Lenny Kravitz at Kartell @ Salone Milan 2012

Each spring Salone del Mobile arrives in Milan, bringing with it the world’s top designers, architects, design enthusiasts and the occassional unexpected moments. This year, Kartell presented a series of chairs re-designed by rock star Lenny Kravitz.

Although better known for his music, Kravitz can include designer on his CV, having founded his own studio, Kravitz Design in 2003. In recent years he’s been involved with multiple large-scale hotel projects, a collaboration with Swarovski Crystal Palace and now, is collaborating with iconic designer Philippe Stark on a new rendition of Starck’s Mademoiselle chair.

The project grew out of a friendship between the two and the American rock icon’s studio Kravitz Design resulting in an exclusive collection of six reinterpreted Mademoiselle chairs which were originally designed by Starck for Kartell.

Kravitz has re-imagined and upholstered starck’s design with a combination of textural fabrics ( selected together with Starck ) – exotic textiles of fur, leather, python and woven materials – which come together to create a visual and tactile experience – reflecting the character and spirit of both artists

Philippe Starck has been wonderfully supportive my design endeavours, so when he asked me if I would interpret his ‘Mademoiselle chair’ for Kartell, I was excited about the idea of two icons collaborating in this way. The Kravitz design take on the ‘Mademoiselle chair’ is haute couture meets rock and roll.”  …..  Lenny Kravitz

An environment is made of materiality; wood, stone, metal… but also made of immateriality such as light, temperature, memories and also sounds and music. Lenny proved at the highest level he could create an entire musical universe. it is now time for him to translate the magic of his music into materiality, into chairs, into lamps… a new experience for Lenny, a new territory for us” … Philippe Starck.

Lenny Kravitz has taken a childhood compunction to decorate his bedroom and turned it into another creative endeavor.

To rocker, songwriter and actor, add designer.

Kravitz created a series of chairs for Kartell based on Philippe Starck’s iconic “Mademoiselle” armchair, clad, like, at times the rocker himself, in python, leather or fur. And he designed black and white tiles inspired by water drops and waves for Lea Ceramiche.

Both projects were unveiled this week against the squealing backdrop of adoring fans during Milan Furniture Fair, which runs through Sunday.

For Kravitz, it all goes back to childhood, to his drive to create an environment where he felt comfortable to create, to write songs.

“Since I was a kid, it was always important how my room was put together. I would buy all these posters, fabrics and lighting, and I would make the room the way I wanted it to be,” Kravitz said in an interview late Tuesday night as he perched on a leather version of his chair in a Kartell store window made to look like a stage.

Outside, fans held back by barriers snapped photos with smart phones, the eager hoard blocking traffic. The attention at a design event seemed to surprise Kravitz – despite his status as a rock venue veteran fresh off tour in Korea, whose most recent film appearance was in the box office hit “The Hunger Games.”

“The most important thing was to create a vibe,” he said. And once that vibe was achieved, “my world was set.”

Kravitz exercised his designer spirit decorating his home, and his first creation, an L-shaped sofa upholstered in crocodile, still adorns his New Orleans home.

“When I started getting my own homes, I found myself making pieces maybe I couldn’t find, or making pieces I couldn’t afford and copying them,” Kravitz said. “It was always about creating an atmosphere.”

Along the way, he drew the favorable attention of Starck, who got to know Kravitz through his musician daughter, Ara Starck, half of the band, “The Two.” Kartell’s unofficial designer emeritus introduced the rock star to the design house, and “Kartell goes Rock,” was born.

“It is just a beginning. But he did it well,” Starck said. “He is very, very smart guy. And like all musicians, with a very strong intuition. And also he can bring the air of the night, the fresh air of the night, in design. Design is creative, but always a little bit sleeping. We are cool guys, but we are not from the night.”

Kravitz said his aim was to give the chairs “feel, texture and plushness.”

“It is just about reinterpreting it and putting my spin on it. For me, it was about feel, texture and plushness,” he said.

Kravitz arrived in Milan with design credentials of his own. He founded his own design company Kravitz Design Inc., in 2003, and has previously worked with Swarovski on a series of crystal chandeliers, designed a luxury recording studio in Miami Beach and conceived the Florida Room lounge at the Delano hotel in Miami, among other projects. The two Milan debuts represent a step toward larger scale production.

His tile collection for Lea is called “Goccia,” Italian for drop. The tiles – in smooth anthracite black or sleekest white – create an undulating impression along a wall. Kravitz said he was able to realize the concept through trial and error – creating prototypes, getting samples and making improvements – until he achieved the effect he sought.

“They are really fluid,” Kravitz said.

