In conversation with Creative Director Bernard Dubois

How would you describe your new AT.KOLLEKTIVE retail installation?

The installation is composed as a series of objects that are assembled together in order to create wider objects, that we’ll call islands, and each of the islands will display the works of one of the designers.

AT.KOLLEKTIVE has five distinct creative identities, how do you give them each their own personality, yet connect them together in a cohesive way through your design?

It is not the purpose of the installation to express the identity of each designer, because each of the objects expresses its own identity. The design has to be discreet enough in order to create a background that will enable each of them to express their own identity. The design itself however also has a strong identity, so the background is achieved through a uniformity of colour between all the different islands.

How different is the design development process when working on a new brand without any historical context?

Sometimes it’s easier and sometimes it’s more difficult to work for a brand that has a history and has an image that‘s already done, because sometimes we have to abstract ourselves from that image and rethink it - not always so obvious.

How do you see the disciplines of fashion, design and architecture informing, communicating and feeding off each other?

For me, fashion, design and architecture are somehow related because they’re applied arts, so there’s a form, a function and a structure. Although different in discipline, history and culture, they all inform one another by the relationship between form, function and structure.

Your design concept is modular, how does that bring flexibility to its use?

We have four main pieces, and with these four main pieces we build islands and we propose possible series of islands, so there are five that we like and proposed, but there could be many others. The user can use one island or one combination or another combination, and that brings the flexibility.

How do you approach a retail design concept that needs to be packed, shipped and mounted in diverse international locations?

That was one of the interesting things about this project, and it meant that we didn’t start from nothing because we had this series of constraints and this one is a constraint that is very useful for the design and that‘s the one that brings this connection between fashion and architecture because the folds becoming structural, so each piece can unfold to become flat in order to be shipped and then we fold it again and it becomes a volume that you can assemble.

What are the unique qualities and characteristics of leather as a material for architecture and design?

Leather has some characteristics that we think about; we think that it scratches, or ages by becoming darker or becoming more shiny, for example. This is what we know from bags or leather from the car seat or things like that, but we can actually do whatever we want with leather because the way it’s tanned totally changes the way it ages. In our case, we accept and we like to have a certain ageing because we like that the material expresses what it is and we don’t try to go against the material’s quality, otherwise we would have chosen a different material.

What impressed you about innovation in leather when visiting the Ecco leather tannery in Dongen?

It was very interesting to see how many different leathers exist that don’t look like leather. There were so many that I liked but especially this very thin one that was almost like paper, and when you fold it has these folding marks like paper. But in our case, we wanted to work with leather that looks like an archetype of leather, that is immediately identifiable as leather.

How have you integrated Ecco Leather into your final design?

We decided to actually do more than integrate it, in that we decided that leather would really be the basis of this design. So we imagined this series of objects to be working like a cardboard box, with leather on the exterior and on the interior it’s bonded on the more rigid surface, which enables us to have all these foldings because at the points where it folds, it’s really only leather. So we are really fully using the characteristics of leather for this project - the materiality has really informed the form.

How do you design responsibly today?

The first part of responsible design is making sure we have as little waste as possible, and that we don’t design only for one use or one time, so we are using the same pieces several times, in that they will be used in every different location. But we can also think that they can become collectors pieces and many people could have a piece at their home and they will hopefully live forever.

Tell me about this Parallélipipède rectangle and why it‘s relevant to your project?

I loved this shape of the Parallélipipède rectangle because it‘s the perfect volume and actually expresses the difference between something designed by man and something designed by nature, because nature designs spheres but never designs Parallélipipède rectangles. This is perfectly expressed in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001 Space Odyssey when this Parallélipipède rectangle shows up in the desert and all the monkeys are like “oh what‘s going on?”. So in our case what I find beautiful is to have these Parallélipipède rectangle that lay in the space reminding you a bit of the work of Carl André for example, but they have this complexity in the way they are assembled and all these different geometries that are not agreed within this shape.

What makes good design engaging, unique and compelling?

I think good design in general has to be obvious, so when we design something that is quite complex and we redesign it as many times as we need to make it obvious, and when it is so obvious that we are surprised it didn’t exist before, I think that‘s when we reach a good design.