In a valiant visualisation of London's chaotic mix of picturesque castles and ugly buildings, British designer Tom Dixon stamps swirls of smog upon the latest collection with ege. Known for their signature European-made textiles which emerge from a production process innovated with continuously improving technology, the Danish brand serves hospitality, healthcare and office settings with ease, but never lets convention inhibit its mission to design carpets with respect for people and the environment. Last year, ege tried its hand at tailoring garments with their signature textiles which stormed the runway during New York Fashion Week 2015.
Ege has previously worked with creatives to the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix. The result of their most recent collaboration already made their way into the interiors of exhibitions and workspaces. After Dixon incorporated the designs into his Milan Design Week 2016 presentation, the smokey motif surfaces the co-working space inside Clerkenwell church, transforming the structure into an asset for the local community. The top floor of Copenhagen's newly opened Brønnums Hus Office Club is floored by the series' Industrial Landscape. Frame speaks with Dixon about the emergence of both the collaboration and collection:
How did the project with ege carpets come about?
TOM DIXON: We don't do so many collaborations. We do quite a lot of interior design – mainly restaurants and bars – but recently, we've been looking into hotels and co-working spaces of the future. As a result we got interested in impact of carpets in such spaces, not only to add colour and texture, but also for acoustics. ege asked me for two or three years in a row, but because of these new projects, now it was an interesting moment for us. It is a kind of an interesting experiment to go beyond just the aesthetic qualities and look at the practical qualities a carpet can bring to interiors.
How is the collection inspired by the city of London?
I was inspired by the chaos of London. There are some cities that are much tidier, like Tokyo, or prettier, like Paris. But London has got all these different histories and became a mix of castles and ugly buildings. There are a lot of imperfections and aspects of decay to be found in this city. Like when people are refitting a shop and they put this white window cover to protect people from looking inside. The chaos is something that I was inspired by and then turned into abstract patterns.
Were there limitations in regards to the project's development?
The problem with digital technology is that you can do almost anything, which is not the best way to think of design. You need some stuff to fight against. Then half way through, ege said: 'Oh, well we can't match the patterns up in this space', so they had to be indiscriminate. You don't know if someone is going to stick a pattern in an airport or stick it in an elevator. So it started more open and eventually there were many different prescriptions. It was quite a challenging exercise, more than I thought it would be.
How did you determine the colours and texture?
Certain decisions are pragmatic. If a man trips and coffee splashes all over, then all of the carpet tiles it lands on need to be changed. While with Industrial Landscapes, some coffee stains actually went into the carpet and aren't visible. That is what we really want: a contra-carpet.
Did you now have a different vision of the material after the collaboration?
I think so. It is something that you have to be careful using within a space and this experience will affect the way that we use carpet in the future.
How do you envision the world of carpets within an interior?
It's something that would not be described as fashionable but disastrous, and wants to perform in a tougher way. So it is basically a nightmare. When it is done right, it can be the biggest colour vehicle within an interior. I think it is underestimated as a typology of architectural intervention. We applied the material in a way that does not draw us back to the 1970s or look nostalgic. I even tried to stick some on the ceiling in a bar but it lasted two months before it started peeling off.
Industrial Landscapes floors the Brønnums Hus Office Club in Copenhagen.
When the carpet upholsters the chair, it becomes a very tactile element. Was the intention to play on tactility?
I think that is one of the most successful things. There is a tradition in British culture of using kilim rugs. In the 19th century, people used oriental carpets and coloured patchwork. This is the textile before they put on the rubber backing so it is more like a tapestry.
I've always liked a solid texture. I will leave my tactical experiences to another conversation because it is easy to simply take it off the floor and stick it on a chair. But it is a quite extreme texture for a chair. I am interested in the fact that it’s not your shoes touching it once it moves to other frameworks.
Dixon incorporated his designs for ege into his Milan Design Week presentation
Did ege's roots as a Scandinavian brand have an effect on how the designs turned out?
No, I don’t think so, we wanted to do something specifically British. And with digital carpets, you can do anything. This is important because the intention is not just to please a Danish customer. What is interesting about ege is the manufacturing technique which involves investing and perfecting in very high quality. That is where the Danish side becomes apparent.
This product launched at the Stockholm Furniture & Light fair. How do you think this newer fair differs from long-standing fairs like Salone del Mobile?
Stockholm is much more tasteful and pastel. I think it is nice because it has a very distinct and cultural feel about it. It doesn’t feel too busy, quite smooth. More and more , Milan is such a big deal whereas here I think you can express yourself in a slightly more contained way through Stockholm's controllable environment. It’s okay isn’t it? It’s sweet.
At Milan Design Week, there are so many big design events happening outside the Salone del Mobile. How do you think a fair can stay relevant and face this growing competition?
I think that was is interesting about Milan, is that unlike London Design Festival, it is based on quite a figurative industry. There are a lot of fairs that are just marketing, there is no industry present. London has become a place where web design is an actual industry. But nothing at these fairs is good because there is the manufacturer element and it is more about the intent or the perception of certain events. For me, you do not do these fairs for marketing. There is room for conceptual fairs and interesting places. Things that have a lifecycle and stay for years. It’s about meeting people, it’s exciting. I think there is room for interesting news and surprises. There is importance in coming back.