The first thing you notice about Dutch interior designer Marcel Wanders is his chessboard-patterned brogues. His footwear print - huge squares of black and white - stood out in a sea of offbeat clothing and shoes at India Design ID 2013, held earlier this week in Delhi.
But there are other ways Wanders, 49, has cut through the clutter. He created the Knotted Chair back in 1996 for Droog Design, where aramid (a heat-resistant synthetic material) and carbon fibres were knotted into a chair shape and subsequently hardened using epoxy, a variety of resin. The chair turned out to be a spectacle, both in form and texture. Since its inauguration, the chair has moved to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
From 1996 - when he shot to fame with his Knotted Chair - it has been an illustrious journey for Wanders. His products have made their way into the inventories of big-ticket labels including Flos, Alessi, Puma and B&B Italia. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines commissioned Wanders to design tableware for its Business Class. His own signature brand Moooi - Dutch for 'beautiful' - was founded in 2001 with Casper Vissers, a shrewd marketing man with design acumen. What helps Moooi stay ahead in the world of cutting-edge dcor is its decision to stock up on products and accessories created by other European design hotshots including Jurgen Bey, Bertjan Pot and Nika Zupanc.
Provocative and whimsical, products conceptualised by Wanders have pushed the design envelope time and again. From a completely quirky vase, the shape of which is inspired by - of all things - the 3D scan of airborne snot, to soup cans encased in gold, Wanders' designs have always challenged notions of beauty and aesthetics. Besides Moooi, there are several architectural and design projects that Wanders has put his stamp on including the Kameha Grand Hotel in Bonn and private residences in Amsterdam and Mallorca,Spain.
In a conversation with The Telegraph, he spoke about how he never lets his clients decide what's good for them and how design should always be about something new.
What's being in India like?
Marcel Wanders: I last visited India five years ago and it's really great to be back. Though the last trip was a flying one, this time I'm here for 10 days and am getting to see far more of the country and the people.
What is your second India visit all about?
MW: I'm here to meet people and to speak about what I'm doing. In the meantime, I hope my interactions and talks can be an inspiration for other people. I would love to do projects here - like make a hotel, perhaps even an apartment building. I would love it if my designs are meaningful in this region.
How do you think India will respond to your brand of design?
MW: Since my work attacks modernism so fiercely, it is very well perceived in countries like India. A lot of designs from the West are all very rational and boring. I am fighting this trend, which gives me a very different connection with the Indian population.
How do you see the relationship between craft and design in the modern world?
MW: I think craft is always an inspiration for design. But it only becomes design when you innovate with it. And design is not just about beauty, but also about newness. When you create a design with craft you'll feel the human hand and there will be a sense of liveliness, a sense of soul in the work.
Since interior design forms a substantial part of your work, you must be aware of the preferences of your clients in terms of living spaces. What is it they want?
MW: I have no idea. If I am going to do what people do, then they don't need me. I only do things I know are really good. I don't work with any client for whom I don't have great respect. And I will make them something wonderful according to my own standards.