‘ABCDCS’ THE BOOK: A SPECIAL FEATURE AND INTERVIEW WITH DAVID COLLINS STUDIO





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“I have always wanted to see things I imagine made into a reality”

– David Collins –



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The wait is now over. Finally. The much-awaited ABCDCS book by David Collins Studio, heralded as the most important interior design book of 2014, is now available. After months of speculation and anticipation, the publication of the first monograph on (and partially by) David Collins will allow design connoisseurs and enthusiasts to ‘own’ a part of the rich legacy that the late designer left behind him in a career spanning almost three decades which somehow redefined people’s lives in public and private.

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A-Gent of Style has expressed in various features on his blog the unswerving admiration and deep influence David Collins has had on him over the years,
which reached their peak when his design icon unexpectedly left a marvellous and rather flattering comment a year ago on his feature of his latest Alexander McQueen store.


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Two weeks ago, A-Gent of Style had the privilege to be invited by David Collins’s long-standing team, now the custodians of his vision, to interview Communications Director, David Kendall, about the book, its genesis and its conception. Little did A-Gent of Style know he would be the first person outside the Studio to see the book that had arrived the day before from the publishers (Instagramers would have been teased that night by a preview shot of the final book cover). 



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And this is what A-Gent of Style will reveal about the book. ABCDCS is beyond chic. And timeless. Everything in this weighty tome is considered and striking (would you expect anything else from their studio?). It delights, surprises and is resonant with meaning. Organised alphabetically rather than chronologically, and showcasing David Collins’s myriads influences and inspirations, this unique and sleek epitaph boasts a bold portfolio of stunning images themed around buzz words and commentaries Collins had written himself.

As A-Gent of Style discovered ABCDCS for the first time, iconic but also lesser known or even unpublished projects  – hotels, restaurant, bars, residences or retail spaces – popped up, as well as a great sense of pace and colour permeating it. Madonna’s foreword is honest and well-worded. A meticulous attention to details appears and captivates. Favourite collectable objects such as Line Vautrin, Fornasetti and Primavera resonate with ideas and mesmerise. The palette of colours associated with Collins’s works, principally his beloved trademark blue and its various gradation, shines through and dazzles.


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ABCDCS
is a unique piece of memorabilia, an essential reference book and a fitting tribute and celebration to a towering and much-missed personality of the design world. No doubt ABCDCS will instantly become a must-have and a classic on many coffee tables.


The interview:

David Kendall, Communications Director, David Collins Studio

David Kendall, Communications Director, David Collins Studio



What was the inspiration for the book?

Back in 2009, we wanted to put together some sort of collateral for the launch event of our Ritz-Carlton residences, MahaNakhon, in Bangkok, and David came up with the idea of an alphabetical portfolio which would take the form of a small give-away book (fifty-two pages in the end) organised from A to Z, with one letter for each page, each letter representing a word, for instance Architecture, Beauty, Colour etc, and one image illustrating that word.


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MahaNakhon, Bangkok

MahaNakhon, Bangkok

 

MahaNakhon, Bangkok

MahaNakhon, Bangkok



How did the ABCDCS come about?

After the event, David thought about turning this small book into a ‘proper’ book. We worked on it on and off for five years, updating it along the way. David would at times look at it, make amendments, edit it. The keywords changed every time we looked at it. M was for Music then he wanted it to be Madonna [he settled for Music in the end]. But the themes are the same; they were just refined over the years. We were very fortunate David finished writing the text for every letter by the end of last year. He was very good at writing. He was very much involved. He’d laid out the bones. There was little editing to do in the end [David points out David Collins had written a book on hotels, not his own, called ‘New Hotel: Architecture and Design’ published in 2001]. And we already had all the images. David had chosen some of them already and he also suggested we cropped others or use some details. All we had to do was produce and edit the final version.



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ABCDCS. Why this title?

ABCDCS was David’s choice from the beginning. He always said that’s what it would be. And that’s what it is, ABCDCS!


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Can you describe the covers?

