How Nendo won my heart: A column by Khalid Shafar
Rediscovering the Japanese design house in Milan
With Nendo taking many a spotlight this year, it was indeed a 'Nendo Design Week' in Milan last month. With 20 prestigious collaborations, installations, partnerships, and product presentations scattered around the city, this Japanese design powerhouse made its impact on this year's edition.
Once again, Nendo partnered with the Italian luxury leather brand Tod's on the 'Envelope Boat Shoe'. Although the streamlined silhouette of the classic deck shoe was left intact, the laces have been substituted with an envelope string fastening on the side in a typically sweet touch. According to Oki Sato – Founder of Nendo, the Envelope is a reminder of communication, curiosity, and travelling. It's his spice added to the classical shoe of Tod's. The partnership was complemented with a story-telling window display designed for the shoe presentation at Tod's via Della Spiga store.
On the same street was one of my favourite Nendo highlights and Milan Design Week discovery; the Colombia Via Della Spiga collaboration. Nendo designed a basic tote bag for the brand, then took apart the relationship between a bag's two most important elements: the handle and the bag. Nendo then reassembled them flat and made seven variations by translating the flat form into three dimensions again. All made of canvas and leather, each of the seven variations is absolutely unique to itself.
With the list of Nendo highlights continuing in the Brera district, one of the first and oldest design districts of Milan, there stood another pop-up store for COS, the Swedish H&M Group's fashion brand where a major installation called 'Space dipped shirts' and a solo exhibition ' Works by Nendo' linked both the brand and the design house together.
Nendo took the classical shirt of COS and integrated it in a structural installation that spanned the ground floor of the pop-up space. Another detailed exhibition that highlighted all the other collaborations and projects Nendo was involved in was located on the lower floor.
In the same district between narrow streets, a stunning set up for the historical crystal brand of Baccarat was displayed in an old church building at via Formintinie. The Nendo name was present again through the 'Harcourt' chessboard where the design house had designed the chess set in a very contemporary approach yet historically referenced to Baccarat.
More international brands to add to the list of Nendo's account this year were Camper, KN Industries, Fabbrica Pelletterie Milano, Kartell, Alcantara, & Quodes. While other brands enjoyed Nendo's specific collaborations at the mega trade fair ground of Milano such as Cappellini, emeco, Casamania, Offecct, Flaminia, and more... Although some of the above collaborations with such prestigious brands could sound like more than enough for one design week, Nendo's name was in fact spread across Milan to wow us again. The design house had proved again that Japanese simplicity and minimalistic approach can win hearts around the world – and they definitely took mine this year.
Congratulations to Nendo, and to Milano for another successful Design Week. See you next year!