Another day, another, auction house, another sale…and third time lucky.
At a time when the world and its geopolitics seem to have gone awry and make little sense, it feels right for A-gent of Style to welcome and celebrate Vincent Darré, the quirky, fanciful polymath as the parisian storyteller of fashion and design empties his now fabled maison de curiosités for a sale with Piasa in Paris today.
This eccentric creative force who worked for fashion power houses such as Yves Saint Laurent, Montana, Karl Lagerfeld, Moschino and Fendi before going solo to set up his Maison Darré to make his own quirky and whimsical furniture and designs (and many collaborations with artists such as Pierre Le-Tan and textile master Pierre Frey) is inviting us to see for the last time most of the content of his “laboratory of dreams” which have been re-staged as room sets and vignettes at Piasa auction house prior to the sale this evening appropriately titled ‘Vincent Darré, extravagance dadaist’.
Expect to find anatomical curios, anthropomorphic and skeleton pieces, antiques from the flea markets and many of his prototypes and creations influenced by surrealism, cubism and dadaism with odds to Cocteau, Braque, Dali or de Chirico in unconventional juxtapositions similar to his apartment, all filled with memories but little nostalgia. The “anarchist of good taste” is ready to let go of the elements of his phantasmagorical universe to create another one. Judging by his latest idiosyncratic but fantabulous project Hotel Montana in Saint-Germain-des-Près, it is difficult to gauge whether this enfant terrible will move from audacious maximalism to restrained minimalism, and what his reinvention and reincarnation will be. Time will tell. And A-gent of Style simply cannot wait.
– Vincent Darré’s apartment –
Vincent Darré with Vogue’s Suzy Menkes who wrote the preface to the catalogue
You can view the full catalogue here
– A-Gent of Style‘s selection of the sale –
– Imagery by Piasa, Aurélien Mole, and from Piasa’s and Vincent Darré’s Instagram accounts –
” Inspiration is a moment in time”
– Christine Van der Hurd –
Since his career change into the world of interior decoration in 2008,
A-Gent of Style has been fortunate to meet many esteemed designers over the years and has even had the privilege to know some of them personally.
Christine Van der Hurd is one of them. Whether it is at Tissus d’Hélène,
Veere Greeney Associates or currently at Redloh House Fabrics, there hasn’t been a month in the last six years where A-Gent of Style has not been in contact in one way or another with Christine’s divine textiles or carpets, nor have her new products or collections failed to get unnoticed by his deco-dar. A-Gent of Style will also go as far as saying that Christine, with a few others, has somehow been instrumental in making him not only appreciate and embrace colours and patterns but more importantly not to be afraid of them, and for that, he is very indebted to her.
Back in February, A-Gent of Style managed to catch the intrepid and itinerant Christine Van der Hurd, based again in London after many years in
New York, who opened the doors of her newly-redecorated, light-filled, white-walled mews house in Kensington one evening to talk to him about her life and career whilst they both savoured tasty Italian wine and delicacies.
Christine, ‘the VanderQueen”, gave A-Gent of Style a tour of her beautiful home adorned with 20th century antiques, her collections of covetable objects, Swedish ceramics, contemporary photographs, and of course some of her own creations – dhurries, cushions and upholstered furniture – all which evince an exquisite collector’s eye for detail, and let him into her fascinating textile design world, delicately suffused with patterns and colours.
Vanderhurd, the company, has evolved over the last thirty years from the inspired designs of a young student born in London’s Portobello from established antiques dealing parents into the internationally acclaimed design studio it is today. Within months of graduating from the esteemed Winchester Art College in the early 1970s, Christine Van Der Hurd was designing textiles for, amongst others, Osborne & Little, Liberty’s, Etro and Yves Saint Laurent. Her success as a textile designer followed her to New York City in 1977, where her work was commissioned by many designers, including Angelo Donghia and Jack Lenor Larsen. Then, in 1980, as Christine designed and produced a one-off carpet, she experienced a revelation that became an all-enveloping inspiration for what was to become her eponymous bespoke textile design firm.
In 1981, Christine set up her atelier at Modernage, a seminal specialist gallery representing new internationally acclaimed designers, which she opened in partnership with David Hurd. Immediately, Christine received commissions from leading designers and architects such as Beyer Binder Belle, Pentagram and Gensler. These collaborations continue to this day, with leading architects and designers. Vanderhurd has designed and manufactured collections for the Italian furniture company Cappellini and for Liberty’s of London, and has produced a line of men’s carpetbags for the luxury house, Louis Vuitton. Recently Vanderhurd collaborated with India Jane Birley on the carpeting for Annabel’s, the famed London nightclub, as well as with hotelier/designer Kit Kemp, of Firmdale Hotels, for the Crosby Street Hotel in New York and the newly opened Ham Yard in London. Her creations grace public spaces such Claridge’s, the Federal Reserve Bank, Saks Fifth Avenue and Browns of London, to name but a few, as well as the private residences of an international discerning clientèle. Past collaborations include designs commissioned by Thomas Goode, Paul Smith and Browns. Some of Vanderhurd designs are part of the collections of several museums, including The Victoria & Albert Museum in London and are regularly featured in the international leading press. Christine is also a guest lecturer at London’s KLC School of Design.
