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Archives: April 2011

Despite a Year of Protests, Seattle Okays Dale Chihuly Museum Next to the Space Needle


Just over a year ago, it was announced that the city of Seattle was planning to spend several millions to update the area around its iconic Space Needle. A $15 million portion of that involved tearing down what’s currently there, a small children’s park named Fun Forest, and building a museum celebrating the work of world famous glass artist Dale Chihuly. As the plans moved forward into architectural renderings and budget and timing proposals, groups against the idea raised a number of complaints, largely focused on the Chihuly’s work, with one critic even going so far as to say, “Chihuly is to art what Starbucks is to coffee” (i.e. bland and unoriginal). However, despite the protesters, many of whom formed a collective named Friends of the Green at Seattle Center, who wanted a new park instead of a museum, it looks as though Seattle is going to have their Chihuly in the end. This week, the Seattle City Council gave the museum the go ahead, with plans to have it finished by around this time next year. Perhaps as a way of throwing those against the plan a bone, a park will also be built, and alternative radio station KEXP will also find a home there. Here’s a bit from the Council’s official statement:

“I applaud the Chihuly Exhibition for its public benefit obligations providing a new artfully designed children’s playground, giving away 10,000 free tickets annually, and leading a recurring Center Nights event providing low and no-cost admission to major Seattle Center institutions,” said Councilmember Nick Licata, chair of the Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee. “I also look forward to the valuable exposure Northwest visual and glass artists will receive from the many new visitors the Exhibition attracts to the Center’s new art gallery, to be located in a newly remodeled Center House.”

Estate of Designer Tony Duquette Sues J. Crew Over Sweater’s Pattern Design

Speaking of J. Crew, as we were in the post prior, they’re the latest in these recent flood of fashion design-based lawsuits in April. The Daily Mail reports that the estate of designer Tony Duquette has filed suit against the clothing retailer for copying the deceased designer’s “signature” leopard prints. While lawsuits over patterns and prints seem to happen every day (we even posted about Coach suing Jo-Ann Fabrics over this same issue just this past week), J. Crew might find itself in a particular bind after directly referring to the original designer by name by calling the offending piece the “Duquette Leopard Print Sweater.” As the paper reports, the company has since changed the item’s name, though how substantially that will fix things with the lawsuit seems slim. And J. Crew isn’t the first to be sued by the Duquette estate. Readers will recall that Michael Kors was also on the receiving end two years ago after using the designer’s name and similar patterns.

Capital Groups Duke It Out in Attempt to Buy Jimmy Choo Brand

Maybe it’s just us, but isn’t it always sort of a strange feeling when you learn that a bunch of companies are owned by a huge conglomerate you’ve likely never heard of before? We’re not talking about something like Proctor & Gamble here or the like, but more along the lines of Golden Gate Capital, who owns big portions of companies ranging from Eddie Bauer to Macaroni Grill to J.Jill. We say this because of the news that the firm TPG Capital has joined in the fight to purchase designer Jimmy Choo‘s brand away from TowerBrook Capital (also owner, among others, of liquor retailer BevMo!). TPG will now be competing to own Choo with Jones Group (another gigantic firm who owns everything from Gloria Vanderbilt to Nine West) and a pairing between Bahrain’s Investcorp and the Labelux Group out of Germany. TPG, as you may or many not know, took over J. Crew last month, and already have huge stakes, if not outright ownership, in companies like Neiman Marcus, Harrah’s, and the Spanish broadcasting network, Univision. So who’s new corporate family will Choo join? And does it matter, considering there’s probably some even larger company that owns all these smaller company-owning behemoths? The only thing we know for certain is this: we should have gone to business school.

Around the Design World in 180 Words: Awards Edition

Pratt fashion design students Theresa Deckner, Matthew Bruch, and Juan Pozo with their winning sportswear designs. (Photo: Jennifer Strader)

  • Among the looks on display at tomorrow’s Pratt Institute Fashion Show will be three that have emerged victorious in a semester-long sportswear design competition sponsored by The Cotton Board. The Pratt students behind the designs are Juan Pozo (his prepster ensemble took the $5,000 first-place prize), Matthew Bruch (with a blue ombre tweed swing coat designed for a modern-day Jackie Kennedy), and Theresa Deckner (who fearlessly combined colors and prints).

