Tahari on Design
Interior Design quizzes the fashion designer about his favorites in design and architecture.
Alejandro Saralegui -- Interior Design, 9/17/2007 12:00:00 AM
In the September issue of Interior Design, Alejandro Saralegui took us on a visual tour of fashion designer Elie Tahari's new East Hampton flagship, designed by Interior Design Hall of Famer Piero Lissoni with his partner Nicoletta Canesi. Here, he sits down with the designer for a more personal journey—a discussion of Tahari's design philosophies and his favorites from the world of design.
Interior Design: How does modernist architecture/design influence your fashion design?
Elie Tahari: I think that everything that surrounds us is influential; I don't design in a bubble. I don't think you can just create fashion and ignore other arts. In my case, my first love is architecture, even more than fashion. Architecture has the greatest influence on me personally and on my clothes.
ID: When designing collections do you think of architecture and/or furniture design?
ET: I can't not help but think of mid-century architecture because my design studio is in a Gordon Bunshaft structure, the old Manufacturers Hanover Trust building in New York, on 43rd Street and Fifth Avenue, which we own. Working in this building everyday makes me very in tune with its architecture. It influences me as a fashion designer with the beautiful detailing and the sunlight that streams through the windows. I am thoroughly influenced by the surrounding architecture when I am working on the pattern or details of a garment.
ID: Why is it important to you to have architecturally significant spaces for fashion retail?
ET: First of all, I love architecturally significant spaces. I am a sucker for it. I am a frustrated architect myself! But business-wise, it's crucial to present your collection in a beautiful surrounding, not unlike the way a great frame improves a beautiful painting. Just as it makes us feel good to live in a beautiful home when you walk into a beautiful shop everything just makes you feel better.
ID: What is the appeal of mid-century furniture mixed with contemporary architecture?
ET: For some reason, mid-century architecture stopped suddenly way back when and is now being picked up in contemporary architecture. When we see modernist projects today it is a continuation of where modernism stopped. So I find that super-modern furniture today in a modern space is cold. When you bring in mid-century furniture, however, like the Hans Wegner chair I'm sitting in right now, or the Vladimir Kagan sofa that's across from me, it warms up a space. These pieces have curves, lines that are beautiful and cozy.
ID: Who are some of your favorite vintage and/or contemporary furniture designers?
ET: Obviously, I love Piero Lissoni, he is a great furniture designer aside from being an amazing architect. I love what all those furniture designers are doing for Cappellini. And every time I see Gio Ponti’s furniture, with its clean but always distinctive lines, it grabs my attention. Ponti’s furniture is clean and proper, it makes me feel good.
ID: How did you get interested in contemporary architecture?
ET: When I moved our design studios into the Gordon Bunshaft building I started looking and studying contemporary architecture. I think it’s Bunshaft’s best building and it inspired my growing interest in architecture.
ID: Who are some of your favorite architects?
ET: I love working with Piero Lissoni, I love Herzog & de Meuron, and I also appreciate Jean Nouvel's work very much. Renzo Piano and his Times building are wonderful. I am also impressed with Cook + Fox; they bring green design into architecture in such an elegant way.
ID: What is your favorite building in New York?
ET: It really has to be my Gordon Bunshaft on 43 and Fifth! And the other two best mid-century buildings in Manhattan, the Seagram Building and Lever House, which are owned by my friend Aby Rosen.
ID: What fashion designers do you admire for their architectural sensibilities?
ET: I would have to say Giorgio Armani. There may be others whose work is literally more architectural but I can't think of anyone else whose aesthetics I like and admire.