NYCxDesign, aka New York Design Week, is in full swing, and with it comes the annual parade of furniture launches. One highly anticipated release is the U.S. debut of Japanese furniture company Kamarq, which worked with designers PieterJan Mattan and Nicola Formichetti on the inaugural collection.
Unveiled in New York yesterday, Kamarq’s first collection offers vibrant tables and modular storage solutions. It looks versatile and fun, and feels like a break from the pared-back minimalism served by Scandi mania over the last several years. Except this breath of fresh air may not be all that fresh, say close watchers of the industry.
After the collection’s reveal, various Instagram posts and comments have called attention to the resemblance between Kamarq pieces—namely the series of tables and stools featuring slab tops and columnar supports—and the Slon collection designed by Ana Kraš and produced by Brooklyn-based studio Matter Made in 2015.
Aside from similarities in form between the works (a situation that comes up often in design history), the Kamarq stools and tables were also originally named the Elephant series (it’s since been changed to Pillar); “slon” means elephant in Serbian, Kraš’s native language. Kraš’s post on the subject is embedded below.
WOW Few months ago a serbian/japanese friend from Tokyo sent me a screengrab of @kamarqjp post with a collection that looked like a version of ‘Slon’ collection I designed for @mattermade in 2015 and was named ‘Elephant’. We laughed at it because ‘Slon’ means ‘Elephant’ in our mother tongue and it was an obnoxious copy of not only the look but even the name! Wow. Really glad I saved that screengrab. Today I received many messages showing me the NYC launch of that same collection by the same brand - proudly stating it’s a collaboration between @nicolaformichetti and @pjmattan Even presented on the same street in NYC, few blocks away from where I first showed ‘Slon’ collection at Matter in 2015. I don’t know who any of those people are and what they’ve been thinking, but this is so ridiculous. To even translate the name?! Who does that? Who copies the name too? How lazy. Impressive. I wonder if they decided to change the name for the launch, thinking it might be too much of a hint.. Btw this guy @pjmattan who apparently co-designed this was at my ‘Slon’ launch at @matterstore in 2015 and even posted it on his IG (picture 5) Well glad to see you liked it PJ Mattan Also - @camronpr promoting this? For real? WOW Thank you to everyone for support x A
In response, Mattan and Formichetti have released the following statement:
This week we debuted our inaugural collection with Japanese brand, Kamarq. Part of the collection was heavily inspired by the elegant long legs of Mario Bellini’s set of Il Colonnato tables from the 1970’s [sic]. We acknowledge that certain pieces could be attributed to the work of designer Ana Kras, and out of respect for Ana, we will be removing these pieces from the collection. Kamarq is an ever-evolving brand that will strive to work with many different designers, and we remain respectful of and committed to supporting the creative community at large.
Beyond the pieces’ design, what was most interesting about this launch is Kamarq’s subscription-based model—billed as the “Netflix of furniture.” Every piece would be for rent, and there would be no rent-to-buy option. There are two plans—six months minimum and 12 months minimum—and prices start at $5 a month. The furniture you receive is always new, and once you’re ready to part with them, Kamarq collects the old items and reuses the materials at its factory in Indonesia.
The service, which is only available in New York state so far, capitalizes on the fact that urban dwellers often have to relocate multiple times within a city and furniture is usually something that drags them down. With a subscription, your furniture may not need to last any moves at all.
At the time of this writing, the Pillar series is still live on Kamarq’s website.