The front cover is David’s home in London. We went through many images but we wanted it to be one of his homes in the end. This image captures materials, colour, texture, a slightly abstract, dream-like quality, which is more engaging and intriguing than a ‘hero shot’, with the usual symmetry. We also preferred a close-up to show details. The image is layered with antique marble, metalwork, mohair carpet, shagreen, silk velvet. And of course, it shows shades of blue, David’s favourite colour. We worked for instance on the gold lettering which was too gold originally and settled on a more subtle brass finish. The actual book without the sleeve is covered in a purpley blue linen, another favourite colour of David’s.
The back cover is a close-up of the hand-stitched green upholstered walls in David’s home.

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Can you tell us about the graphics?

The typography and the font were developed by the same graphic designer as the original small book, which were somehow inspired, amongst others, by the Goyard logo.


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Are all of David Collins Studio’s projects in the book?

Most of them have been included. The book has a variety of sectors, residential and commercials, and includes some of the last projects up to the last nine months.
We didn’t want to have a portfolio whereby there would be a section dedicated to each project. The themes dictated the images.

Private residence

Private residence

 

The Blue Bar, The Berkeley, London

The Blue Bar, The Berkeley, London



What can we expect from the book?

Something chic but also a sense of pace and colour as you flick through the book. 

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Can you tell us about your collaboration with Assouline?

It was a great collaborative project. I remember we’d produced first drafts. I had different dummies on my iPad and I ended up having a meeting with a publisher from Assouline in New York and, soon after showing them to her, she decided then and there they would love to publish it because it was so chic. Assouline were very supportive from the inception of the project. We’re delighted with the result. The photos are so strong as we worked with so many talented photographers over the years. The quality of the print is amazing. It would be lovely to see it translated in different languages.


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How was the process for you?

It was a fun process, quite emotional of course too, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process and finally seeing the final copy. For me, personally, it had to be done properly; it’s David’s book, it had to be perfect. We’d been working on it for so long. We came close and true to David’s vision, I hope. We think he’d be happy with it. I’d love to do another one.


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How was Madonna involved?

We reached out to Madonna because David had always said he’d like her to be part of it. She was wonderful. What came back from her blew our mind. It is a long, personal, beautiful and touching introduction. It hasn’t been changed at all, it’s completely verbatim. We’re very grateful to ‘Muriel’. You’ll have to get the book to understand why…


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David Collins


What does ABCDCS represent?

ABCDCS is a landmark for us. It marks the legacy we’ve inherited from David. It is timely. It is also a way of celebrating the Studio. We are very lucky to still be very busy; we have some exciting projects coming up. It will also be fun to celebrate the book, which was a huge task in the last year. We hope people will like it.



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A-Gent of Style would like to thank David Kendall, Jodi Feder and Simon Rawlings at David Collins Studio for giving him the amazing opportunity to preview the book with an interview, and for all their help and support.


– Photographs by Assouline, David Collins Studio and A-Gent of Style







BOOK END No14




“Straight I walked to the trellis vine. Wisteria touched a lifted nostril:

Feelings of beauty diffused, to entwine my spirit with June’s own aura.”

– Ann McGough, Summons –


Here are A-Gent of Style‘s June picks of noteworthy publications.

Don’t forget you can hover your cursor over each image to see the rest of the book cover or click on the image to see the cover in full in a new window.



All books are available or can be ordered from
The Bookshop at the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour +44 (0) 20 7351 6854 / @theBOOKSHOPat

And if you’ve missed the previous instalments of Book End, you can catch up and see the other fantastic books A-Gent of Style selected over the months:Book End No1, Book End No2, Book End N03, Book End N04, Book End No5Book End No6, Book End No7, Book End N08, Book End No9, Book End No10, Book End N011, Book End N012, Book End N013.


Happy reading!




CHRISTIE’S and ‘THE ART OF DESIGN’ with SIBYL COLEFAX & JOHN FOWLER




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The summer season at Christie’s South Kensington has now started, the most noteworthy landmark being, and you will all agree of course,
the feature of A-Gent of Style in the prestigious auction house’s June newsletter, which you can view in full here (shameless self-promotion).



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Additionally, following a very successful collaboration last July, Christie’s invited Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, interior decorating and antiques, Brook Street, Mayfair, to contribute to another innovative sale on 4 June that celebrates the best of interior design and decoration with an international reach and universal appeal.