  • The One Club has announced the finalists for the 2011 One Show, One Show Design, and One Show Interactive awards. To learn who wins the coveted gold, silver, and bronze pencils, you’ll have to wait for the One Show Festival, which begins May 9.

  • With the May 3 deadline to enter the the first annual Core77 Design Awards approaching, the organizers have announced the 15 jury teams that will deliberate in locales from Copenhagen to Palo Alto before announcing their decisions in live web broadcasts. We can’t help but be partial to the hometown teams: Steven Heller is the fearless leader of the graphics, branding, and indentity squad, while Julie Lasky is heading up the products and equipment jury.

  • Quote of Note | Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri

    Looks from the fall 2011 Valentino ready-to-wear collection.

    “With this [most recent] collection, the idea from the very beginning was not to do ‘editorial’ things just for the sake of it. Not clothes that were a photo, but clothes. However, at the same time, we wanted classic fashion—meaning, when a customer enters the store, she finds a coat or a dress that is made so well that it takes her back to what we consider fashion in the most traditional sense of the word. Because in recent years, the image of fashion has prevailed over traditional fashion, meaning sartorial detailing and workmanship. But fashion designing means creating something using a special technique that might not emerge in a photo, but when you look at it up close, you see that it’s stylish. That’s a cultural problem. Clearly we live in a time where image is more important than content.”

    -Maria Grazia Chiuri, co-creative director of Valentino, in an interview with Giancarlo Giammetti published in the May issue of Interview magazine

    Mark Your Calendar: D-Crit Conference

    Cancel your RSVP to that V.I. Lenin birthday bash and reserve your May 4th for this year’s D-Crit conference, a half-day public forum organized by graduating students of the MFA Design Criticism Department at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Moderating the confab will be BBC director, producer, and interviewer Adam Harrison Levy, and the keynote speaker is journalist and murketer Rob Walker. Then come the fast n’ fascinating thesis presentations (10 minutes each), including Sarah Cox‘s look at resident-led urban design initiatives in Detroit, Kim Birks on playground design, and Amelie Znidaric‘s “Listen to Your Chair: Design and the Art of Storytelling,” which is sure to keep attendees glued to their plush red SVA Theatre seats. Come for the new contributions to the design discourse, stay for the panel discussion. Design minds including Paola Antonelli (MoMA), Linda Tischler (Fast Company), and John Seabrook (The New Yorker) will join Levy and Walker on stage to debate the future of design criticism. Seats are filling fast, so hurry up and register here. We hear that there are Walker Design-designed Baggu bags and other limited-edition treats in store for those who arrive early.

    Museum of Arts and Design Readies David Bowie Retrospective

    Ground control to major…museum show! David Bowie will get his due as a performance artist in a retrospective opening May 9 at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. With “David Bowie, Aritst,” MAD sets out to “expand past his notoriety as a musician” to showcase “the too-often-overlooked diversity and multifaceted nature of Bowie’s total artistic output,” according to a press release issued by the museum. The program includes a film series—from Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and The Hunger to Basquiat and a new 35mm print of The Man Who Fell to Earth—as well as kiosks showing music videos, interviews, concert footage, and other audio-visual goodies (fingers crossed for a clip of Bowie’s brilliant cameo on Extras, below). The Bowiefest, which runs through July 15, is presented in conjunction with MAD’s intriguing summer exhibition: “Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities,” which will showcase small-scale, hand-built depictions of artificial environments and alternative realities by the likes of James Casebere, Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz, Mat Collishaw, and Amy Bennett.

