One to Watch: Fashion
“The kind of things that capture me are old stories—not necessarily just pretty colours or something shocking,” says Grandy Chu, creator of Grandi, a Vancouver-based luxury womenswear boutique. For Chu—who has already caught the attention of Vogue and Glamour in the U.K. and dressed Oscars attendees—designing collections and individual pieces primarily for aesthetic purposes is “weary and uninteresting,” and so her pieces reach beyond to explore ideas of narrative. The pop-arty Pantomime collection features silhouettes with contrasting black and white, which represents the questioning of opposing perspectives in ancient Greek theatre; the gilded dresses of her Serpentine capsule conjure art nouveau fairytales. “When you watch a runway show, it’s almost like reading sentence after sentence in a storybook,” she explains. “By the time the collection is done, you have a whole story.”
One to Watch: Maker
The duo behind Origins is thinking ahead. “We’re trying to approach design from a generational standpoint, and trying to create generational pieces that have a long life,” says Deagan McDonald, who runs the experimental design and fabrication studio alongside Kelsey Nilsen. “I think a lot of the stuff that you’re seeing from big retailers and in the market today, I would consider it kind of temporary furniture; it’s got a very visible lifespan to it and a lot of it gets disposed.”
After wrapping up their masters of architecture studies at University of Toronto, the duo landed in Vancouver in 2017 and set to work crafting a small selection of smart, simple pieces (“We’ve heard the term ‘soft minimalism’ recently and I think that fits well with our way of thinking,” says McDonald) that use materials in intriging new ways: the wavy Tempo shelf (right) was built with CNC milling technology (rippling troughs cradle books neatly); a non-traditional mortar and pestle set is crafted from Eastern maple wood to create an appealingly smooth pestle surface. “It’s really about trying to unlock the potential in material,” says McDonald, “and to try to put out projects and products that allow people to view the material in a different manner.”
One to Watch: Landscape
“The natural world is where I fill my cup,” says Bianca Bodley, owner and principal designer of Biophilia Design Collective. Appropriate enough, then, that she’s settled into a career as a landscape designer. “The ocean, the forest, an open field, a desert—I love the serenity and peace that comes from being surrounded by nature and how it perfectly layers and combines foliage, land, water and the sky.”
It’s from the great outdoors that the Victoria-based Bodley is “constantly absorbing design,” and you’ll see the influence of organic forms and loose, natural structure in her work. Take her Tofino Resort and Marina project; the property showcases a pallet of lush and inviting West Coast greenery (Polystichum munitum, sword fern, and Betula pendula, silver birch) that complements the colour scheme of the resort and blurs the line between the surrounding wilderness and the hotel grounds. “I want people to ultimately feel drawn to and at peace in their outdoor space,” says Bodley.
One to Watch: Industrial Design
Starting a North Vancouver-based industrial design studio felt like an “instinctive progression” for brothers Shawn and James Kay: it was a hard destiny to avoid, really, growing up surrounded by West Coast forests and a family full of carpenters. So, after earning degrees in environmental design (Shawn) and materials engineering (a PhD for James) from UBC, the Kay brothers decided to combine their complementary skills and launch Tantalus Design.
Experimentation and curiosity are two core pillars of Tantalus’s design process, resulting in furniture and lighting pieces that inspire delight. “A lot of our products combine wood and metal in some pretty unorthodox ways. It’s fun trying to push beyond the constraints of solid wood,” says Shawn. Take the Etched collection hardware project (right), which eliminates the over-plate typically seen on door hardware with clever lever components while showcasing an intricate, craftsman-like texture via laser-engraved wood handles: it reimagines the status quo, and looks good doing it. “We strive to make things that will last,” says Shawn. “We want to surprise people and spark curiosity.”
Photo by Harry BohmOne to Watch: Furniture
Things can feel tense when you enter the New Format Studio workshop—in the best way possible. “The interesting thing about design to me is that it’s a set of parameters. You have to work within what the market will actually purchase, but you also have to work within what you feel good about creating,” says founder Henry Norris. “There’s a tension between those two things, and I think that’s what draws me to it.”
We first featured the Vancouver-based designer in our January issue, and since then Norris has continued to hone his gift for putting an artful spin on timeless furniture designs. For New Format’s Plano Bar cabinet, he curved acid-wash glass—which gave this familiar hard material a surprisingly soft feel—into a handsome vintage-modern storage piece (right). “Once you curve a standard building material,” he explains, “it takes on a much different light.”