Eye on Design: Charlotte Perriand

A limited-edition chaise longue and a photography exhibit signal a renewed interest in the French designer and Le Corbusier collaborator.

The appeal of Charlotte Perriand’s work has never waned among modernists, but the French designer, architect, and Le Corbusier collaborator who died in 1999 at 96 is the object of a revival of sorts with the introduction of a limited-edition chaise longue and an exhibition of her photography in New York City.

The updated version of the LC4 chaise longue, first issued in 1928, is the result of a collaboration among Cassina, the Italian furniture manufacturer; Louis Vuitton; Perriand’s daughter and longtime assistant, Pernette Perriand-Barsac; and her husband, Jacques Barsac, an authority on Perriand’s life and work.

“We’ve been talking with Vuitton for three years about the possibility of having a collaboration,” Perriand-Barsac, who refers to her mother by her first name, said in an interview this week at an event marking the launch of the new chaise longue at Cassina’s showroom in Soho.

“They asked us what was the link between Charlotte and Louis Vuitton,” she said. “Well, many things. There is travel, because Charlotte traveled a lot, and storage, because Charlotte studied that starting in 1927—not with Vuitton trunks but with other trunks—to create the storage systems that she presented in 1929 with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. And then her family—her father and her mother—were in haute couture, so Charlotte had that tradition of fine things, of quality leather with saddle stitching that approximated Vuitton.”

And then there were Louis Vuitton’s recent Spring/Summer and Fall Icon collections, which drew inspiration from Perriand’s designs. Vuitton researchers immersed themselves in the Perriand archives, “to look at the materials she used, the drawings, the colors, all of that,” Perriand-Barsac said. “And it was Cassina that, at that time, proposed to Louis Vuitton to do a limited edition of the chaise longue.”

Dubbed the LC4 CP, the chaise longue has been produced in a limited edition of 1,000, each selling for $8,000. Cassina is celebrating its introduction at its showroom at 151 Wooster Street in New York with an exhibition of Perriand’s photography entitled “Charlotte Perriand: A Modernist Pioneer, From Avant-Garde Design to Photography.”

The exhibition, a small-scale version of one that opened at the Petit Palais in Paris in 2011, suggests that Perriand used her Roloflex SL66 camera as a notebook of sorts. She shot industrial edifices, driftwood, shells, bones, and other objects that she encountered on her travels, using these as inspirations for her designs.

In some instances, Perriand-Barsac said, her mother described how her photographs inspired her furniture designs, as was the case with a 1927 photo of a transporter bridge in Marseille and the similarly industrial latticework of her B306 chaise longue. In other cases, however, Perriand-Barsac and her husband made connections of their own, finding uncanny similarities between the shapes of objects that Perriand photographed and the contours of her furniture. For instance, Barsac cited a photograph that Perriand took in Croatia of a children’s carnival ride in 1937, noting that the Refuge Tonneau, a futuristic, prefabricated aluminum mountain shelter that Perriand designed the following year, apes the ride’s shape.

Perriand was an avid shutterbug and was particular about her images, insisting that they be displayed in a large-scale format of about a meter square, her daughter said. And yet “she never considered herself a photographer,” Perriand-Barsac said. “Never. She liked doing photography but like this, for her, not for other people.” Nor did Perriand think of herself as a designer, her daughter said. “People would say that she was a designer,” she said, “but she considered herself an architect first.”

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