With her constant experimentation in textiles and techniques and her search for perfecting new constructions and developing new designs, Christine’s bold, cutting-edge patterns and new trends in carpets and rugs have deservedly vowed the design world over now three decades. Vanderhurd have sought out the finest manufacturers in India (Varanasi, Jaipur and Delhi and their surrounding areas), Nepal (Kathmandu), the Philippines, New York and Europe, and can boast studios in London and New York as well as showrooms in cities worldwide servicing trade and retail customers.
Christine Van der Hurd’s unswerving passion for textiles, enthusiasm for life, charm, humility and generous spirit have won her many loyal admirers over the years, and this feature will hopefully turn any newcomers into new converts.
How did your past influence and shape what you do today?
My parents were antiques dealers; I was brought up on Hamilton Terrace in a house full of antiques and colour. There were always fabrics, tapestries and ceramics which had a real influence on how I looked at things. My mother was a beautiful woman and she was passionate about fabrics. She used to take me with her to the sales at Liberty or Harrods, and she made most of her clothing herself, and she would always dress impeccably; she still does at the age at 98! Quality was so important to her. It is essential to me too; I suppose those things were instrumental in me wanting to do textiles; I never ever thought of doing anything else, only acting perhaps but I was too shy, and I was so passionate about fabrics and colour from a very young age that I decided to do a textiles degree. I’ve had tragedies, but textiles and creating pattern has always been a part of my life, and given me the ultimate distraction.
I can’t really pinpoint one thing. Maybe my mother wearing an incredible emerald green thick silk satin dress one night. I saw antiques mixed with textiles all the time; every summer we used to drive to Spain and then Morocco and stop through all the flea markets on the way. I was always looking. It was an incredible education.
Who were/are your design influences? Do you have any design muse?
Sonia Delaunay definitely. When I went to the Bauhaus exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1968 or 1969, that‘s what took me down a path I have been on ever since. I’d lived with antiques and suddenly saw this extraordinarily disciplined architecture and design from buildings through to textiles. I was just blown away. It was a revelation. This incredible movement that was a lifestyle influenced me hugely. And so did the Russian Constructivists and Mondrian. My work is very much about structure for I see things in lines and my work has also been inspired by Egyptian, Roman or Chinese cultures, as there are often lattices and layered patterns. There’s also flora and fauna; within that, you’ve got structure again; leaves and petals are formed by millions of tiny structures. My art work is very detailed, very intricate and it was only in my late twenties when I started in the carpet world that I became able to enlarge the scale I worked in. The first carpets I designed were large collages, similar in method to Matisse.
How did Vanderhurd come to life?
After leaving college in 1973, I was based in Europe and created textiles under the name of Christine Van. I worked with designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Liberty, Osborne & Little and Biba. In 1980 when my daughter was born, I launched the company Christine Van Der Hurd, and that is when the carpet designs began. A major turning point was in 2003 when Jasper, my late son, joined the business and ran the New York studio whilst I worked in London. We became Vanderhurd, and unlike me he did all his designs on the computer. He really brought Christine Van der Hurd into the 21st C.
London was an amazing place to be in the 1960s especially in the art and design world. I moved to New York in 1977, aged 25, and the city was one of the best places you could be at that time. It gave me the chance to grow; New York was accepting and unlimited for designers. In the 1980s and ‘90s people had faith in a young person, less so than in London. It gave me a very good grounding. My ex-husband and I opened a vintage furniture shop, mainly European, in Manhattan next to the 26th St flea market which was very popular. By 1981, we had relocated to Broadway, and opened Modernage. We focused on European modern furniture design and helped launch people like Tom Dixon, Ron Arad, Danny Lane with shows in our Gallery. Then we progressed and began launching other European furniture companies such as Cappellini, Moroso and Magis. My background concentrated on high-end modern aesthetics then. Later we opened the flagship store for Cappellini in SoHo but sadly this closed in 2003 after 9/11. With Jasper at the helm in New York, I returned to London.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Everywhere! Inspiration is a moment in time; you look across the room, one colour hits the light or a structure in a room. It can be a photo, you could be walking down the street and you’ll see an extraordinary facade, a wonderful dress, it could be in a book. It’s never the obvious. If you want it, if you are receptive to it, it’s there. My problem is never ‘what shall I do next?’, but ‘what I shall not do next?’; in the studio they have to edit me. I don’t know when to stop!
Where and how do you work or get your inspiration?
I need to be really private. Running the business takes a lot of energy so right now I have less creative time. All of my work is painted or drawn by hand and requires a great deal of concentration. When my little cocoon upstairs is finished and when I have my beautiful photographs on the wall, I will go there to paint and draw.
What or who is inspiring you at the moment?
So many designers are frightened of using colour. It doesn’t have to be like that, you need to incorporate colour; what frightens me is a beige room; when you walk in the bazaar of Morocco or Istanbul, it’s atmosphere. My house is not bombarded with ridiculous colours but it has injections and flashes of colours. It’s quite toned down actually. There is a balance; it’s relaxing here. We are lucky enough to work with many inspiring designers on extraordinary projects around the world, and recently helped complete some of the suites in Kit Kemp’s Ham Yard project. Jonathan Reed, for example, has incredible colour sense and a unique eye for texture and detail. As a young designer Faye Toogood is also amazing. She’s not frightened of mixing different textures with structured colours. She’s not formulaic. One of my heroes since I was young, is Jacques Grange, who I have been lucky enough to work with on a number of projects recently.
Who are your icons?
John Miles. He was my tutor at Winchester School of Art and later became Professor of Textiles at the RCA; he is an amazing man. I had a tough term at art school and considered dropping out. If it wasn’t for his encouragement and faith in me, I might have not carried on with this career.
Which three interior designers or artists of the past would you invite to a dinner party?
Gio Ponti! I’m so inspired by him, and I have been since I was 30. It’s once again the structure and the colours. My new collection is inspired by him. He was an amazing man. One of my early rugs, from 1993 I think, was called ‘Ponti Pucci’ after Gio Ponti and Emilio Pucci; the border was like a key border and very much like one of his ceramics and the centre is Pucci’s free forms, but I did mine in black. Helen Mirren would be there too; she is such a versatile actress. And Leonard Cohen of course!
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Seeing my girls happy, my “Vanderbirds”, seeing them inspired and excited. They’re such a wonderful group of people!
What do you attribute your success to? And what’s your proudest career achievement?
To still being here! After 40 years, I’ve managed to survive. I never ever betrayed myself, I have never compromised myself or been overtly commercial. I enjoy doing what I do and being able to make a living and make people happy because of what I create for them.
You already have a few of your pieces at the V&A. How do you feel about leaving a legacy?
I’m hoping that one day people will look at my work not just as a product but as an archive that will be important to other people who want to see it, and who can benefit from it.
Do you have any advice for young craftspeople or designers today?
Patience! Never lose your confidence, keep trying even though you may be knocked back; experiment, just be true to yourself that is more important than anything, don’t compromise your ideas too much, be open to advice. And always, always listen.
What exciting new projects do you have on the horizon?
Well, I think the interesting thing going forward for me will be collaborations. I’m doing a collaboration with a painter called Cipriano Martinez and I’m going to interpret his paintings into silk flat weaves. He has very similar aesthetics to me; he thinks in lines. He’s Venezuelan and he’s brilliant. I am excited as I haven’t made carpets for other people before; this is going to be something different. We currently create a bespoke fine weight silk dhurrie textile for the New York designer Wendy Nichol. She is incredibly talented and individual, and her products are made entirely by hand in New York. She has recently launched a new Wendy Nichol x Vanderhurd Bullet bag exclusively for Net A Porter.
Why India and Nepal? Why not keep all your production in the UK and support the British economy?
The reason we make our carpets and dhurries in India and Nepal is because I have 25 years experience of working closely with them and training them. The Vanderhurd fabric collections are all printed in the UK. Why is ethical production so important to you? Our weavers and embroiderers are the most important people to me, and they have to be paid fairly and looked after well. The workforce in India can be fickle and I am confident that due to the care we show, and effort we make means they thoroughly enjoy their work. Everytime I visit I can see their pride in their work. You get what you give.
What do you like to do most in your spare time?
I love cooking and entertaining for my friends and family, and discovering new worlds through reading.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I’m obsessed about photography; since I was a child, I’ve always taken photos of my friends and family. I’m surrounded by them in photographs. I suppose I live in the past and the present and not so much the future. Photography is the one thing I definitely would have loved to have explored. In my new studio at home, they’re doing an entire wall with all my photographs. It will be my “Vanderworld”! I also speak several languages; French [Christine has a perfect French accent] as I went to the Lycée français from the age of 4 until 18, and Spanish as I spent every summer in Spain until the ages of 9 and 45. I wish I spoke Italian, I stumble at it and I find it frustrating as I have many Italian friends. But I’m trying!
