Expelled from the Eindhoven Design Academy for being "unteachable", who could have guessed that Marcel Wanders would become
one of today's most prolific and popular figures in design? Yet his ebullient, rebellious spirit persisted throughout his
educational career. Fewer than 10 years after graduating from the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Wanders debuted the Knotted
Chair, catapulting into the global spotlight where he has remained for nearly two decades.
That exuberance typifies Wanders's work, leading the New York Times to dub him the "Lady Gaga of Design" in 2011, for being
"a constant font of ideas and energy who is nearly impossible to ignore." It doesn't hurt that he looks like a rock star,
too. His unconventional style excites and surprises, combining innovative materials and techniques with historical
influences and recognizable archetypes. In this way, Wanders creates work that is simultaneously nostalgic and novel,
evocative and unearthly.
His work is ubiquitous, having created 1700+ products with premium
brands like Alessi, Puma, Swarovski, FLOS, and more, plus serving as Art
Director of his own company, Moooi, and running his powerhouse studio
based in Amsterdam.
With FLOS, Wanders has drawn heavily on brand legacy, subtly updating and riffing on the explorations of Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. His Zeppelin (above left) modern pendant light draws on the "cocoon" designs of the Castiglionis in the 1960s, such as Taraxacum (above right). Wanders introduces more practical, identifiable elements to the technique: an old-fashioned candelabra chandelier takes the place of abstract steel structures. He takes a similar approach to this concept for his modern floor lamp, making the "cocoon" element a literal one in Chrysalis (below), completed with a whimsical play of shadows.
The designer's other decorative hanging lights for FLOS share this same combination of the literal and the figurative. Can Can (below left) pendant lighting reveals a swirling, lace-like pattern when seen from underneath the "skirt", recalling the eponymous dance. The award-winning Skygarden (below right) houses a secret homage to antique decoration within a minimalist, architectural sphere. That sort of juxtaposition is crucial to the wit and enjoyment of Marcel Wanders' designs.
The cultural impact of Wanders' work has been equal to their
personalities, drawing attention for their daring mission to uplift the
human spirit and entertain in a sphere which is often more concerned
with seriousness and prestige. His cheerful and elegant designs are
housed in some of the world's most important museums, including the
Museums of Modern Art in New York and San Francisco, the Victoria and
Albert Museum in London, the Stedelijk and the Boimans van Beunigen. He
was even selected as one of Business Week's most important European
leaders of change in 2003, and named Elle Decor's Designer of the Year
Marcel Wanders has one other thing in common with Lady Gaga: he's no one-hit wonder.
Experience more ingenious designs by Wanders for FLOS here.