Designers of the Year 2016: Ones to Watch
Rising design stars from across the West.
Along our winning Designers of the Year, we selected four other up-and-coming designers from across the West to spotlight in our September issue.
Maker to Watch: Wendy W. Fok
Wendy W. Fok’s interest in building things started with making motors for little Japanese toy cars and escalated by age 16 to full-fledged motorcycle design. “I always had an interest in taking things apart and putting them back together,” says this year’s Maker to Watch. As the creative director of WE-Designs (with offices in both Vancouver and New York), Fok uses her architectural background to create immersive, one-of-a-kind public design installations for events (like SXSW), companies (Alessi) and cultural institutions (Times Square). Her Projective Dualism 2.0 pop-up structure in Boston welcomed the public into a compact, reflective space (pictured right) that explored the difficulty of privacy in cities that are subject to surveillance; the LED prisms she installed in a Hong Kong square create the optical illusion of being an “impossible object.” Her bold designs caught the attention of judge Kelly Deck: “Wendy’s work is innovative and evoking, and I’m very excited about the path she will blaze.”—with reporting by Giordano Rizzuti
Furniture Designer to Watch: Autonomous Furniture Collective
Co-founders Jodie Webb and Kirk Van Ludwig source all their wood from B.C., predominantly from Vancouver Island, and keep their inspiration local—Stanley Park and the ’70s modernism movement emerge in their rustic-modern pieces through acrylic, steel, concrete and striking modern angles. Their 1970 table, made of curved steel and Western red cedar, comes from a selection of decades-old wood that Van Ludwig has been holding on to, just waiting for the right occasion. The impressive pairing of opposing material is not an easy task to accomplish, but it’s one they’ve done well, says judge Lee Broom: “The contrast of natural and manmade materials is incredibly engaging.” The Victoria-based furniture company also makes a point of preserving the tree’s integrity and remaining ethical and green. “We’re very fascinated by buzzwords like sustainability,” says Webb, adding, “Our customers are looking to buy a piece of the West Coast.” —Ames Bourdeau
Fashion Designer to Watch: Lara Presber
If you’ve seen Lara Presber’s womenswear collection, you might not be surprised to hear she’s an architect by trade: her smartly designed pieces take their inspiration from the structures Presber loves. Her Spring 2010 collection illustrates illusory layering inspired by Chicago’s Aqua Tower, while dresses from Spring 2011 take inspiration from the metallic and organic essence of the Alberta Gallery of Art. For Presber, translating the philosophies of architecture to fashion allows her to explore creativity without sacrificing functionality. “I think the skills that I use to build buildings help me really understand the properties of the textile, the structure of the fabric itself, and how they all work together,” she says. Her latest creation, the Commute skirt, may not be inspired by a specific structure, but it is evidence of Presber’s beautiful mix of analytics and artistry: a fastening mechanism keeps the flowy skirt together during bike rides. For judge Danielle Wilmore, Presber’s merging of function and fashion is most impressive: “The Commute skirt is not only smart and solves a problem, it looks great while doing it… and that’s a difficult thing to achieve.”—Carlo Javier
Industrial Designers to Watch: OneTwoSix Design
“It’s really important to understand, first and foremost, the people who are interacting with the product we create,” says Nick Kazakoff, co-founder, along with Brendan Gallagher, of OneTwoSix Design. For the Edmonton-based duo, it’s less about aesthetics, and more about problem solving, so while their contemporaries are going the auteur route, Kazakoff and Gallagher are rolling up their sleeves and tackling commissions from a wide range of clients. Some days, that means they’re designing for medical labs; other times, they’re creating enclosures for computer chips used for timing ski races. “Because we are selling design as a service, it’s almost like we’re selling our process more than a finished result,” says Kazakoff. But that finished result often turns out beautifully anyway. A standout piece is their Loop phone booth (shown right)—a modern glass-and- maple soundproof phone booth that provides privacy for confidential phone calls in open-concept offices. “It’s so creative and so practical,” says judge Paolo Cravedi, managing director for Alessi U.S.A. —Dominika Lirette