Fernando Laposse has quietly been making his point for years now: with care and attention to detail, there’s enormous potential beauty in even the most readily discarded, every day items.
In 2018, Fernando burst into the consciousness of London Design with the completion of his Sisal Sanctum the Citizen M Hotel. His utilization of this traditional Mexican material – essentially, the fibres of the agave cactus; used for centuries by Central and South American cultures to make ropes and hard-wearing fabrics – was a revelation. The playfulness of the material and his design created an adult wonderland; an Abominable Sisalman in a sisal-walled room. Even in pictures, the whole effect is profoundly huggable.
For all the art, fun and craftsmanship of that installation, it’s invigorating to see Fernando’s more mature range of furniture, products and finishes coming to the fore in 2019.
This was a seemingly “throw away” exhibit at the London Design Fair (pun intended). A small, out-of-the-way room room with just four items on display, each from a different designer.
But each of these items was made from an unexpected organic resource. Tobacco and hemp leaves were pressed into modern, minimal lampshades; banana leaves were transformed into hard-wearing rugs; and over in the corner was an incredible mat, made of irregular, yellow, cream, orange, red and purple hexagons. It seemed so simple, but when you looked closer (and read the information) you realised these hexagons were corn husks.
Fernando has been working on his Totomoxtle project for a number of years now, first premiering it in 2018. The colours are all natural, coming from unique strains of corn, all from Mexico and some at risk of extinction, due to their being under-farmed as a result of their “unconventional” colours and flavours.
…the only hope for saving the heirloom species of maize lies with the indigenous people. They continue to plant them out of tradition rather than financial gain.Fernando Laposse
And that’s the sort of sustainable story we love.
It’s a sad state of affairs that the vast majority of the maize grown in the world is for animal feed, sweeteners and other secondary purposes, and because of that the most commonly cultivated maize varieties are not chosen for their nutritional value. Another one of the hangovers from humanity’s less-than-perfect rush to advancement through the 20th century.
Fernando’s drive to find and highlight more ways to bring value (and thereby encourage the harvesting of more nutritionally valuable heirloom varieties) is fantastic. And why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of this natural, waste-minimizing, organic and colourful veneer option?
We love this exploration of loofahs. Unlike corn husks, this is a material that most of us are more familiar with, at least as a shower scrub.
But Fernando’s decision to use this “waste” material from the loofah harvest is ingenious.
Loofah isn’t only good for scrubbing. You may have also noticed during your shower routine that it’s light, translucent, firm-yet-shock absorbing and a good insulator of heat. These are all qualities that can be useful outside the shower too.
Fernando’s Lufa Series explores each of these properties. The result is a range of products with minimal waste, natural finishes and that are ultimately biodegradable at the end of their lifetime.
The finishes here are beautiful, as is the attention to detail. It’s hard not to want a Lufa Bench or Screen to nature-up your interior design.
Putting his experience with sisal to good use, Fernando also displayed a series of benches upholstered in the same sisal finish as 2018’s Sisal Sanctum.
It’s difficult not to describe these benches as “cute”; there’s a shaggy dog element to their look which begs to be touched and ruffled.
While being attractive, interesting and classy, they’re also using an organic material that, in western textiles, would be entirely overlooked.
Last in the series of products we were able to see the current collection is this range of bowls and crockery made from the paper and waste materials from Fernando’s own studio.
This is a phenomenal idea and one we’d love to see more designers setting for themselves. While “zero waste” is a noble and achievable goal once a product pipeline is established, there’s inevitable “waste” in the trial and error of the design process itself.
No matter how sustainable a studio’s final products might be, there will always be offcuts, print-outs and trash created along the way.
That Fernando works to use even this waste is so impressive. That he uses them to make an additional range of products that is so different from every other piece from his studio – and yet is completely in-line with his studio’s underlying ideals that this Matryoshka range doesn’t feel out of place.
Everything about Fernando Laposse’s products strives for total beauty.
Much of it achieves it. His ability to find value in materials that most designers overlook makes him a virtual oracle in the age of sustainability.
We cannot wait to see what comes next!
NB: All images in this post are courtesy of Fernando Laposse.