Photograph by Dick Duyres of Wanders with his Big Shadow lamp for Cappellini.
Within the span of a few years, Marcel Wanders has made the transition from brazen, young upstart, with his novel designs for the Dutch avant-garde label Droog, to become a leading figure in contemporary design, all the while creating innovative, often quirky objects. Most recently, he’s taken on new roles as art director for two other Dutch furniture lines, Moooi and Lensvelt, and as interior designer for the new Mandarina Duck flagship store in London. Wanders literally “breathes life” into the fashionable Italian label’s store with a series of patchwork walls and lifelike mannequins that gently inhale and exhale.
Your designs range from furniture and lighting to jewelry and accessories—how do you face each new design challenge?
What I find so inspiring about my profession is the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects. At the moment, I am working on a collection for a new brand of baby accessories, including a stroller and car seat; a collection of hand-painted ceramic plates; residential towers in Mexico; lighting for Flos and Swarovski; a large crystal chandelier for the Dutch “White House”—the prime minister’s residence—and a lot more.
You often get categorized as being part of a new Dutch movement in design. Is that an accurate or fair assessment?
I do not consider myself a Dutch designer. I am who I am, and, of course, what surrounds me influences me, but we live in a large world. When I was a child, I listened to the stories of Grimm, music of Vivaldi, went on vacation in Bordeaux, followed football in the U.K. When I was older, I started reading Ken Wilber and Nietzsche, came across Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra, learned lessons from the Dalai Lama. I am the poetry of my past days, a careful assembly of all these encounters.
What is your main goal or approach when you design something?
I am here to create an environment of love, to live with passion, and to make my most exciting dreams come true. I like to make things light and with a sense of humor, but never a joke.
Though your designs are often whimsical or tongue-in-cheek, it is obvious you take design very seriously. Are your designs a reflection of your personality?
If I open the door of my living room, I am in my studio. There is only one Marcel Wanders: He is a designer, father, lover, writer, poet, troublemaker, friend. I can only be that all at once. Every man has the right to make a masterpiece of his life, and it is our right to try to contribute to this masterpiece. I try with my designs to make a connection to real life and to contribute to the lives of people. I know that I take design as seriously as my life, but even there—there is no reason to take even life too seriously.