Since its launch in 2015, Paris-based design brand WE DO NOT WORK ALONE has been collaborating with contemporary artists to design and produce functional objects in limited editions sold through a handpicked selection of boutique design stores across France, the brand’s website, and from June 1st, 2021, its first Parisian store located in the Marais. Designed by NeM - Niney and Marca Architects, the space, which functions both as a store and a gallery, is characterised by a whimsical aesthetic that reflects the idiosyncratic playfulness of the brand’s unique offerings. The venue’s inaugural exhibition, “Inventory”, takes stock of the brand’s creative output up to now, as the name suggests, by offering a comprehensive presentation of every edition produced over the past six years, namely 50 objects created by 30 contemporary artists. More than a retrospective, the show signals the beginning of a new chapter by highlighting the creative potential at the heart of WE DO NOT WORK ALONE’s artist-led design philosophy.
Founded by Louise Grislain, Anna Klossowski and Charlotte Morel, WE DO NOT WORK ALONE takes its name from the title of the book by acclaimed Japanese potter Kawai Kanjiro which was published in the 1970s and which compounds his thoughts about artistic creation. At the same time, the name is also a concise summation of the project’s modus operandi: each series of limited-edition objects is manufactured to specifications drawn up in close collaboration with the artist, be that through an artisan or industrial process. Comprising a diverse selection of household objects, from rugs, cushions, tableware and lamps, to tablecloths, packaging tape, shower curtains and bath towels, the brand’s artist-designed offerings range in style but share a whimsical sensibility that aims to subvert expectations of what such everyday objects should look like with a sense of humour and irony.
Take for example, “Forever True”, an enamelled ceramic lamp by acclaimed Berlin-based, American artist Dorothy Iannone that takes the form of a fertility goddess-like, semi-nude woman holding a torch - a figure taken from a painting she made in 2015 for the cover of a vinyl LP based on a 1975 audio recording of the artist performing a German folk song while masturbating. Other examples include the hand-knotted wool seat rug by Brazilian, Paris-based artist Camila Olievira Fairclough depicting a pixelated animal paw that also looks like an artist’s paint palette, the ceramic bottle stopper shaped as a cartoon cat head by Alain Séchas, and the wedge-shaped, modular cushions by French designer Elvire Bonduelle.
The whimsical sensibility at the heart of the brand’s offerings is echoed in the theatricality of its Parisian venue. Underpinned by a stripped-down, minimalist aesthetic, the space is nevertheless imbued with a graphic playfulness. A dreamy colour palette of mint, emerald and white is artfully mixed with orange, black and metallic accents, while black-painted steel I-beams, whitewashed timber roof beams and industrial-style plastic curtains in a silvery finish are juxtaposed with plush fabric curtains, murals and cubic pedestals. The result is an idiosyncratic space that offers a variety of backdrops for the diverse range of objects WE DO NOT WORK ALONE is producing. With plans for new site-specific editions and presentations in collaboration with other galleries and guest curators, the brand’s new Parisian home is definitely a place that design lovers should have on their radar.