London-based designer Faye Toogood, known for her minimal pieces, celebrates 15 years of covetable craft and creative evolution
Photography by Genevieve Lutkin
Words by Shoshana Espeut
Sinuous shapes, structural prowess and an earthy palette that echoes nature’s playground encapsulates just some of the work of the multi-hyphenate Faye Toogood, founder of studio Toogood. The designer’s creative pursuits span interior design, homewares, fine art, and fashion, rejecting the notion of being confined to one field or approach. Toogood has become one of the most recognisable figures in the design and art industry with work that can be found in museum collections around the world.
Having grown up in Rutland, Toogood has always had a strong connection to the British countryside. From a young age she was an avid collector of objects found in nature such as stones, rocks and bird’s eggs. She recounts, ‘materials and their origin are a huge part of my narrative and form giving. An interesting material or technique can give me the context for my work and become the starting point.’
Since the beginning of her career, landscape, nature, and the elements have been a huge source of inspiration for almost every object and piece of furniture. The British landscape and earth were the stimulus for her eponymous fashion collection, which later progressed into a wallpaper design, and eventually further evolved into a new material for one of the characterful Roly-Poly chairs.
Launched in 2014 as part of the Assemblage 4 exhibition, the Roly-Poly chair has been recognised as an iconic design of the last decade with its smooth, rounded, voluptuous shape. The chair has been redesigned in subsequent versions to experiment with various solid materials and finishes such as brushed aluminium and gold leaf. It is this unabashed approach to mixing materials with unexpected forms that has seen the studio’s cutting-edge creations grow into contemporary design classics.
Photography courtesy of Faye Toogood
‘Our approach is, and always has been, to create long-lasting objects and garments with high-quality materials,’ says Toogood. Combining mediums and an innate ability to blend cross-categorical interests are what characterise much of studio’s collections.
Mirror Mirror: Reflections on Design at Chatsworth House is a notable project. The group exhibition currently on display until 1 October is co-curated with writer, historian and curator, Glenn Adamson. It places contemporary works in direct relationship with the historic design at Chatsworth, creating unexpected connections to the house’s architecture, interiors, furniture and ceramics, as well its essential materials of glass, stone, wood and light.
Toogood took on the commission during the making of Assemblage 7, the brand’s most ambitious work with wood and stone. The shellac-stained polished oak pieces of Assemblage 7 were in part inspired by the refined polished wood found in stately homes like Chatsworth. For Toogood, the timing felt ‘wonderfully serendipitous’ and marked a landmark moment given that it was the first time a substantial collection of her work had been showcased in the UK.
Collaborations have become an important and exciting part of the studio’s work. Toogood collaborates with other brands across a broad spectrum of disciplines. When approaching the design process, she notes ‘there will be a starting concept that has usually been triggered by something in my everyday life and then the process evolves from here. It may start with
a particular shape or material and then we look at where we could apply this – whether it be fashion, furniture, space or all combined.’
Photography by Genevieve Lutkin
For this year’s edition of the coveted Milan Design Week, Toogood teamed up with the prestigious Parisian design house, Maison Matisse. The collection of furniture, rugs, and a blanket is a stunning showcase of creativity and artistry. Drawing served as the starting point for this project, and Toogood worked tirelessly to create a library of gesture, line, and shape inspired by motifs in Matisse’s sketches.
Yet her creative mind didn’t stop there, as she also drew inspiration from the library of motifs to create furniture pieces, such as an upholstered armchair and stool, and a coffee table. The finished pieces exude the energy and slight irregularity of a drawing.
The presentation in Milan includes painted lengths of paper with the same library of lines and shapes and a large hand-painted tablecloth where prints of Matisse’s sketches hang, inviting visitors to delve deeper into the inspiration behind the collection. The palette of neutral shades adds a touch of sophistication to the collaboration, elevating the whole project to a level of timeless elegance.
Toogood has continued to push the boundaries of experimentation through the exploration of materiality. With exhibitions and collections gracefully blurring the lines between medium, maker and masterpiece, it is this unwavering passion for craftsmanship and an unconstrained way of working that is testament to the studio’s success. ‘I will continue to pursue the work of the handmade in a digitally driven world,’ explains Toogood, who quite literally has the design world in her hands.
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