My little bit on the side: The secret life of designers

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

What happens when designers need a change?

Zaha Hadid, architect

Celebrated for her intense, avant-garde design, the British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid recently stepped out of her comfort zone to team up with the innovative footwear brand Melissa to create an acutely sculptural, yet usable, women's shoe. "I've always wanted to expand what I do," she says. "I want to build my repertoire; to take from one discipline, and apply to another. I've often thought about the possibility of moving into other areas of the industry, but had no idea that I could interpret and apply what I was learning in regard to architecture, in so many different ways." The collaboration with Melissa was, then, an appealing prospect: "I'd known of the brand for some time," she says, "and I've always really loved shoes, generally. A few years ago, I was invited by Melissa to work with them on a pair of our own creation. We've worked closely ever since, to produce something visually amazing, but also wearable. Any shoe can look good, or be comfortable, but creating something fun and versatile, but also – in many senses – practical, was a challenge. One of the heels of our shoe-boot is shorter than the other, so on top of the visual design, we had to work hard on the logistics of making that aspect work. The main goal, after all, was to create something one could walk on. It's been amazing to see it transformed from a free drawing to a prototype, which will be available in a range of colours – matte or iridescent – and can be worn on the beach, or with black tights or colourful socks, to achieve many different looks. This was such fun to work on; branching out from my usual methods was exciting."

Jonathan Adler, ceramicist

Manhattan-based ceramicist Jonathan Adler launched his career with a range for the smart department store Barney's. Fifteen years later, he was again enlisted by Barney's to create a range of ornaments for this year's Christmas collection, which follows the theme: Have a Hippy Holiday. "Peace and Love was the motif for 2008's seasonal message," he explains. "And it was an amazing project to be involved with. There is something fantastic about having a set assignment. Fine artists, unlike applied artists, suffer from their freedom. But having a concrete mandate, such as this, fosters the creative process without leaving too much room for interpretation. As an applied artist, I have a wide visual vocabulary to call on, which helped me push above and beyond my initial expectations on this project. Once I was told the theme, I went to my studio and worked on some prototypes. I didn't want to get into a 'back-and-forth' debate about the design. Thankfully, they're very good at giving you space and put a lot of trust in their designers, so there was never any mention of changing anything. I'm thrilled with the result, which is a bit different and groovy. There's a slight Pop Art reference in the 'peace' sign – and for the 'love' aspect, there's a nod to Robert Indiana's iconic Love sculpture. My work is about evolution and extrapolation. Because my style is so eclectic, I have many references to work from. Every assignment I do helps push me a little further forwards."

Jasper Morrison, furniture designer

A chair made from cork? That wasn't part of Jasper Morrison's master plan. Until 2004, when he was working on a chair design with Rolf Fehlbaum, CEO of Vitra. Chairs were Morrison's stock in trade, but a change in material was on the agenda. Quite by accident, in the pursuit of comfort, he discovered a new, and unexpected, resource: cork. "The first prototype I submitted was a much simpler shape, like a chair carved from a cube. There wasn't anything 'wrong' with what I'd produced, it just wasn't very comfortable," he says. He knew there had to be a change in tack when Fehlbaum, in no uncertain terms, pointed out that it looked far too "heavy".

"It's rare to receive any critical comments, as a designer," Morrison says, "but when someone whose opinion I value so much suggested we find a lighter, more interesting shape, I had to make more effort than usual. I faxed the final sketch to Fehlbaum with a note explaining that I liked the form of the revised design: it looked like something an Inuit tribe might have made, not that they'd use cork! It was all rather inspiring."

Orla Kiely, fashion designer

Since launching her label 10 years ago, Orla Kiely's designs have attracted attention from both high-street retailers and the art-world. A string of collections for the likes of Marks & Spencer and Debenhams under her belt, as well as her own brand and diffusion range offering handbags and accessories, Kiely's bold, colourful prints eventually caught the eye of Tate Modern. Focusing on specific exhibitions on display at the gallery, she produced a series of exclusive ranges for the Tate shop. "It started in 2004," Kiely explains, "and ideas emerged from spending time walking around the Tate. The first project stemmed from a temporary exhibition, which had a Sixties feel to it. The art of that time had a lot to say about science fiction, and what the future had in store. I wanted to include a martian print: a clean graphic, with a quirky twist. From this, we created cute little purses, a foldaway shopper, badges and notebooks." And this collection led to another. "The second operation was even better and brighter than the first. It was loosely attached to the Bauhaus movement, so we created a graphic colour study, phasing through to a geometric form. And now we're on our third collaboration." This one was rooted in the Tate's permanent collection and required an abstract approach, which challenged the designer's usual methods. "It was a good thing to do in that sense," Kiely says. "To work on ideas inspired by a loose concept, rather than focusing on a specific theme, as we had done with the previous collections. It was a fun and satisfying challenge."


Two-for-one ticket Offer

As part of the London Design Festival (from today until 23 September), Tent London at the Truman Brewery in east London is a ground-breaking display of vintage and contemporary design which runs from 18-21 September. Present a copy of this magazine at the ticket office to take advantage of our '2 for 1' ticket offer (usual price £10 per person). Visit

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Receptionist

    £14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Administrator - Legal Department

    £19000 - £19665 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking to join an awar...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss