duendepr.com news Toan Nguyen, designer

Toan Nguyen, designer


French industrial designer Toan Nguyen lives in Milan and was born in Paris in 1969. He graduated from the ENSCI (Paris) in 1995. Following Paris and Barcelona, he started his career with Antonio Citterio, where he took over as head of design and co-signed more than forty products over ten years for Axor-Hansgrohe, B&B Italia, Flos, Iittala, Kartell,Technogym and Vitra, amongst others, before founding his own studio in 2008. This hedonistic purist has a flawless career path, as fascinated by mass production as he is by unique ‘bespoke’ pieces, the result of craftsmanship par excellence. Rigorous gestures and an eye for detail with which he experiments at the heart of the very traditional Italian furniture industry and in dojos in a personal capacity: martial arts act as a founding experience to his everyday approach to design. ‘To build a dialogue with a company entails getting a specific feel for the place and the people who form a constituent part of it, just like an empty room can only fulfil its role as a dojo, a fight room, after many years of intense training. The buzz of the work and skills fills the premises or businesses with a certain energy that I also reflect in the projects.’

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Toan Nguyen has been immersed in Italian design culture for almost 20 years. He establishes a dialogue with brands, their processes and teams opposed to egocentric and self-referential designs that are fit to be replicated within any context. ‘A problem that needs resolving is my ideal project more than being given carte blanche. I convey my irrepressible desire to touch, feel and try objects. Design is not stimulating when the aim of an object is to conceal physical reality, like a flat screen TV. Emotion needs to play a role, no matter how small. I focus on the end user and on the detail that will catch their eye or attract their hand to take long-term ownership of an object. The ideal validation is long-term. Objects that are too loud or speechless will irrevocably be forgotten,’ summarises this product designer who is at the heart of the object industry.

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Since creating his own studio in 2008, he has designed specific collections with fine-tuned elegance: the Bellows collection of side tables and poufs with gathered leather for Walter Knoll obtained the Red Dot Award in 2010. The same year, the MU outdoor range for Dedon projected the standard of outdoor sofas to a new level: an extremely minimal structure, foam of variable densities and high-tech fabrics now offer comfort and aesthetics previously restricted to indoor models. This bestseller has since been replicated countless times.

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Likewise for the ambitious Lagunitas system with Coalesse, a revision of the classic American dining booth typology which merges seat and space partitions to provide privacy in open places. With these sofas and hybrid work stations, Toan Nguyen pushes the use of three-dimensional mesh to its maximum to create semi-transparent partitions, winning the Neocon Gold Award in 2013. Lastly, in terms of celebrities, Eva Mendes has fallen for her Wow table for Lema, whose spectacular natural base results from the same preoccupation for extreme streamlining in the manufacturing process.

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This design that is essential yet spectacular is a paradox summarising form and function, pushing detail to the maximum : gathered, folded leather for Walter Knoll (Red Dot Award 2010), a belt buckle for Fendi Casa with whom he has developed ever since the profuse Contemporary Collection including the Cocoon sofa winner of the Elle Decoration Russia Best Furniture of the Year Award 2014. Toan Nguyen thereby made the iconic Penta armchair for Viccarbe, the atypical Antero urinal (Red Dot Award 2012) and the INO range (ISH Design Plus Award 2015) in SaphirKeramik, an innovative material developed by Laufen that permits radically new ceramic work: archetypal thick and solid bathroom components have evolved into visually light functional surfaces with unprecedented resistance.

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Toan Nguyen has designed the architectural and complex light system Algorithm for Vibia, a wave of luminous points floating in space. He has conceived the strategic range of remotely controlled products and intercom for Urmet and lastly the Infinito lounge sofa and Masalla table collections for the new premium brand Teknion Studio addressing the needs of the contract market.

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Toan Nguyen is a compulsive ‘dessineur’ as he himself said in his early childhood, a designer who stays true to his first passions proceeding to fine-tune them with experience. ‘I like the direct and sometimes rudimentary aspect of objects that are open to immediate interpretation, not requiring any explanation or conceptual pretexts. I focus on reduction to achieve an object free from anything superfluous. Not like a dogma or an aesthetic line, but like a principle of economy, or even of ecology on every front: in the productive process; the matter and materials; the specific functionality, but also in the gestures and the expression.’ His creative line can be summarised in a phrase, harnessed through chance encounters that he refers to on a daily basis, ‘Anything that has no use to me weighs me down.’