Marcel Wanders ranks in today’s top contemporary designers and it isn’t hard to understand why. His unique style is iconic, merging everyday life with the extraordinary; he has described his mission as one to “create an environment of love, live with passion and make our most exciting dreams come true.” And his work does excite, never failing to surprise the naked eye. It comes as no great shock that the New York Times has described Marcel as the “Lady Gaga of Design”; each interior, furniture piece, or creative art direction of his has always been bold and unexpected.
Born in Boxtel, Netherlands in 1963, Wanders graduated cum laude from the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten (ArtEZ Institute of the Arts) in Arnhem in 1988. He then went on to open his own studio in the heart of Amsterdam. Today this studio employs over 50 design specialists and showcases his talents in numerous mediums, including interiors, art direction, furniture design, exhibitions, and more. With over 1700+ projects under his belt, Wanders’ impressive roster includes premium brands such as Alessi, Bisazza, KLM, Flos, Swarovski, and Puma.
Wanders’ designs have always focused on creating a sustainable environment. He is known for his use of innovative materials and techniques while simultaneously referencing historical styles to which people can easily relate. In 1996, for instance, he designed the ‘Knotted Chair’, reimagining a conventional structure with high tech materials (aramid carbon fibres impregnated with epoxy resin). The chair was hung to dry, leaving its final form in the hands of gravity.
Wanders endeavours to re-introduce human touch to design. In his world, the coldness of industrial design is replaced with fantasy; poetry and romance are brought to life. Wanders’ projects range from iconic hotels like the Mondrian South Beach in Miami to fairy-tale private residences in Amsterdam; from famous Moooi furniture pieces to the Eurasian Garden and beyond.
Let’s take a look at some of his works of art that have inspired the Dutch design community — and my own design work!
The Eurasian Garden Spirits
Designed for the Oita Perfectural Art Museum in Japan, this exhibition opened in April of 2015. The artwork was inspired by the 16th century arrival of Dutch explorers in Japan and symbolized the cultural exchange between Japan and Holland. It is also said to have been a re-interpretation of ‘Vanitas’, a Dutch painting from the 17th century. Its inflated balloons, evoking the idea of breath, seem to represent life and an open-minded attitude that exists at the core of Dutch mentality.
The Quasar Residence in Istanbul is incredible to behold and its design will no doubt makes residents want to explore every unique part of this building. The bold elements feel as though have been plucked straight from Alice In Wonderland! Currently under development, this vibrant apartment complex is set to open mid 2016.
Andaz Amsterdam was designed with elegance and sophistication in mind, embodying the relaxed nature of its guests and the city itself. Located in the centre of Amsterdam between two major canals, this building was built in the former library of Amsterdam and is nothing shy of unique. The former library was built in 1977 and the design direction was inspired by the charm and the imagery of historic books.
Mira Moon by Wanders And Yoo
Marcel Wanders’ collaboration with Yoo on the interior design for this hotel takes inspiration from the Moon Festival fairy tale, a legend in Chinese mythology. The characters from the story are showcased throughout the spaces. Antique Chinese fabrics, prints, peony flowers, wall details, tailored carpets, and digitally composed Bisazza tile graphics are the feature walls in the lobby. Chinese craftsmanship is very prominent in this interior; with the use of carved timber and cut crystal, they created a cultural mix while blending a warm colour palette of orange, green, and browns. Mira Moon has earned a name as the most distinctive, vibrant hotel in Hong Kong.
Books, Art Direction, and Furniture Design
Behind The Ceiling
Behind The Ceiling is an incredible book that proves Wanders to be one of the most influential international designers today. Wanders’ designs are infused with irony and his quirky humour. The book explores his furniture, lighting, interiors, textiles, tableware, decorative porcelain, and ceramic vases as well as his personal art editions. Behind The Ceiling offers a glimpse of his incredible career and showcases stunning photography, sketches, thoughts, and quotes from the designer himself.
Marcel co-founded the well-known design label Mooi in 2001 and soon after became Art Director. Mooi employs around 30 designers and maintains a presence in 79 countries. The Mooi brand is renowned for its quirky, eccentric take on the objects that surround us. Marcel Wanders and his partner, Casper Vissers, named Moooi after the native Dutch word for beautiful—‘mooi’—and the third ‘o’ stands for extra value in terms of beauty and uniqueness. Moooi has always taken pride in producing timeless objects with both antique and modern characteristics.
The Moooi portfolio contains a range of work from other nationally and internationally recognised designers. These include Jurgen Bey, Bertjan Pot, Maarten Baas, Neri & Hu, Studio Job, and Nika Zupanc.
Wanders carries his influence in all inclusions to the brand; he is personally responsible for the overall design selection process.
“Inside The Box”
“Inside The Box” was created for the celebration of Mooois’ 2012 collection. Here Wanders wrapped moooi products with nude figures. The creator and the design creation then merge in the box together, blending the two objects into one. This is such a creative way to showcase a new line of product, catching the attention of the ’naked eye’.
Marcel Wanders has always been an intriguing and influential designer. He is constantly introducing new and unique ideas that definitely spark a conversation. His passion for design and Dutch inspiration has always inspired me to embrace my European background and to not be scared of pushing boundaries. We’re all capable of turning into something extraordinary.