Having whet our appetites at last year’s edition, this year we are pleased as punch to be an official DENFAIR Media Partner. As Australia’s largest contemporary design and art trade event it’s a place to get to know who is making waves both locally and internationally and discover the next household names of design. Held over three days with the third day open to the public, DENFAIR 2017 promises to again bring together architects, interior designers, stylists and retailers in the one space to exhibit, present and connect with each other.
As we warm up for the event itself we’re profiling a handpicked collection of designers who will be exhibiting at DENFAIR 2017, beginning with the talented duo behind furniture design studio VUUE, husband and wife team Ceci and Aydin Keyvanloo.
Tell us a bit about how you met, your background and how you came to founding VUUE.
Ceci: I was born in the Midwest of America. It was clear I was headed in a creative direction early on and I ended up going “out east” to study art and design at RISD. After two years there I was drawn to New York where I studied Product Design at Parsons with a focus on furniture design. One job led to another and I ended up staying in New York and working in the design industry for 14 years.
Aydin’s family migrated to Australia from Iran when he still young. He studied a design and engineering double degree at Monash University. He took on a full time role designing for a local manufacturer while still in school and quickly became their head of design. A couple years later he was offered the opportunity to go into partnership in the creation of a new company called Cubic. In addition to running the company, he designed and manufactured hundreds of products for Cubic, learning a thing or two along the way about manufacturing and brand creation.
We actually met at a design event in Chicago. Eight months later, we ran into each other at another event in New York. The love story began and a couple weeks later I had packed my bags and moved to the other side of the globe to be with him.
Having lost some clients in the transition, all of a sudden I had a bit of time to devote to a new project. I had been doing a lot of design for other brands but had to relinquish control after the design stage. I really wanted to try my hand at manufacturing and Aydin had a lot of experience in running a design and manufacturing business. With no kids and the composite of our experience behind us, we figured that the timing couldn’t be better. Things were falling into place. We went for it and developed VUUE.
As an American and an Australian, how do your backgrounds influence the design and style of VUUE products?
Ceci: Living in New York I was always in small spaces. In order to maintain sanity I really pared back my life. I think that desire for a sense of serenity and order is reflected in the simplicity of my designs.
New York is a bubble within America where design is a big part of what drives business and makes success, but in the rest of the country it isn’t. Thankfully, in the small mid-western city where I grew up my parents were anomalies. I think the exposure they encouraged to contemporary art and design probably had a lot to do with my aesthetic.
Aydin: Although as a kid I was always sketching and being creative, studying design and engineering opened my eyes to the possibility of career of product design and taught me what design was all about. I can thank growing up in Australia for giving me the confidence to follow my heart and gave me the opportunity to give it a go.
We Australians are pretty well travelled and I think that is reflected in our aesthetic. Melbourne itself is a melting pot of cultures and strong European roots. I think the Mornington Collection is an amalgamation of influences and therefore works pretty universally.
What makes locally produced design special in your opinion and how is that reflected in the quality of VUUE products?
Ceci: I am a believer in the benefits of local manufacturing and am continually looking for those resources. We have some great partners overseas who have taken us under their wing and have worked closely with us to develop our designs. Their capabilities and craftsmanship is second to none. As difficult as developing a brand from scratch is, we have been really lucky to find the right people to work with who take well-deserved pride in their quality.
Aydin: We see local manufacturing as a big part of our future and are already taking steps towards that.
Your pieces exude a sense of balance and quiet confidence. How do you address the idea of balance in your work and the design process?
Aydin: That is such a great compliment. Thank You. We sometimes wish that the two of us had less in common so that we could be each other’s counterbalance. We are both designers at the core and come at everything from that angle. We always challenge our design choices and somehow things turn out pretty well.
Ceci: I like sketching really small. I find it helps with the flow of ideas and keeps me from getting caught up in the details too early. I always thought I was a detail person, but Aydin takes that to another level. His patience for perfection is enviable. For me, designing something that feels just right requires the time and headspace to create in comfort. Aydin has taught me the benefits of being able to revisit a design many times making sure that no particular element is throwing the rest of it off. That there is harmony.
Is there a product you are most proud of or that represents VUUE best?
Aydin: I’d say for me it has to be the Mornington Dining Chair. Although the Mornington Stacking Chair is equally popular, the “napkin sketch” of Dining Chair is where it all started. As we refined the proportions, angles and ergonomics we were constantly referencing that initial sketch to make sure the gesture wasn’t lost.
What opportunities at Denfair are you most excited about and what other designers are you looking forward to checking out at the event?
Aydin: There is a lot of talent here in Australia and the team behind Denfair have created a platform worthy of bringing everyone together. I’m looking forward to seeing what Fiona Lynch puts together for the Oyster Bar.
Ceci: We are really excited to officially debut VUUE to Australia at Denfair. We expect that this will be the first time many will see our products in person. I expect the show to be a collection of the best of Australian design. I’d say Tom Fereday and Ross Gardam stand out as some of the world-class designers who are not to be missed.
What’s up next for VUUE?
Aydin: Lots. We are just getting started! I suppose it is natural that we have had more success thus far in the US than here at home since that is where we launched. Although we are based here and recently started working with Zenith Interiors, in many ways Denfair is the launch of VUUE in Australia. As an Australian brand based in Melbourne with our office and stock in Melbourne, we are hopeful that our following here will be just as strong.
Ceci: Further down the line we would like to find local representation in Europe. We have many enquiries from Europe and it would be great to find the right partner to represent us in that part of the world as well. In addition to fostering VUUE, we would love to take on some new briefs and challenges. Possibly collaborate on a new project. Like most designers, our minds never stop designing.
You can visit Ceci and Aydin amongst the stellar lineup of designers, makers, stylists and retailers at DENFAIR 2017. Register for tickets here, or find out more our reader tours with our Editor in Chief Sian MacPherson here.