Fashion: Joseph and his amazing understated furniture

Joseph Ettedgui made a fortune selling us cool clothes. Now he has designs on our homes.
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
oseph Ettedgui has always had a knack for knowing what people want. In the Seventies his was the first London boutique to stock Kenzo, long before most of us knew a thing about Japanese fashion. Since 1984, he has given us must-have knitwear under his Joseph Tricot label, and his eponymous stores have become a one-stop shop for followers of fashion. The reason for Joseph's success is his skill at picking up on the right trends at just the right moment. Now, it appears, the moment is right for him to go into furniture. His debut collection has just gone on sale at his Sloane Avenue menswear store.

The capsule collection contains two clothing racks, a daybed, tray, coffee table, magazine holder, clothes screen and various frames and mirrors. It comes as no surprise to find understated, casual pieces, with simple lines; those familiar with Joseph's pre-edited clothes range know that his edict is less is more. "It all fits in well with the late-Nineties way of life," he says, "with minimalism, aesthetic awareness and convenience." It also rides the current wave of feverish interest in interior design.

Naturally, the collection is terribly stylish. It's also decidedly risk- free. While the general public will probably lap it up, it's unlikely to bowl over too many well-informed interiors fans. Joseph gives us his own take on a look launched by the fashionable French designer Christian Liaigre three years ago - pared-down, sober pieces in wenge wood - and offers it at intelligent prices, that is, far more affordable but still high enough to endow the collection with the right amount of kudos (pounds 400 for a clothing rack and pounds 950 for a coffee table).

In fact, Joseph has collaborated on this new venture with Liaigre's former artistic director - the soft-spoken Paris-based interior designer India Mahdavi. Born in Tehran of an Iranian father and a half-Egyptian, half-Scottish mother, Mahdavi was brought up between France, England, Germany and the US. She studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, then moved to New York to study graphic, furniture and industrial design. In 1990, she joined the practice of Liaigre, whose projects have included houses for Kenzo and the actress Carole Bouquet, furniture for the executive offices of Lloyds of London, and the much-lauded Mercer Hotel in New York.

"I think I moved into interior design out of a desire to create the home I never had," she tells me in her tiny wood-panelled office on the Left Bank. "When I was young, we were always moving from country to country, from language to language and I never had a family home to go back to."

Mahdavi first met Joseph through a mutual friend, worked on his Chelsea townhouse as part of Liaigre's team, and decided to set up on her own in April of last year. Soon afterwards, Joseph called. Since, she has designed the interior of his new boutique on the corner of Draycott Avenue and Brompton Road, and his corner in Selfridges.

When it came to the furniture, Joseph had a firm idea of how he saw the collection. "I wanted it to be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing," he says now, "but never too dominant or oppressive." He told Mahdavi the materials he liked - wenge and sycamore wood, nylon and suede, and even made rough sketches of some of the pieces with a black felt pen in her notebook.

"The brief was for a very simple collection," she says. "He wanted eight to 10 pieces that would look great in an apartment, but could also be used in his shop. They had to be not over-expensive and he wanted each piece to have a twist."

She came up with the reversible Domino tray with one side made of dark wood and the other out of light sycamore. The top of the coffee table opens up to reveal a recess in which clutter can be stored and there is a piece which doubles as a screen and a place to hang a suit.

Joseph wanted furniture suitable for what he calls "quick living". "The day bed is so neat and convenient," he says, "perfect for a power nap." The pieces are, he believes, ideal for the modern bachelor who wants an easy way to make his pad look chic. His hordes of female fans will also be impressed. As Mahdavi says, "Every trendy woman has something by Joseph in their wardrobe and everyone could use one piece from the collection"

Joseph furniture is available from Joseph's men's store, 74 Sloane Avenue, London SW3, enquiries 0171-591 0808.

Comments