Established in 2002 Danish label HAY have quickly risen to become an important player in the European furniture and home accessories market, and in many ways have also served as the archetype for the innumerable new labels that have sprung up across the continent in the last five to six years. Yet to judge by the scale, breadth and obvious cost of their presentation at Milan 2016 HAY are clearly not planning resting on their laurels any time soon: here is brand, we were informed, moving up a level and prepared to throw everything at the expansion.
For us they may be throwing a little too much, trying too hard to be all things to all men at all times; however, regardless of such considerations there were a few absolute gems to be found in the depths of Milan’s former La Pelota swimming pool where HAY launched their new 2016 collection.
For us the genuine highlight of the 2016 HAY collection is and was without question the Can sofa and armchair by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. Sold as a flat pack kit to be assembled at home, both the Can sofa and armchair feature a steel tube frame with fulsome, inviting, cushions held in place by exterior textile walls, in addition the Can sofa doubles as a makeshift bed. Very easy, accessible objects, the Can family are contemporary yet conservative, casual yet disciplined and for us formally, constructionally and in terms of the underlying spirit of mobility, lightness and temporality are very reminiscent of the Cuisine désintégrée kitchen or Lit clos room-within-a-room concept from early in the Bouroullec’s careers. A state of affairs we thoroughly approve of.
Aside from such formal aspects an important factor behind the Can concept is the, relatively, low price, something achieved largely through a concentration on and optimisation of the number of components and production steps, and something which for Ronan Bouroullec lies at the heart of the brothers cooperation with the company, “With HAY you have passionate people who want to succeed between IKEA and more exclusive design companies”, he explains, “I like this approach, and it also means we have a platform where we can try to solve basic needs, to create what in the fashion industry would be the white t-shirt, so simple, everyday objects which don’t cost a fortune and appeal to a broad range of people.” With Can we believe they have achieved just that. A belief which, not entirely unsurprisingly, is shared by Ronan Bouroullec, “I am quite proud of the fact that with the sofa and chair we succeeded in creating something which provides an elegant answer for basic needs”, he concludes. Proud they all may be.
As more loyal readers will be aware, back at IMM Cologne 2015 we noted an unmistakable popularity amongst independent design studios for relatively low chairs featuring what we referred to as a “deliberately overproportioned upholstered seat and back rest”; among the more interesting examples we cited to back up our case being the Bridge armchair by Rui Alves, the Pocket Chair by Jesper Junge and the Lenz Lounge Chair by Bartmann Berlin, Silvia Terhedebrügge & Hanne Willmann. We obviously shied away from using the evil “T” word, but there was, we opined, definitely something in the air; and a bug that obviously also infected London based studio Doshi Levien. Their new Dapper Lounge Chair for HAY doesn’t ride as low as the three works mentioned above, and is thus perhaps better intended as a dining chair or an occasional chair in, for example, the conservatory, hotel bedroom or office waiting room, than a out-and-out lounge chair per se; does however emit the same warm glow of Hans J. Wegner in a 1980s post-disco melancholy and thus is every bit as appealing. Not least because as a work it is self-confident, very well proportioned, aesthetically charming and thus eminently inviting.
Elsewhere the modular New Order system by Stefan Diez continues to impress us as much as it ever has, and frankly always will, we simply cannot imagine a time when it doesn’t excite us, while the Bouroullec’s new outdoor Palissade collection offers everything it promised. And a little more. Which is always pleasing.
With the additions to their portfolio we have little doubt that HAY will take the obviously much desired step to the next corporate level; it is however to be hoped that once they do they remember that in design quality and quantity are rarely the best of chums, and that too much of the latter can, invariably will, adversely affect the former. Yes one must develop, but, and as in all aspects of life, one must always remain true to oneself.
A few impressions from the HAY 2016 Collection showcase in Milan.