    MoMath, the Museum of Math, Planned for New York

    It’s still a difficult period for museums, with endowments still down from their peak in 2007 and cutbacks and layoffs remain a regular occurrence. Case in point, the recent news that the Minneapolis Institute of Arts has been forced to cut 10 staff positions and somehow trim $1.4 million from their budget. Despite those industry warnings and woes, there’s a push to bring a new museum to New York, the MoMath, dedicated to “the wonders of mathematics and its connections with art, science and finance.” The AP reports that the museum is the idea of Glen Whitney, a former hedge fund analyst, who wants to bring math to the people. They need $30 million to launch the museum in the ground floor of a building in Chelsea and they’ve already raised $22 million of that, helped most recently by a $2 million grant given to them by Google. Assuming they can raise the rest, the plan is to open their new home sometime in 2012. In the interim, their trial, traveling exhibition, “Math Midway,” continues touring throughout the country and their site is up and running, of course with a gift shop selling all sorts of math-related stuffs.

    Quote of Note | Shutterfly CEO Jeffrey Housenbold

    dollar camera.jpg“Singular focus matters. If you look across the Internet, the companies that won in each vertical were singularly focused ones. They did not always stay independent, but they were the winners. In payments it was PayPal, in jobs it was Monster, in auctions it was eBay. Companies that are not entrenched in old business models tend to win in the Internet. It’s Amazon, not Wal-Mart; Netflix, not Blockbuster. We’re the Netflix of our industry. We’ve got many large offline competitors, but we have a very different business model, focused on the customer, not selling printers or ink or frames. We have built this company to be large and standalone, but also, from the perspective of business partnerships or equity or acquisitions, we always have to remain open. If we can achieve it as part of a larger company, we’re open to that.” —Jeffrey Housenbold, CEO of Shutterfly, which today announced that it has completed its acquisition of Tiny Prints in a deal valued at $333 million.

    Volvo Unveils ‘Car for Fashionable Businessman Appreciating Scandinavian Luxury’

    Mixed metaphors: The Volvo Concept Universe, “not macho, but yet very muscular, not overstated but elegant and delicate in every detail.”

    “What is a beautiful car?” Volvo asked itself this question and answered with the Concept Universe, the first new design from Volvo since Beijing-based Geely acquired the company from Ford in March 2010. The car was unveiled last week at the Shanghai Auto Show, the product of Volvo chief designer Jonathan Disley and his team’s back-to-basics, up-with-luxury approach. “When we set out to create this concept, one of the first things I told the designers was not to draw cars for a week,” he said in a statement issued by Volvo. “Instead, I asked them to design sculptures.” The resulting car, built entirely by hand over 8,000 hours, exhibits “fluidity and a sculptural gracefulness…We reduced the number of lines and took away all visual noise.” OK, we’re with you. Unfortunately, Volvo wasted no time in filling that noise vacuum with endless rhetoric about the Concept Universe, making the press release read like something cobbled together by the contestants in an offshore version of The Celebrity Apprentice. Here are a few of our favorite excerpts from materials we received:

  • “With Volvo’s new tie to China in mind, the design director brought a more philosophical dimension to the design, as he wished for a car ‘with the depth of the universe and just as welcoming as the sun rising over a calm ocean.’”
  • “The depth of the grill, with its layered design, luminary effects, and planetary feel, resembles the universe, while the illumination bar between the tail lights reflect the color spectra of the sun and the moon rising.”
  • “The frosted tail lights accentuate a glowing, almost burning red light.”
  • “A car for the fashionable businessman appreciating Scandinavian luxury”
  • “Created for the confident, well-dressed businessman”
  • “‘Think of it as the car industry’s equivalence to a well-tailored Oswald Boateng [sic] suit,’ says Disley. ‘When you see it at a distance, you get intrigued, and the feeling when you get close or inside, is one of exquisite luxury.’”
  • “The designers were particularly inspired by the texture of George Jensen [sic].”
  • “If the Volvo Concept Universe were a place it would be, according to Disley, ‘the sophisticated parts of Paris/London expressing luxury in a Scandinavian modest way.’”

    Whether or not you’re a fashionable businessman, we suggest putting all of the above words out of your mind and checking out the design study itself here.