Kravitz seems to be hitting his creative stride, and yet finding time for it all. He said he brings his design team on tour, and they work after shows, one endeavor fueling the other.

“I love that I am maturing. I am glad to be doing what it is that I love. I appreciate it now more than ever. When you are younger … I think I was running so fast, I didn’t get to take it all in,” Kravitz said. “I am really savoring being creative, I am really savoring each moment.”

Interview by ” Cool Hunting ”

When switching between music and design do you need a break to switch mindsets or find a workspace?

Not at all, I do a lot of design work on the road. I can’t be at my office, obviously, like one would expect. So I have to work where and when I can. So that’s on the tour bus, on the plane or hotel, backstage, and days off. The design team is just three of us, so they’ll come out on the road and whatever project we’re working on we’ll do what we have to do and then they’ll go back to the office and carry on. And then we’ll meet up again. We do a lot by computer and all. But no, no break at all. I’m always thinking about design and music.

Do you see design an alternative way to exercise your creative mind?

I like having different mediums to express myself, I do photography, I have a design company, I make music and I’m doing films now. It all comes from the same place. The thing about design I love so much and why it’s been in my life for so long is that for me in making music—or being creative in general—the environment has so much to do with it. Ever since I was a kid I was really concerned with how my room was, even the lighting, how things were laid out. Because it made me feel a certain way, made me hear music a certain way or create music a certain way, just by that feeling. It’s all about making your environment so comfortable and inspiring and sexy, that you want to be creative.

With your design studio being based in SoHo you must spend a lot of time in New York, where do you go for design inspiration?

All over. You know I grew up between Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn and the Upper East Side. So I have a real feeling for things that are very luxurious and very upscale, I love the UES between Fifth and Madison from the upper 60s to the low 80s, I grew up loving these beautiful Beaux-Arts buildings and spending time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But at the same time I love Brooklyn—and I’m talking old school Bed-Stuy—and Alphabet City and Times Square, when it was Times Square. I love the whole high-low thing.

Since starting your design studio have you thought about doing collaborations?

Actually most of the stuff we’ve done hasn’t been collaborations. Like the Paramount Bay, the 47-story luxury condo we’re doing, that’s us. And we’re doing a hotel project in Toronto right now, that’s us. The only collaboration we’ve done so far is with Philippe Starck. So, not a bad place to start. I have to say that’s been very enjoyable.

How closely did you actually work with him on the Mademoiselle chair project ?

He gave me a lot of freedom. So we basically did what we did and he gave his opinions and edited. And of course the piece was already designed, the Mademoiselle chair, which is completely iconic. He’s done his job, right? So it was just about reinterpreting it. But who knows where we will go in the future. We like each other very much, we’ve known each other for a long time. He’s been very supportive. He’s one of the people who saw my work early on and encouraged me to really move forward, so that’s incredible to have someone like that in your corner. But I’d love to collaborate with more people, yeah.

Your style is definitely bold and very masculine, whereas Starck’s designs tend to be more playful and feminine, how did this play in with transforming the chair?

We made the legs, they’re not see through anymore. In fact when looking from a distance you don’t know if its wood or solid. I just wanted to give it that “thing”. Like you said, it already has its playful, you know, feminine edge. So it was just about giving it a bit of… you know, me. And I think they work very well together.

Talk a bit about your choice of materials.

I like things that are organic and natural, I love reptile patterns and fur—we used faux fur. The nature. You know. On the other end the Bahamas chair, the one that’s a woven fabric, it’s very organic and a nice contrast to the plastic.

Another recent project you did was some custom wall papers with Flavor Paper, do you think wallpaper is under appreciated in contemporary interior design?

Yes, yes I do. When I grew up as a kid you’d go to your aunt’s house or grandmother’s house and there’d be wallpaper everywhere. I love wallpaper. It’s a really simple way to dress a place up and give it a whole new appearance by just apply paper. I use it a lot. I think that it’s getting more popular. And I think people like Flavor Paper who are young and modern are doing really interesting things with paper. It’s helping to bring it to the forefront.

Having now worked with Starck and Kartell, if given the opportunity to work with any other designer—dead or alive—on a project who would it be?

Dead or alive? Wow. I’d probably want to go to Spain and hang out with Gaudi. Yeah, yeah. It was the first thing that I really fell in love with when I came to Europe for the first time. I fell in love with Art Nouveau. And that’s where it all really started. Although you don’t really see that in any of my stuff right now. But I was a big collector even of the French, of Majorelle furniture. But I think Gaudi would have been really interesting to hang out with, and work with.

via Cool hunting
by Graham Hiemstra
18th April 2012

Lenny Kravitz performs during F1 Rocks! Melbourne at Myer Music Bowl on March 17, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia

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