Extremely Collectible

This year Established & Sons have launched new Limited Edition products at Nomad, a biannual showcase of collectible design whose winter edition is held at a stately home high in Switzerland’s Engadin mountains. Highly covetable, the new launches find Established & Sons in a territory that is at once completely new yet reassuringly familiar.

Kebab Lamp Resource Committee 2019 Establishedand Sons Limited Nick Rochowski White Background Detail 01 300dpi Liselotte Watkins c Watkins Studio c Maria Enqvist Studio 01 72dpi 2020 02 Establishedand Sons NOMAD ST MORITZ c Filippo Bamberghi Materiality 05 300dpi

When Established & Sons launched in 2005, its offering of Limited Edition works sold alongside a principal collection of products was unique in the market. It was and continues to operate as both a gallery and a design brand.

“Zaha Hadid’s Aqua table was the first thing we showed when we launched the company in 2005 in Milan – people thought we were crazy,” remembers Established & Sons design director, Sebastian Wrong. “However we sold three in two days and the prototype sold for $296,000 in New York the following year, which was a record amount for a piece of contemporary design at the time – we hit some new levels in the market and in the business. So the Limited Edition content within our brand has always been very important.”

3d Zaha Hadid LIMITED EDITION AQUA TABLE Photography by David Sykes LR

In the years that followed, the market underwent a dramatic shift as the economy crashed and the brand refocused on its principal collection. Since those early days, Wrong says he has observed a marked change in collectors’ buying behaviours. Whereas clients in the past were often speculatively buying Limited Edition pieces as investments – in much the same way that one would buy art – Wrong notes that today’s consumer is much more impulse-driven.

“The pieces that are being bought now are being bought to be used, not showcased like pieces of art isolated in their own white box environment. I think that’s because the definition of collecting craft and design is now better positioned than it was back then,” he muses. “Previously collectible design was always operating in the shadow of the art world, but now it’s respected more as a market – it has its own place.”

ES Woodgate Barnard Surface Table Limited1

The emergence of fairs like Nomad are a clear indication of this shift in the landscape. In the ‘00s, art fairs such as Basel were showcasing design, but it was always secondary to the art. Today, events that are built around the collectible design market are much more numerous. Most notably, Nomad seeks to distinguish itself from the traditional fair experience by holding each of its editions in an extraordinary architectural location – an approach that allows galleries to place works of design in a more intimate domestic context that is more appealing to buyers.

The Limited Edition pieces provide an opportunity for Established & Sons to showcase what Wrong refers to as “extreme design production”. This concept is perfectly demonstrated in the brand’s carbon-fibre Surface table, which originally debuted in 2008 but will be shown at Nomad in a new console size. “The table is made from extreme materials using an extremely refined and controlled manufacturing process,” says Wrong of the piece, which was conceived by British furniture designer Terence Woodgate alongside racing car engineer John Barnard. “Its manufacture requires the use of machines and processes that are ordinarily only used in the aerospace and Formula One industries.”

Another revisited design making an appearance at Nomad will be the Kebab lamp by London studio Committee. More than ten years after the Kebab lamps were debuted with Established & Sons, Committee founders Clare Page and Harry Richardson have revisited the celebrated design that sees the stem of a standard lamp skewered with found objects and ornaments. Sourced by the designers in antique shops and markets, the assembled objects create a kind of playful collage; each one telling its own unique story. For 2020, the designers have used the same process to create two table lamps and two floor lamps. Inevitably the skewered objects serve as a reflection of the times, in this case resulting in lamps that are a little more mature and serious in nature than their poppy predecessors.

The Surface table and Kebab lamps are joined by a wall mounted clock by Italian designers Formafantasma that was originally created in a larger scale for the 2014 London Design Festival. Made of a perfect disc of marble, the refined timepiece is split into a central circular section and a surrounding ring. As time passes the central disc rotates with the marble’s unique veins aligning on the hour.

Unrestricted by the rules and stipulations that come with building a commercial collection, curating the new limited edition pieces has been an instinctual and also liberating process, says Wrong. “The design market today is so homogonized, diluted and risk averse. It’s heavily manipulated and monopolised by commercial demands. The opportunity to present a body of work like this for Established & Sons is a real pleasure because we’re free form those commercial constraints.”

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Pairing super technical designs with handcrafted objects is something that Wrong has taken particular pleasure in. For instance, he came across the work of by Rome-based Swedish illustrator Liselotte Watkins in a magazine and was immediately drawn to the way in which she used line, pattern and colour. For Established & Sons’ Limited Edition collection she has contributed a set of hand-painted vessels sourced from specific locations around Italy. Decorated with distinctive abstracted figures and landscapes in inviting colour palettes, the lively vessels are reminiscent of mid-century Scandinavian textile designs. “I love that her pieces are warm and unashamedly decorative but also have a lot of associations to historical aesthetics in art,” says Wrong. “She is drawing from Futurism and Modernism but reinterpreting these elements in a contemporary way.”

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A series of exquisitely made wood pieces by Seattle-based artist Roy McMakin complete the new Limited Edition collection. Continuing a relationship that began in 2009 when Established & Sons showcased McMakin’s work at its Duke Street gallery, the pieces on show at Nomad include highly crafted chests, chairs and cabinets each made from carefully sourced wood in a style that references classic American furniture but with subtle and unexpected manipulations that have to be seen to be appreciated.

“We have a very strong body of work to show,” says Wrong of the Nomad debut. “Whether you like it or not, well, that is subjective, but what we do know is that the quality of this work is absolutely indisputable.”

Words by Ali Morris
Photography by Maria Enqvist, Mark O’Flaherty, Peer Lindgreen, Nick Rochowski, Steven White

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