“A few years ago, I was working on a project celebrating Charlotte Perriand for Aesōp, and had the pleasure to meet her daughter Pernette and her husband Jacques, who are the custodians of Charlotte’s legacy. This encounter broadened my impression of her work and design in general. The Chaise empilable Ombre really caught my attention back then as it is the perfect example of Perriand’s unique mix of influences and pure expression of her artistic vision.
“At just 24, Perriand began collaborating with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret – adding a distinct dimension of humaneness to their often cold rationalism. Perriand travelled extensively, absorbing every experience and translating these into her own design language. During her long stay in Japan and Vietnam (1940-1946), she revealed her artistic talent through a reinterpreted reality where East meets West, echoing both tradition and modernity. Her designs are ‘perfectly imbalanced’ in a way, with a strong female sensibility that juxtaposes elements of yin (female) with yang (male).
“Interesting design, in my opinion, has always been about tension. Complex simplicity, bold refinement, and even beautiful flaws. The English designer and art director Peter Saville once said that if you like something straight away, it isn’t new, as taste is a habit. In order to innovate, you need to feel uncomfortable with your creation at first: leave it aside for a while, let it simmer, and see if it ends up growing on you.
“Deceptively simple, the Ombra Tokyo Chair is made from a single piece of cut, bent and curved oak plywood. Its sinuous lines evoke the Japanese traditions of origami and the Bunraku (theatre in which puppets are moved by black-clad puppeteers hiding in the shadows behind them). Perriand’s genius truly reveals itself when playing with angles and light, hence the name ‘Ombre’ (which translates as ‘shadow’). As I’ve mentioned previously, I like to experience design through photography and the way objects transform with the addition of light is something I’m always seeking in my own work.
“Another fascinating aspect about Perriand’s designs is her organic approach. While resolutely of the Machine Age, Perriand championed ‘nature as modernism’: a concept that clearly comes alive in the fluidity of the Ombra Tokyo. Fast forward to today and as Neri Oxman, designer and professor at the MIT Media Lab, has pointed out, for most of our history humanity has been attempting to tame nature – the future of design will be to co-create with it.
“In short, the Ombra was instrumental in paving the way for multiple principles which remain influential in the world of contemporary design today. I for one can’t wait to see how Perriand’s vision continues to evolve in future.”