Interiors journalist Emma J Page asks designer Richard Smith about the inspiration behind his latest collection for September 2016.
Emma J Page, journalist and editor
No. 9’s latest fabric collection pays homage to the vibrancy and timelessness of classic Japanese textiles. Designer Richard Smith explains the vision behind the new designs….
What inspired this collection?
I’ve been intrigued by Japanese textiles and crafts for many years. Even in the most traditional of designs, there is something very modern in the way colour and pattern combine. I’m fortunate enough to have viewed some wonderful historic collections around the world and I always return home laden with ideas. I also enjoy the visual impact of the kimono; its different elements evoke so much history and reverence. These enduring themes are embraced by the contemporary Japanese design world too, seen in the work of fashion designer Issey Miyake, the artist Yayoi Kusama and sculptor Junko Mori.
Junko Mori: Organism, 2006, forged mild steel, wax coated with dried plants
What’s the story behind the name?
The term Origami - the Japanese art of paper folding - has quite a playful feel, and that suits No.9’s relaxed and vibrant ethos very well. It also references the layering of pattern and colour, and the way fabric is transformed into something completely different when it becomes a 3D object, whether a curtain or a piece of upholstered furniture.
Sketches in Origami, Japanese papers
Colour and pattern are recurring themes in your designs - how did you harness them for this collection?
I had three basic colour stories in my mind - earth tones inspired by the colours of lacquer, ceramics and wood; saturated and pretty colours which reflect both modern Japanese culture and traditional floral watercolours; and subdued mineral tones. The thing I enjoy about colour is that it transcends time and changes in relation to context; so the colours found in eighteenth century screens and kimonos are reflected in contemporary fashion, which is exciting.
Silk Kimono, detail
You’ve designed all of the no.9 collections since the brand was launched – how do they complement one another?
I try to bring a fresh interpretation to the brand every time. Trends interest me, but creating a different mood for each collection is even more important. Ease of use and versatility are hallmarks of No.9; sometimes a collection is focused on sophistication, at other times on playfulness. Whatever the mood, our fabrics encompass a wide colour palette so that it’s easy to dip in and out of any of the collections within one interiors scheme.
What kind of schemes would these latest designs suit?
I wanted to play on the idea of contrast, creating fabrics that can be used in a modern, informal way. This collection sits beautifully against earthy textures such as wood and brick, which provide a natural foil to the depth and richness of the designs.
How did you come up with the look and feel for the shoot?
The styling centres on a modern Thai house, based on a traditional floor plan, but with a modern twist; that mix seems so right for no.9 and for this collection in particular. I love how we softened the hard surfaces of the architecture: black metal beams, wooden paneling, parquet flooring and big windows are each offset by wonderfully decorative fabrics. Meanwhile, lush nature is always present through the windows, which greatly adds to the colourful feel. Every accessory and each piece of furniture brings something to the story, making the look really come vividly to life.
Exterior Studio - studiomake
What are your standout pieces?
I’ll be incorporating Obi in a grey colourway in my new studio in Sussex. The space has a yellow floor and red shelving, so the grey and turquoise elements of this geometric fabric will cut through those elements with immense style.
OBI, Nighwatch, 2193/03
How do you combine the spirit of the brand with an of-the-moment feel?
Jim Thompson was a great traveller and collector and I always have that in mind when I design No.9. If something touches me, it sits inside my mind fermenting, waiting for the right time to make an appearance. That’s just how Origami evolved.