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Opinion / Grace Charlton

In pursuit of timelessness

In pursuit of timelessness

Now that we’re halfway through the year, it’s a good moment to reflect on what 2024 has delivered so far in terms of design. At the industry’s most significant European events, from Milan’s Salone del Mobile in April to Copenhagen’s recent 3 Days of Design, last year’s fuzzy, creamy bouclé fabrics and rounded shapes have been replaced by sleek, angular aluminium, such as that of Carl Hansen & Søn (see above), and darker wood details. A move towards 1970s-style oranges, browns and yellows stood out in Milan (though the Danes are still betting on beige). Some worry that the fashion industry’s increasing involvement in the field of design is bringing faster trend cycles that put pressure on production, while testing the “buy less, buy better” mentality that has been carefully cultivated by much of the sector over the past decade.To counter this pressure, a pursuit of “timelessness” has been at the top of the agenda for many designers eager to distance themselves from short-lived fads. The result is plenty of minimal, natural and often very beautiful pieces that are inoffensive enough to suit any setting. That makes me question my own fretting about buying into the latest look (my browser history is full of anodised aluminium stools, shelves and homeware) and whether or not any investment made now will look out of date by 2025. It also begs the questions: is it OK to bear the mark of your time? Can a material such as metal really go out of fashion? And how will the 2020s be remembered by future generations if we just keep referencing previous eras?To be clear, there is beautiful, contemporary design being created and exhibited in cities from Stockholm to Seoul by the likes of Sabine Marcelis (see below), Formafantasma and Studio Halleroed, to name just a few. But the enduring appeal of mid-century modern design comes down to its pioneers – Ponti, Jacobsen, Knoll, the Eameses and so on – and their willingness to shake up ideas of what design can look like. I hope that 70 years from now, the present moment will be referenced in its own right and designers such as Marcelis will join Ponti and co in annals. After all, researching new environmentally minded materials and production methods, as well as testing out different silhouettes, is an eternal pursuit.Grace Charlton is Monocle’s associate editor. For more news and analysis, subscribe today.

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