• Beech armchair, Fabien Cappello, 2014. Photo : Damien Ropero & Mathieu Meyer
  • Marble handle, Fabien Cappello for Manico Handles, 2014. Photo : Angela Moore
  • Marble handle, Fabien Cappello for Manico Handles, 2014. Photo : Angela Moore
  • Light, Bright Rays collection, Fabien Cappello for TORRI, 2015. Photo : Fabien Cappello
  • Column, Fabien Cappello, Nilufar Gallery, 2013. Photo : Angela Moore

  • Streetscape, Fabien Cappello, Stanley Picker Gallery, 2015. Photo  : Fabien Cappello
  • Beech armchair, Fabien Cappello, 2014. Photo : Damien Ropero & Mathieu Meyer
exhibitions 2015

Associated exhibitions
Fabien Cappello
Today
Contexts, Materials and Colours
It is always interesting to see designers curate exhibitions of their own work. The selection and display of products is a visual narrative of the story the designer wants to tell about him or herself. This autobiographical
function is particularly true when the exhibition is a retrospective. While
Fabien Cappello rejects this label for this show – understandably given that he is still in the early stages of his career – it is fitting. As his first solo survey, it is an opportunity to reflect on his practice so far, for the designer and visitor alike.

The exhibition is timely. It comes five years after the Paris born designer founded his eponymous London studio, following graduation from the Royal College of Art’s MA Design Products in 2009. It was his degree show project that first brought Cappello into the design limelight; “Christmas Tree”, a collection of furniture handmade from some of the two million pine trees discarded on London’s streets each January.

While “Christmas Tree” isn’t included here, its themes of place and making are clearly on-going and developing ingredients in his practice. This is not through a fashionable celebration of provenance or artisanal local production – although this does appear in Basket Armchair for Sitting Firm (2012), inspired by the vernacular Windsor chair and crafted by chair-makers in Britain. Rather, as the London-made Streetscape (2015) series of public furniture express, Cappello wants to unleash the potential that every place has for production, even in service economies in which manufacturing can seem remote. It points towards an industrial leaning also present in his material choices more generally: made using sheets of perforated metal, the Bright Rays (2015) and Column (2013) lamps inventively exploit the formal possibilities of seemingly mundane industrial readymades. Both Streetscape
and Bright Rays do so with a bold use of colour, another of Cappello’s current hallmarks.

Cappello’s affection for industry is part of his expressed desire to use design to improve our everyday. The small-scale production of his output currently restricts this; although the one-of-a-pair Campo Fontana (2010), on show in villa Noailles’ terrace, meets this public-orientated ambition. This exhibition however comes at a pivotal moment in this regard: this year Cappello launched the first collection of Italian-made door handles for Manico, a company of which he is both co-founder and designer. Seeing this increasingly close relationship with industry, I realise that Cappello is right: this exhibition does look back, but only in order to step forwards into the next chapter of his design career.

Text — Cat Rossi