A-Gent of Style is delighted to be collaborating with the two renowned houses on the feature of this sale, and he had the privilege to be given a preview guided tour of the exhibition on Thursday evening ahead of the opening to the public on Saturday.


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The Art of Design sale combines a carefully curated selection of 60 lots which exhibit the quality, elegance and world-class reputation of the Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler name alongside a collection formed over the course of a lifetime by the late Melbourne-born interior designer Lex Aitken and his partner, the esteemed fashion illustrator and designer Alfredo Bouret Gonzalez.


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Taken from their Sydney home and private collection (Aitken died last spring at the age of 83 in Sydney and Gonzalez now lives in Vancouver, having sold the Sydney home), this home contents sale will appeal to both first-time collectors and aficionados of design who will be attracted by the good taste synonymous with each contributor. The auction will include furniture, ceramics, pictures, lighting and decorative objects, forming 220 odd lots, with estimates from £300 to £80,000. The sale is led by two fine portraits, the first by Jacques-Emile Blanche (French, 1861-1942), entitled ‘Jeune fille à la fenêtre’, a charming full length oil (estimate £15,000-25,000) and a striking depiction of Mrs Moody, three-quarter length, in a white dress, holding a dog in her lap, in a landscape by British master George Romney (1734- 1802) with an estimate of £50,000-80,000 (shown here). The Romney can be seen hanging above the sofa in the Sydney home of Mr. Aitken and Mr. Gonzalez.


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Lex Aitken’s international career is reflected in the diversity of countries represented among the objects in this sale. Yet the influence of London is evident throughout as it was where he built his reputation in the 1960s as Lex Aitken Antiques, his eponymous business on the capital’s road of designers, Pimlico Road. Aitken’s integrity and flair endeared him to clients – including luminaries such as Lucien Freud, who shared his contagious enthusiasm for works of art, furniture and design.

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 In a career that spanned almost two decades which brought him worldwide recognition, fashion illustrator Alfredo Bouret Gonzalez, Lex Aitken’s long-term partner, shared his taste and connoisseurship honed in Paris where he sketched for the great couture houses, Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, capturing effortlessly with his dazzling impressions and animated lines the golden age of haute couture, and was granted unique access to the reclusive genius Balenciaga. Gonzalez moved to London where he established his boutique, ‘Mexicana’, importing peasant shirts and other Mexican wear to a delighted London audience, which included HRH Diana, Princess of Wales and Valentino.

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A-Gent of Style was fortunate to be given a guided tour of the exhibition with Charlotte Young, the sales’ specialist at Christie’s, and Ronan Sulich, Christie’s Sydney representative. A-Gent of Style shamefully knew very little about aesthetes Aitken and Gonzalez and could hardly find any information online (where else these days?!) about their incredible careers and lives except a fascinating YouTube video on Gonzalez’ s life and career (which you can view at the end of this article). So it was with great appreciation and enjoyment that Sulich, who flew in to help with the curation (he knew Aitken and Gonzalez well, and had been to their storied house on several occasions over the years) delighted us both with stories and anecdotes that brought to life the glamourous life of parties, dinners and travels the international ‘A-gay’ couple had experienced together, surrounding themselves with eclectic collectable objets over the decades. Both Aitken and Gonzalez were generous supporters of the arts and after they retired to Aitken’s native Australia, settling in Sydney, they contributed to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the RMIT University and the Powerhouse Museum, Melbourne.

The exterior and an interior from the Sydney home of Lex Aitken and Alfredo Gonzalez

The exterior from the Sydney home of Lex Aitken and Alfredo Gonzalez



The Sydney home of Mr. Aitken and Mr. Gonzalez:


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Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler antiques:


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The Art of Design exhibition at Christie’s, South Kensington:

Viewing is opened until Tuesday 3 June 5pm with a late viewing this evening until 7.30pm. The auction will take place at 10 am on Wednesday 4 June.

You can view the full catalogue here.


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Some of A-Gent of Style‘s favourite picks from the sale:

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The Alfredo Bouret Gonzalez retrospective:






A-Gent of Style would like to thank Charlotte Young, the sales’ specialist at Christie’s, Ronan Sulich, Christie’s Sydney representative, and Trudi Ballard at Sibyl Colefax & Fowler for their assistance and support.


– Photographs by Christie’s, Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler, and A-Gent of Style





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