Designers

Marcel Wanders : The Lady Gaga of Design

Marcel Wanders portrait

Expelled from the Eindhoven Design Academy for being "unteachable", who could have guessed that Marcel Wanders would become one of today's most prolific and popular figures in design? Yet his ebullient, rebellious spirit persisted throughout his educational career. Fewer than 10 years after graduating from the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Wanders debuted the Knotted Chair, catapulting into the global spotlight where he has remained for nearly two decades.

That exuberance typifies Wanders's work, leading the New York Times to dub him the "Lady Gaga of Design" in 2011, for being "a constant font of ideas and energy who is nearly impossible to ignore." It doesn't hurt that he looks like a rock star, too. His unconventional style excites and surprises, combining innovative materials and techniques with historical influences and recognizable archetypes. In this way, Wanders creates work that is simultaneously nostalgic and novel, evocative and unearthly.

Zeppelin and Taraxacum pendant lamps

His work is ubiquitous, having created 1700+ products with premium brands like Alessi, Puma, Swarovski, FLOS, and more, plus serving as Art Director of his own company, Moooi, and running his powerhouse studio based in Amsterdam.

With FLOS, Wanders has drawn heavily on brand legacy, subtly updating and riffing on the explorations of Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. His Zeppelin (above left) modern pendant light draws on the "cocoon" designs of the Castiglionis in the 1960s, such as Taraxacum (above right). Wanders introduces more practical, identifiable elements to the technique: an old-fashioned candelabra chandelier takes the place of abstract steel structures. He takes a similar approach to this concept for his modern floor lamp, making the "cocoon" element a literal one in Chrysalis (below), completed with a whimsical play of shadows.

chrysalis floor lamp

The designer's other decorative hanging lights for FLOS share this same combination of the literal and the figurative. Can Can (below left) pendant lighting reveals a swirling, lace-like pattern when seen from underneath the "skirt", recalling the eponymous dance. The award-winning Skygarden (below right) houses a secret homage to antique decoration within a minimalist, architectural sphere. That sort of juxtaposition is crucial to the wit and enjoyment of Marcel Wanders' designs.

Skygarden and Can Can pendant lamps

The cultural impact of Wanders' work has been equal to their personalities, drawing attention for their daring mission to uplift the human spirit and entertain in a sphere which is often more concerned with seriousness and prestige. His cheerful and elegant designs are housed in some of the world's most important museums, including the Museums of Modern Art in New York and San Francisco, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Stedelijk and the Boimans van Beunigen. He was even selected as one of Business Week's most important European leaders of change in 2003, and named Elle Decor's Designer of the Year in 2006.

Marcel Wanders has one other thing in common with Lady Gaga: he's no one-hit wonder.

Experience more ingenious designs by Wanders for FLOS here.