Republic of Fritz Hansen launched Danish designer Cecilie Manz’s chair and table at this year’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan. Inspired by the rounded shape of a stone on the beach, the minuscule chair is upholstered with a leather trim and a plastic base and will be available in September. Dwell Editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron sits down with Manz to chat about chairs, women in design, and her first Salone.
Amanda: Explain your design process. When you are making models, do you have a set progression?
Cecile: You could say that every project is different, but some parts of each process are always the same. I start with sketches, first impressions, or ideas, and then of course I make the models. There are actually many poorer versions of models from the very beginning; I have tons of models and countless sketches piled to the ceiling. It is amazing how much you can do. For example, when designing this chair, I thought, “What if we had more leather?” And we made this whole shells with woven leather, but there were technical problems: it was too confusing, too much to look at, just too much leather. Then, we found this full-grain leather to make a special detail rather than traditional piping. The leather is meant to define the contour, the difference between the interior and exterior of the chair.
How did you select the spectrum of colors we see here?
It is from a selection of about 40 colors. The exterior only comes in light grey or dark grey, so the colors are on the inside. I had to figure out which colors work with each exterior, so I made six of them for the dark grey and six for the light. Then, you can mix and match them and the colors become blurry, which I like.
Can you tell me about your first Salone?
There was so much, almost too much. You couldn’t see everything, but you needed to because some things wouldn’t come back. Sometimes the hidden treasures are in the next space over, but you have no idea.
What are your thoughts on Fritz Hansen and its role in Danish design?
It’s a very important brand because it is part of our tradition; it is extremely old. If you look back, they started with normal chairs for normal people and are now a very luxurious brand. But, they have kept the quality of materials and their virtues, which is very important.
What are your thoughts about women in design? Do you ever hear from young women starting out today?
I think I am a bit allergic to labeling female design. I was once in an exhibition group with women and I said, “I can’t do this anymore because there is too much focus on us being women. Let’s focus on what we’re doing and the quality of it.” When young women contact me, I just tell them I did nice work and that did it. That will work if you are a woman or not.
I want to delve into it so I can highlight the women who have come before us, who have paved the way, does anyone come to mind?
I called up Nanna Ditzel because my mother suggested it. She was so happy and taught me a lot. She was proud to be helpful. She talked about what it was like when she started out; it was tough since she was in such a man’s world and she constantly needed to prove she was as good as the men. But that’s why she was so strong and became big; she didn’t give up. She also managed to have a family life with three daughters and dealt with everything.
With this chair you are working with leather and plastic. You’ve also worked with electronics and glass. Is there a material you haven’t worked with that you’d like to?
If someone approaches me with an idea or project I think about it for a minute while talking to the person. It’s very much about a gut feeling. If the material interests me and is used in the right place, then great; I’m in.