War changes everything, even the way things look. Charles Eames used a wood-shaping method developed to make better, lighter splints in World War II to create his iconic molded-plywood chair. Frank Gehry turned to Catia, the software used to design military aircraft, to help create his Guggenheim Bilbao. That chair and that museum were new, and looked new, in a way few things ever do. Design that is different in its elements, not just restyled or reinvented, arises from an almost chemical reaction that takes place when a person meets a material, a practice or a technology and sees through it to a whole new compound. On the following pages we survey some of the people, products and practices that will change the shape of the near future.
It's not easy being an iconoclast. Just ask Miguel Adrover, the New York City designer who has been hailed as a virtuoso since his debut three years ago but who lacks the requisite funding to show at Fashion Week this season.
Adrover, 37, regards clothes as a vector for social change. Trouble is, sometimes the message gets lost in the fray. After he showed a delicious meze of Middle Eastern--and African-inspired silhouettes in September 2001, two days before the Twin Towers fell, he says he was accused by the tabloids of sympathizing with the enemy. "No one says anything about [designers such as] Michael Kors except 'Great skirt,'" Adrover says. "We have great skirts too. For us they say, 'Maybe there's a Taliban connection.'" To make matters worse, the Leiber Group, the luxury-apparel conglomerate that had acquired Adrover in April 2000, withdrew its backing in early October 2001.
Adrover cobbled together the funding to show a spring line last September. It was couture lite, a witty and wearable riff on the New York immigrant experience, melding Hasidic, Latin, hip-hop and corporate styles.
Owing two months' back rent is a constant in his life, but so is resourcefulness; this is the person who turned a discarded mattress into a ravishing coat. It's just a question of where his pluck and ingenuity will take him next. --By George Epaminondas
DOMEAU & PERES
Sometimes the old can heave the new into the beyond. Old ways have hustled French furniture manufacturer Domeau & Peres into the vanguard of its field. Bruno Domeau is a trained saddlemaker who plied his trade in the luxury-automobile industry. Philippe Peres traveled France studying with master craftsmen as an apprentice upholsterer with the Compagnons du Devoir, a throwback to the craftsmen's guilds of the Middle Ages. Yet they have yoked their skills to the plowshare of contemporary design. "We're unusual because we're handcraftmen who've decided to work in the contemporary field," says Peres. "Producing contemporary design is usually left up to industrialists."
But the industrialists are often leery of things they haven't seen before. Designers' ideas are thus circumscribed by what manufacturing companies have the skill and inclination to produce. Domeau & Peres can and will produce almost anything. It has worked with established stars such as Andree Putman and such leading lights of the younger generation as Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Elodie Descoubes and Laurent Nicolas, and Christophe Pillet, whose Video Lounge recliner, left, has become the company's unofficial trademark.