What is your most cherished possession? Do you collect things?
My personal photographs are my most cherished possessions.
What was your favourite holiday?
What is your dream holiday destination? I don’t have a favourite spot as such or certainly not anymore. Baja in California is exquisite, the beach is so beautiful there. I love the Caribbeans where the water is so clear. I used to be a fish; I loved swimming, any time of year. I guess I love being with my family together in a warm climate where there’s water.
What is your favourite natural scent or perfume?
Perfume sounds awful to me; I like something that no one knows. I like a mixture, something complicated; I mix scents together. A natural scent would be jasmine or ‘rakirani’ in Indian.
What would be your ‘last supper’ like?
What a dreadful thought…there’d be lots of vegetables, beautifully cooked, with freshly caught fish, cooked by son-in-law who’s an amazing cook, in a warm climate near water with all my friends and family.
What books are currently on your night table?
I love reading; I can go from novels to biographies, it really varies. At the moment I have ‘Chatting with Henri Matisse The Lost 1941 Interview.’
Do you have any current favourite TV shows?
I don’t watch television; I love movies which I watch mostly when I fly. I was brought up at the Lycée in the 1960s and a lot of directors at the time were people like Buñuel, Fellini, Bergman, and we used to go to the Curzon and watch these incredible films on a Sunday afternoon.
Describe a really good day in the life of Christine Van der Hurd.
A-Gent of Style would like to thank Christine Van der Hurd for letting him into her fascinating “Vanderworld” and also her ever so lovely “Vanderbirds”.
– Imagery by Vanderhurd, A-Gent of Style and as otherwise stated –
One of the perks of getting the digital subscription of Architectural Digest as opposed to the printed version is that you get bonus photos and sometimes an accompanying video of the article you are reading. As he was sliding the pages of the latest issue on his iPad, A-Gent of Style came across the astonishing spread of Pierre Bergé’s secret paradise in Normandy, completely unbeknownst to him to this day.
With residences in Paris, Manhattan, Marrakech and Tangiers, Pierre Bergé and
Yves Saint Laurent (don’t miss the brilliant biopic on their life when it is released in the UK at the end of March) had this fairy-tale country retreat built not far from Château Gabriel, the late 19th C mansion the fashion power couple purchased in 1980 on an 120-acre estate.
After the death of the couturier in 2008, the business mogul sold their storied
Paris apartment and the chateau (as well as most of their museum-quality art and antiques collection that famously sold at Christie’s for an astounding $484 million in 2009) but kept ‘La Datcha’ (the French spelling for the Russian word dacha meaning holiday home). This chic log house is truly unique and can boast many influences and inspirations. To A-Gent of Style, it is a kaleidoscopic fusion of a gingerbread house, Les Ballets Russes, Matryoshka dolls, Renzo Mongiardino and is slightly reminiscent of the Bloomsbury Group’s Charleston House and the works of their descendant
Cressida Bell. What La Dacha is not is polite, pared-down and minimalist.
This 19th C flamboyant country cottage was decorated by Jacques Grange, a long-standing friend of the couple who had worked his magic on many of their residences over the decades. It was built as a multi-purpose living area with a main room and only a small kitchen and powder room. It has no bedrooms. Bergé asked Grange a few years ago to build an outhouse, with a covered walkway, that would be linked to the cabin and that would serve as a sleeping annex containing a guest suite and a master bedroom.
The picturesque folly, supported by stilts, is replete with lacy wood, intricate fretwork, arches, carving, pine panelling and colourfully painted joinery. Textures and layers are predominant especially in the main room with soaring ceiling, alternating beams and red bricks. Kilims are not only used as floor rugs but also upholstered on some of the Austrian horn chairs and chaise longue. There is a stunning 19th C Orientalist panel above the fireplace and many taxidermic animal heads adorning the walls that would make Les 3 Garçons look butch. Apart from the many nooks, A-Gent of Style‘s favourite room has to be the jewel-box kitchen adorned with antique French tiles and Moorish stained-glass windows and doors.
Outside, in the lush garden designed by American Maddison Cox bursting with hydrangeas, Bergé had an additional guest house created. This time a vintage Romanu-style caravan was redesigned to sleep two additional guests which Grange filled with two single, painted pine beds, an antique geometric kilim rug and original William Morris fabric on the curtains.
A-Gent of Style hopes you like ‘La Datcha’ as much as he does.
– Photo by Pascal Chevallier/Architectural Digest –