“What attracts me is the perfect balance between taste and life, history and dream, craft and modernity,” says Beijing-born Frank Chou of his motivation to design for Louis Vuitton’s travel-inspired Objets Nomades. This also fits in well with the award-winning artist’s design ethos that melds tradition and modernity while weaving in inspirations from his home country. His brand Frank Chou Design Studio expresses that aesthetic with its elegant creations.
And they caught Louis Vuitton’s attention—Frank Chou Design Studio’s pieces became regulars in the luxury brand’s stores. The call for a collaboration came last year. Chou was excited for another opportunity to give vent to his creativity. “Objets Nomades provided us a more imaginative and capacious platform for design,” says the designer.
Everyone I know in my life or from history, such as musicians and directors, even ordinary people could influence my work
For his design for Objets Nomades, Chou borrowed from his Asian heritage, delving deep into some of its age-old traditions and melding them with his expert know-how of European design. Experimenting with different influences is not new for Chou, but for this project specifically, he wanted to dig deeper into his heritage and highlight his identity as a designer from China. Regardless of the cultural differences between him as a designer and the brand, the designer says that “the true spirit, which I think we all have in common, is that we have an outstanding attitude towards life”.
In the design of his signature sofa and armchair, Chou plays with the idea of time and its existence in various states. He references the undulating rice terraces that cover the hills of Yunnan province with lush greenery. and ties the design to natural formations such as in Antelope Canyon, Arizona, USA. These floating structures are clothed in Louis Vuitton leather, with a special Dots fabric from Paola Lenti lending it a three-dimensional quality. An outdoor model—one of the first Objet Nomade to be specifically designed so—is upholstered in Louis Vuitton’s signature waterproof canvas material and an innovative and vibrant Paola Lenti fabric called Brio.
Vogue Singapore sits down with the designer to get a better sense of his design process, the Louis Vuitton collaboration and his—and Frank Chou Design Studio’s—furniture designs for Objets Nomades.
How would you describe your design ethos. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Actually, I believe anytime, anyplace and anything could be my inspiration. It does not have to come from a specific object. It may also come from a piece of information or spirit, even behavioural aspects. My inspiration always comes from my own experience of life. Everyone I know in my life or from history, such as musicians and directors, even ordinary people could influence my work.
What attracted you to the world of furniture/home design?
I took on furniture as a carrier to keep history, emotion and culture. Thus, I may not be designing furniture itself. It is one of the few things that can exist in people’s lives for a long time to record and carry all of these things.
Tell us about your visualisation, design and creation process. Is there a signature “Frank Chou” element in all of them?
When designing or creating, I always have to consider whether a new design has significance and value, and whether it is possible to bring about any changes. The pursuit is of elegance, balance, and unity between modern and future. Based on these, in fact, there is no fixed process of design, it would be perceived and realised in a very natural way.
Whom do you design for?
As designers, we should design for the progress of human beings, and the problems that need to be solved in each era changes all the time. For example, last year we designed a product that combined a tray with an ultraviolet lamp—which helps protect against coronavirus. We are still looking for partners to market the product, but it is something that can easily be incorporated into our daily lives as it is accessible and highly relevant to the times.
Tell us about your inspirations for your Objet?
We started off by thinking about China’s influence on our daily life, including our society, environment, culture, history, and nature. At that time, terraced fields in China attracted me and the idea stuck in my mind. Of course, terraced fields do not only exist in China. We could see that there are many other countries and regions with similar landforms and natural formations, which drew clues in my mind. Beneath these clues we found the threads of time. And from there grew this idea of how time exists in many states.
How has your style melded with Louis Vuitton’s image and design sensibilities?
The collaboration between designers and brands is like a love affair, or to say, the progress of marriage. Both sides come together through shared values and sensibilities, which is the premise. On this basis, we won’t stop to communicate, comprehend and think more about how we can capture the core and spirit of the brand and meld that with ours through design. What comes out of this process belongs to the brand and us as well.
Could you describe your Objet in a sentence?
A sculpture that enables a conversation with time.
Find out more about Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades on louisvuitton.com