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”If you find a technical solution, then often the form is very appealing as well”

Tell me about your background?

— I’ve been at Silhouette for eight years. I started with industrial design, at a smaller agency. I’ve been working with consumer electronics, and a lot of products around your head, when I was approached by Silhouette. It was a happy occasion since I could move back to my home town Linz where I grew up.

What was it about Silhouette that you connected with?

— The minimalistic approach that Silhouette stands for, the lightness, the reduced elements. They really have a cult status. But it’s also a real challenge to design rimless frames. You have so little to design around! 

How do you balance being a functional brand and a lifestyle brand? 

— It’s interesting that we’re known for being this minimal and technical brand. If you look at our history, we actually started as a company that wanted to create something more fashionable and move away from the medical necessity of eyewear. If you look at the 70s it was actually quite crazy! 

— A big part of what we do is to look at how functionality fits into what we want to express. Frames have to underline the character of the wearer, but it’s easy to create something that’s just a statement in your face. We look very carefully at how the frames feel, how they support the wearer. That’s essential.

”Frames have to underline the character of the wearer, but it’s easy to create something that’s just a statement in your face.”

How does your design process start?

— It’s different for different projects. Some pieces start from a fashion aspect, with interesting forms that appeal to trends. In that case, technology comes in second. With the core collection its the opposite. We have a nice piece of technology, and it’s all about making it better. Can we make the hinges smoother and more durable? Personally, I’m more from the technology side. If you find a simple technical solution, then often the form is very appealing as well. 

You have the pursuit of innovation as part of your core values, how does that manifest itself in your work?

—It’s sort of a ping-pong match between the design and r%d departments. Sometimes the design department has an idea that they need help realising. But many times its the other way around, when r%d have sourced new materials and production methods that we designers can work with. But the hardest part is to bring it into production. The closer you work with all three departments, the smoother the process goes. 

Your TMA line has been in space over 30 times and is a true icon. What’s it been like to have worked on that?

— One of my first projects was to update the tma collection. You have to be very careful, since it’s a very timeless design classic. I always compare it to a car model. There are many versions of the bmw3, but they are iterations of the same design.

The TMA design has been worn on 37 space missions.

What’s the most important thing to focus on right now as a designer? 

— Definitely sustainability. How do we make sure to develop a product that has value and will last over time. The consumer is more curious about how things are made, where are they made, and their ecological footprint. We get a lot of things right. We have our own production in Austria that generates very little waste. The product is very timeless, uses very little materials, and people wear them for 5–10 years. That’s very sustainable from my point of view. The next round is the afterlife. How easy is it to recycle? We are now researing ways to detach the materials and parts easily.

Has the role of the designer changed?

— I think its our duty to make sure to always have the value of sustainability with us. Designers should be generating ideas so that society can move forward. Somebody has to start, and as designers we are at the forefront of generating those ideas.

What are you inspired by right now? 

— What I really love. When I’m lying at home in my hammock, looking into the skies, seeing the clouds fly by. That’s how I work out my problems in my brain. 

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Feature

Visionaries — Daniel Östman

What is the first thing you look for in a new project? 

— Unusual opportunities. It can be physical in the room, or it can be the client’s ambition that is especially interesting.

Is it easy to see the project through the client’s eyes?

— I do it for the client. That person or family is the most important part of the project. It’s not about my vision. It’s how I can do their vision the best way. I mostly do residentials and work with private clients. That’s where I have the biggest opportunity to create something unique, for someone’s home, someone’s life.

You’ve likened your process more to a fashion designer than an architect?

— Yeah, there is like a streamlined architectural process that I’ve never felt at home with. When I started getting to know the fashion world, I took on the way a fashion designer works. It’s a more dynamic process. More materialistic and hands on. That’s why I call myself an interior designer, not an architect. 

You’ve likened the room to canvas?

— Nowadays people consume interiors through a lot of pictures. But that’s just one view. You need to be more holistic about the room and how it is composed. You need a strong idea, and then you paint it out with the different components that you have at hand: the furniture, the materials, the colors, the light, ­et cetera. To me, it becomes like a canvas that I need to fill and find balance in. Then of course it has to have the functionality, but that’s just hygiene. 

Do you usually have a clear vision that you stick to, or does it change throughout the project?

— I can never have a design presentation where everything is set and fixed. It needs to evolve, step by step. I usually start with the overall colours and textiles, and then you add in the furniture and stuff. It’s important to have the trust of the client. If we decide in the middle of the process to take out the sofa or change the fabric of the curtains, or sometimes you even need to start from the beginning. 

What is the most beautiful piece of furniture you’ve  ever seen?

— There has been a lot of furniture through the years that I’ve fallen in love with. It becomes like a love affair, but then I move on and there is something else that comes into my world. Right now, I’m into sofas. There’s this perfect sofa from the 30s, by the French designer Jean Michel Frank. It’s very elegant, toned down, basic shapes, but exquisite and beautiful. When I show it to clients, they don’t necessarily like it, because it doesn’t say much. But to me it’s got the perfect dimensions and proportions. 

What is the best interior you’ve ever seen? 

— A few years back I had the luxury of being invited to a beautiful home of an artistic New York couple. It was a midtown studio loft, where they were both working and living. I got so anxious, how could I ever create something like that? I complimented them and said it was the most beautiful interior I had ever seen. And they immediately corrected me and said, ’This is not an interior, this is life.’ 

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Feature

Visionaries — Emma Olbers

What is the first thing you look for in a new project? 

— I look for new ways of solving a problem. I’m always trying to work with low carbon materials, so I try to find the best ways of using them. It’s always different, if it’s a sofa or chair or whatever it is. 

Do you usually have a clear vision that you stick to, or does it change throughout the project?

— I usually get an idea in the beginning that I follow through on. If I look at the furniture that I have created, most of the ideas came early. 

What are some of the most important materials to use today?

— The ones with low co2e and recycled material. It’s also important to use as little material as possible. The material with super low carbon is bamboo and all fast growing fibres. And after that comes wood. 

Has your perspective on sustainability changed your view on aesthetics?

— Yes, I think it has. I really like the way leather ages, but it emits 300 times more carbon than wood. So a leather sofa is not that beautiful actually. It’s the same with virgin plastic. 

It’s been a very special year. Has your role as a designer changed because of the pandemic?

— I think we can help, not only designers but all creative professions. We are the ones that can visualise a new image of the future, and bring new ways of living. 

Are there any new visions of the future that you’ve seen recently?

— I think we can see many things already. With the use of electric cars that doesn’t make as much noise, we get quieter cities, as we see in Oslo and Stockholm. Cities plant more trees now, which is important. I really think a more sustainable world will look and smell nicer and be healthier. A lot of people this Spring have started fixing their homes, planting their own food, and being more deliberate with their time. They aren’t just running around meeting people all the time, they choose who they spend time with. That’s a new type of living. 

You travel by train, not by air. Has that changed how you see the world?

— Yeah. That’s similar. It’s not that I like a slow way of living. But I like to choose what I spend my time on. I don’t like to stand in line just to show my passport. When you travel by train you can just jump on and start working right away. It’s much more ­quality time. 

What is the most beautiful piece of furniture you’ve ever seen?

— What comes to mind is the Emeco Chair by Barber & Osgerby. Because it’s made out of recycled materials. 

What is the best interior you ever seen? 

— I think the restaurant at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm is really nice. It has a blend of different styles that I really like.

As a designer, what do you think your most ­important role is?

— My opinion about that has changed through the years. We have an important role to play with sustainability, the co2e, and our future home. I think if we have learned anything during this pandemic, it’s that we’re actually able to make changes really fast. We can change if we need to.