NEW YORK — When Tyler Brûlé launched the style magazine Wallpaper in the mid-Nineties, the title was meant as both a metaphor and a joke. Its motto was “the stuff that surrounds you,” and while that was meant as a play on words, today Brûlé is designing the stuff itself.
This story first appeared in the January 30, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Now he’s the co-creator of Winkraft, a new textile line launched in conjunction with Bernhardt Textiles, a division of Bernhardt Design.
The first collection, dubbed Alp Maritim, uses Swiss design tradition as a jumping-off point for an array of patterns — stripes, zigzags and plaids — rendered in earth tones that are ultimately very un-Wallpaper, which may be the point.
Winkraft was conceived three years ago after Bernhardt’s creative director, Jerry Helling, approached Brûlé, who was then still at Wallpaper, about collaborating on a similar project for the magazine. Nothing came of it, but Brûlé’s departure from the magazine in May 2002 after selling his stake to Time Inc. brought the idea back into play.
Brûlé had decamped to Zurich to run his consulting business, Winkreative, a free-form custom publisher, ad agency and all-purpose creative think tank.
“Around 15 months ago, everything finally fell into place to launch a new brand,” said Helling.
To tap into the market of the salivating design junkies that Wallpaper had helped create, the new line would be available to the public, but designed and priced to meet the standards of designers and architects. The end result, created in conjunction with Swiss textile designer Caroline Flueler, are six patterns coming soon to boutique hotels.
“So many of the textiles issued in the United States today are reissues,” said Helling, describing “things that are modern and clean,” sort of like the aesthetic that took over the world in the late Nineties, in no small part due to Wallpaper.
“But we didn’t want the Wallpaper aesthetic for this,” Helling said. “[Brûlé’s] aesthetic is evolving. This is not Wallpaper-inspired in any way. He’s very into crafts these days.”
Bernhardt is carving itself a niche as a go-to partner for graphic and fashion designers who’ve decided what they really want to do is furniture. Former Harper’s Bazaar creative director and fragrance bottle designer Fabien Baron has signed on to create a line of furniture (after an initial collaboration with Cappellini), and men’s wear designer Jhane Barnes has her own line as well.
Moonlighting designers “don’t have the baggage of knowing all ‘the rules’ about designing furniture, which opens up all sorts of possibilities,” Helling said. “I’m not sure I would commission a screenwriter to do furniture, regardless of how creative they are, but graphic designers and fashion designers do well, since furniture design is a very visual, creative process.”