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Celebrating a decade of design inspired by the spirit of travel, Louis Vuitton presented its latest Objets Nomades collection earlier this year at Milan Design Week. Unveiled at Garage Traversi, as well as within the pop-up Nova House in Piazza San Babila, were five new pieces designed by longtime collaborators of the house—atelier oï, the Campana Brothers, and Raw Edges.
For the presentation, the multidisciplinary Swiss design studio atelier oï put a contemporary spin on its iconic Belt Chair and introduced three new designs: the Belt Lounge Chair, the Belt Bar Stool, and the Belt Side Stool. Metal and wood frames formed sturdy bases for seats made of rich Louis Vuitton leather strips, fastened with brass buckles that recall those used for handbags. Garnering attention for reinterpreting a pre-loved design and for their use of materials, the new pieces provided patrons of the house with inspiration and emotion that harked back to the atelier’s DNA.
Founded in 1991 by Aurel Aebi, Armand Louis, and Patrick Reymond, atelier oï is known for its multidisciplinary work. International projects range from architecture and scenography to interior and product design projects, including furniture for Moroso and Fendi Casa, perfume bottles for Bvlgari, spaces like the Museum of Art and History in Geneva, stores like Rimowa, and more. Guided by ideation, artisanship, and experimentation, the company has spent the past three decades approaching design with emotion and history in mind, bringing design aficionados on a journey through time and space.
To elaborate on its Objets Nomades collection, Whitewall spoke with atelier oï’s co-founders about how storytelling and the principle of working with material and history guided their latest designs.
WHITEWALL: You have been part of Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades collection since its foundation. How did this collaboration start?
ATELIER OÏ: Initially, we were invited to the Louis Vuitton house and atelier in Asnières—the original “heart of Louis Vuitton.” We arrived at this family home with its fireplace in a private bubble far from the image of the big Louis Vuitton stores of the cities. It was a bit of a shock to see the image of Louis Vuitton as this family business. But it was indeed a family initiative, and so it was also important for us to immerse ourselves in the place where it all began.
When we see the trunks and finished objects, it’s hard to comprehend all the work of Louis Vuitton artisans and all the know-how needed to achieve these pieces. Seeing this changed the way we thought. We wanted to highlight what is the key to nomadic objects—the bridge between materials and artisans, the relationships that continue, and the fusion of a common work.
WW: You’ve created several pieces for the collection over the years. What do you see as the common thread?
AO: We prefer to think that the element that ties it all together is the use of leather as a structural element—an innovation where leather is not just the covering of a piece of furniture. But it was the research for the hammock project that put us on this track.
WW: Previously for the house, you presented the Belt Chair. How was this design revisited and reinterpreted for Milan Design Week 2022?
AO: The Belt Chair is a work of leather that through tension creates the three- dimensional. From this principle, we have realized it in all sizes for various uses. The Belt Lounge Chair uses, for the first time, wood as a base, which is more stable instead of the classic metal structure.
WW: All the leather seats are also held together by brass buckles reminiscent of those used on the brand’s bags. How did you want to play with these details?
AO: We were inspired by Louis Vuitton and its savoir-faire of details. Observing such details from the maison’s heritage allowed us to use them to solve problems and in turn have the recognition of Louis Vuitton.
WW: What kind of emotions do you want these pieces to evoke? How should they be appreciated?
AO: We create objects with stories that inspire us, and we would like the user to discover the pieces in this way and allow themselves to dream through these pieces. The idea is that of a journey—these extraordinary objects being a mental and emotional journey.
WW: Does travel inspire your design practice?
AO: Travel is a great source of inspiration, but we also learn from cultures, handcraft, and everyday work. We observe the world around us.
WW: How do you embrace the handmade?
AO: Everything starts from an emotional experience. We test, refine, then define a context that leads to experimentation, a tactile experience, a definition of a story.
WW: How do you think these pieces reflect the spirit of travel?
AO: The maison’s savoir-faire of artisans and materials tell stories and make you travel through these objects.
WW: Your studio is multidisciplinary, merging architecture, design, and nconstruction for architecture, interior design, scenography, et cetera. How do you typically approach a new project?
AO: “Storytelling” is the key word for us. Material that tells a story; it allows us to navigate through scales. We are fortunate to learn through observation of artisans, curiosity, and multiple meetings with our clients.
WW: Last year, atelier oï celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. How would you describe its evolution over the last three decades?
AO: From the original trio, the evolution has been through meetings and encounters. The essence of the trio has evolved, now with a team that has grown to over forty people.