generations.
The Markerad collection for Ikea
Alongside Vitra, a company is known for its research work and its endless portfolio of historical design icons, Virgil Abloh has developed a limited-edition collection for Ikea. Two extremely different collaborations, aimed at an equally different audience.
The Markerad collection, a limited edition by Ikea, includes a few pieces of furniture and different accessories and complements, 15 pieces in total. Ikea planned the sale of these products, in limited edition, for limited periods, in November 2019 (each country has different dates). It seems evident that the goal is to reach a transversal audience, which tries to personalize its own home but without spending so much as a fortune.
The Markerad collection is on sale in Milan and Rome, at Ikea stores, from November 1st, or on line, from November 11.
The question that pops up is: would the two ventures, Vitra and Ikea, have taken place without the social networks? Given that Virgil Abloh is first and foremost an architect, designer, and fashion designer, how much did his presence on social networks influence the choice? (Roberta Mutti)