"We met in October 2012 when we went to see the Annish Kapoor exhibition at the Lisson Gallery," says Laetitia de Allegri of her introduction to Eva Feldkamp. "We spent 24 hours together and ended up dancing in a night club. So we had lots of time time to catch up." By mid-2013, the two were working together.
This de Allegri Feldkamp partnership made its public bow at last week's London Design Festival, the two designers displaying existing solo work alongside joint creations in Issue No.1, an exhibition staged at 71 Walton Street. The new objects - door handles, a metal folding chair and wooden trays - are delicate and considered, balanced against the more masculine design that the pair have produced in their previous studio work.
"I think a big change in working with each other is that we have an entirely different approach to the studios we are working for," says Feldkamp. De Allegri and Feldkamp trained at ECAL and Design Academy Eindhoven respectively and, since graduating, have worked for studios such as Alexander Taylor, Philippe Malouin and Barber Osgerby. "Those are studios we really like, but when we work together, it’s more female," says Feldkamp. "We work with different shapes and colours, which gives us a bit of freedom to explore more different ways. In our everyday work, we’re both working for male designers and so there’s a change in the aesthetic with this."
The initial project designed by the pair are a set of three door handles, sand cast in aluminium and gunmetal. It is a humble inaugural design, yet the studio emphasises the tactility of the typology and the importance of designing objects such as door handles: unobtrusive objects, but ones which are used on a daily basis. "It’s an important object, but one that has never really been looked at much until now," says de Allegri. "It’s not just a vase standing on the table," continues Feldkamp. "You really use it and interact with it and there are technical challenges to be explored."
Shaping the handles was informed by the blades of a ship's propellor and this nautical quality was also carried through to a wooden tray designed for the exhibition. Crafted from beech, the tray has a surface pattern cut by CNC machine that is subsequently filled with caulk, mimicking the appearance of boat decking and, more significantly, providing a gripping surface for glasses placed on top of it.
The products were developed through close collaboration between the two designers, each modifying and critiquing one another's designs. "We have similar tastes and when we have 15 different colours in front of us, we tend to decide on the same colour," says Feldkamp. "But we also have very different skills. I for example have worked more with metals, whereas Laetitia has worked more with fabrics."
These contrasting forms of expertise are combined in the studio's final, and most ambitious, product: a metallic folding chair with a seat composed of Kvadrat fabric. The fabric is connected to the frame at one end only, so that when folded the textile drops down in front of the metal body. "The stool becomes a frame to hang and the textile on the fabric becomes a wall graphic," says de Allegri. "Working with the metal frame to achieve that effect is by far the most challenging process," adds Feldkamp.
The collaboration remains in a nascent state, yet Issue No.1 is an early declaration of its direction. "We both still work in collaboration with other people which is important, but we share an approach to design," says de Allegri. "But we've trained differently and that makes it interesting for us," says Feldkamp.
"When we work together Laetitia is much more a drawing person, whereas I need to go into material immediately with model-making. But that is changing to an extent. We’ve learnt from each other while working though this. I’ve started drawing much more."