At this year’s winter edition of Maison & Objet, the biannual design trade fair in Paris, a cadre of six young British designers had the chance to strut their stuff, thanks to the patronage of Sir John Sorrell, founder of the London Design Festival.
Sorrell asked six of England’s most famous creators—Tom Dixon, Paul Smith, Ilse Crawford, Ross Lovegrove, Jay Osgerby and Nigel Coates—to select a person whose work they thought was outstanding for his newly created Rising Talents Award U.K.
Dixon, for example, championed young sculptor Zuza Mengham for the program. “Her work leaps off the page,” he says, explaining his choice. “And she doesn’t come from the design world,” a fact especially appealing to Dixon, who also doesn’t have a conventional design resume: He started as a colorist for animated films.
This exhibition marked Mengham’s introduction to the world of international fairs. “It’s exciting to be pushed to different areas,” she enthuses, clearly thrilled to have her work on view for such a large audience.
Mengham graduated from Wimbledon College of Art in 2008 and spent the next eight years working for other artists to gain experience. She only started on her own last year, making a successful debut at the Conran Shop during the London Design Festival in 2016. She collaborated with Laboratory Perfumes, translating five of the company’s unisex scents into something visual.
“I came up with a color palette for each fragrance,” she says, adding that resin was a great material for this project. She mixed it with minerals including powdered iron, slate, copper and bronze. “I like to let the materials do what they want,” she says. “I want light and transparency.” At her small booth at the fair, she also displayed a cast-resin bench, resin vases and bookends, and is currently working on a small collection of jewelry.
Mengham loves discovering the potential of materials. She explains that she used to work in steel—she has been making large-scale steel structures in her South London studio and is planning to make stone her material of choice next year.
She also prefers to make unique pieces and is not at all interested in developing products for a large audience. “I think that no plan is the best plan,” she says.
Another new face, Maison Dada, stood out amidst a sea of midcentury modern-inspired furniture (the names on the booths could have easily been interchanged and no one would have known the difference.) The one-year-old company, started by two French expats living in Shanghai, designers Thomas Dariel and Delphine Moreau, describe the collection of furniture, accessories, lighting and rugs as “gently crazy.”
Ligne Roset has always championed new talent and this year was no exception. Vincent Tordjman, a set designer and musician who learned the art of furniture design while working for Didier Gomez, created a cleverly structured table with an asymmetric base to make sure there was room or diners’ feet.
Tordjman also produced a rug, vase, and a hypnotic wall clock. But it was an established face, Marie Christine Dorner, who made the most news with her Cover series—a new take on slipcovers. The idea is amazingly simple: A fitted top drops over an already fully upholstered sofa, which can completely change the seating’s personality from modern to baroque. It’s the perfect choice for decorators with a fear of commitment.