Charlotte Perriand: How a discreet French designer went from deep cut to trendy
A few months before her death in 1999, Charlotte Perriand was asked in an interview if she considered herself an architect or a designer. She rejected both titles. “I would say first that I am nothing. For the following reason: I have never designed an object, a form, a piece of furniture that I did not need to relate to a whole. If you asked me today to design a chair for you, I would say “Where to go?” I have no imagination.
Such a claim seems rich, given the place Perriand now occupies in a culture increasingly obsessed with design. One of his iconic desks is in Jay-Z’s office. Perriand makes frequent appearances on The Row’s Instagram and in its stores. Last year, Aesop released their Rōzu fragrance, a gender neutral fragrance “inspired by the life, work and enthusiasms of the modernist designer.” Footwear brand LoQ’s FW ’20 collection was also inspired by Perriand. The same goes for jewelry designer Sophie Buhai. Fashion designer Isabel Marant has long cited her as an influence, freeform offerings from brands like Wiggle Room obviously owe her a debt of gratitude. There have been two major retrospectives of his work over the past two years, first in Paris and then in London. Oh, and Kris Jenner bought one of her credences from Ellen DeGeneres. Weird!
So how did this relatively obscure figure, long eclipsed by collaborators like Le Corbusier and Jean Prouvé, become so popular, so quickly? It can be difficult to pinpoint where visual trends begin, but in Perriand’s case, it’s safe to say that his most recent resurgence is largely due to one oddly old-fashioned event: a museum exhibit. In 2019, the Louis Vuitton Foundation (LVMH’s non-profit art museum, opened in Paris in 2014) carried out a major survey on Perriand’s work. The eleven galleries of the space designed by Frank Gehry were devoted to more than 200 models, furniture and photographs. Charlotte Perriand: Inventing a new world was the museum’s first exhibition to focus on the work of an artist.
Patrick Seguin, whose Parisian design gallery specializes in the work of French modernists like Perriand, Prouvé, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret – who have all worked together at different points in their careers – says that the value of Perriand’s work “has gained real significance ”in the art world as a result of the 2019 show. Today, many of his creations sell for six figures at auction. Part of Perriand’s appeal is the limited number of original pieces in circulation – she always wanted to create affordable and affordable furniture, but like so many Modernist ideals this never saw the light of day. Only one brand, Cassina, which collaborated with LVMH on the exhibition, is authorized to create reproductions of her work.
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