Dwell 24: Mei-Lan Tan and Victor Lefebvre

Dwell 24: Mei-Lan Tan and Victor Lefebvre

By Dwell
Although UMÉ Studio is based in California, the story of its founders, Mei-Lan Tan, 28, and Victor Lefebvre, 32, is international in scope.

"Mei-Lan has Indonesian and Chinese roots. I'm French and I studied and lived in Japan," Victor says, adding that their lifestyles are still itinerant. "Oakland is the place where we stop and regroup."

The duo, who met while working in Basel for Herzog & de Meuron, established their practice in 2016. Since then, they've expanded their network of collaborators, producing sculptural soaps, concrete serving trays that look like giant buttons, and more. Now they are developing a line of silver cups with Indonesian artisans. "We spent time in Bali understanding the local crafts and the silver vessels they use to hold holy water," says Mei-Lan. "These items have very specific intentions of use: one item, one action." 

We asked the breakout designers about who inspires them, their most treasured possessions, and what daily rituals get them in the zone. Read the answers below.

"Mei-Lan has Indonesian and Chinese roots. I'm French and I studied and lived in Japan," Victor says, adding that their lifestyles are still itinerant. "Oakland is the place where we stop and regroup."


Tan: Los Angeles, California 

Lefebvre: Versailles, France

Current location: 

Oakland, California

Something you always carry with you: 

T: German ballpoint pen and a leather tassel keychain to remind me of the playful things in life. 

L: A tape measure.

An ever-changing living vertical divider, the Draped Flowers Curtain contains over 100 pockets where fresh flowers can be placed, transforming the space it inhabits by offering a landscape of seasonality and personal contexts. 

First childhood memory related to design: 

T: Assembling the wooden puzzles in my room that my dad made for me.

L: Fixing our apartment with my parents.

Daily ritual to get into a creative space: 

T: Cup of coffee, checking in on each of my plants, surrounding myself with all the natural items I’ve collected over the years.

L: I grab coffee and call one of my friends in France.

UMÉ Studio's Bouton dishes, sculptural Erod soaps, and bowls from their Concrete series. All are available for purchase on the studio's website.

Musical artist or album that inspires you: 

T: Pixies, Kraftwerk, De La Soul, Jon Maus.

L: Akegata by Hugo LX.

Person you most admire:

T: Mother and father.

L: My father.

Stockholm-based textile designer Akane Moriyama, a member of UMÉ Studio, first created the Draped Flowers Curtain when she produced it in linen for an installation in Stockholm in 2010.

Seven years later, after working on design commissions and large-scale art installations, she revisited Draped Flowers with the introduction of a new and innovative material: thread made from paper.

Talent you would most like to have: 

T: Meditation expert.

L: To be able to sleep for a continuous 12 hours.

A word or phrase that is guiding you currently: 

T: Pleasure gardens.

L: "It is the fate of glass to break."

The Pit candle was designed as a way for "experimenting with the form of a ring as a candle burns."

Your most treasured possession:

T: A ring given to me by my mother.

L: My watch.

Advice you would give yourself five years ago:

T: Trust yourself.

L: Do not hate France too hard. Form habits. Sleep.

The Draped Flowers Curtain is "produced in a limited run of 30 pieces and every step takes place in a different small factory in Japan, each dedicated to its own unique craft and technique," says the studio.

Describe your work in one word: 

T: Veil.

L: Manual.

Favorite or least favorite design trend: 

T: Roman villas and their incorporation of water features and covered porticos for daily exercise and bathing.

L: Least favorite: anything branded "parametric design." Favorite: self-production.

You can follow UMÉ Studio on their website or on Instagram.

Meet the rest of the Dwell 24, our selection of up-and-coming designers to watch in 2018.

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