We can look at a chair or a furniture piece and know that it has Marcel Wanders’ quirkiness or Patricia Urquiola’s feminine edge, but even these well-known designers had to start somewhere, making their way from obscurity to ubiquity. Modern day philosopher Aubrey “Drake” Graham said it best: “Started from the bottom, now we’re here.”
The point is emerging designers are everywhere, and they are talented. It gives me such joy to see new faces and products popping up in design magazines and forums, watching fresh perspectives on old concepts.
Below is a list of five designers you should get to know. They’re definitely on our radar, and soon, we’ll likely be able to point to an installation and know it’s a Kakuda or see the influence of Work + Sea in a wallpaper design.
Japanese designer Kakuda started his own firm Yota Kakuda Design in 2011 where he has been racking up awards (a 2016 Hublot Design Prize, 2014 Good Design Award, etc.) and showcasing the beauty in the simplicity of his work in items like the Pestle chair or Flower Bench. Most recently, Kakuda installed a colorful counter table at Tokyo’s Bake Kitasenju (featured in our December issue) where color gradation juxtaposes the sterile walls for a piece that is joyful and contemporary—a truly unique point of view.
Based in Lagos, Marcus-Bello is not only creating thoughtful work but bringing design prominence to Nigeria, a relative new discipline to the country. His products are made with the community in mind, using materials that are local and challenging the very notion of design in Nigeria. A favorite: The light and clean Tebur desk that accommodates people who live and work in small spaces by allowing them to transport the desk all over the city.
The duo behind Suomu Design studied in Denmark and opened their Chinese studio in 2016. Each handmade tableware piece is tactile and experimental without being pretentious. The Button collection, for instance, is a study in ingenuity, mixing 21st century design with ancient traditions. Each piece was 3D printed to ensure the geometric details on the saucer and cup are perfect. The soft curves and material surprise makes drinking tea as adventurous as it is routine.
Work + Sea
The Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary design studio was founded by artist Lara Apponyi and designer Michael Woodcock when they both were working in architecture design in New York. The duo’s wallpaper designs are twee and exciting, with elements that show their unfiltered response to the world around them. Each thoughtful piece is created with whimsy in mind, opting for fantastical scenes like in Shape Shifters in the Garden Party or retro glamour in Flamingos on the Line, imagined as a Wes Anderson film set in 1950s Florida.
Diogo and Juliette Felippelli, the husband and wife team behind LA’s Joogii, are the epitome of effortless cool. Both kitschy and energetic, their work spans disciplines. For example, the acrylic Giorgio chair is coated with a hand-applied dichroic film that creates a prismatic color spectrum. Their pieces are so identifiable it’s like the Memphis movement for the 21st century.