the Mallet-Stevens Studio
5 questions for Jean-Marc Manusardi
The name of Robert Mallet-Stevens is closely associated with Habitat's 50th anniversary celebrations. This iconic name is now managed by the Mallet-Stevens Studio. Jean-Marc Manusardi, Mallet-Stevens' great-nephew, explains how this partnership was formed.
How did the partnership between the Mallet-Stevens Studio and Habitat come about?
It's a direct result of Habitat's creative policy, which aims to bring together young up-and-coming designers, established designers and iconic names from the world of design. Robert Mallet-Stevens, a hugely influential figure in the inter-war period, falls into the last category and let's not forget that he's a part of our French cultural heritage just as Habitat is today. The Mallet-Stevens' name gives the brand visibility and helps us to share this great designer's work with a wider public via Habitat stores in France and overseas.
Robert Mallet-Stevens - the architect
Edouard Menkès design
How does this partnership work?
We've signed an exclusive worldwide license agreement for 10 models including six that are already in the catalogue. There's the "office chair" (1931), which was exhibited at MoMA in New-York in the 1980s, the armchair that was designed for the terrace of the Viscount Noailles' villa in Hyères, and pieces from the Château de Gourdon collection, the former Musée des Arts décoratifs et de l'Art Moderne (MADAM). Pierre Favresse, Habitat's creative director, carefully chose pieces that complement Habitat's collection. These re-editions were manufactured in partnership with Habitat's design studio. We tried to track down original parts, changed a few details, found technical solutions and developed prototypes. We tried to use the original materials where possible with the exception of the table where we opted for veneer instead of lacquer as this was too fragile and too costly. Other changes were necessary to ensure that the range offered the best value for money. This complicity in the design process has contributed to the success of the partnership.
What is the role of the Robert Mallet-Stevens Studio?
Well, first and foremost it's a family story and an artistic heritage that I am more than happy to carry on in order to preserve the work and spirit of Mallet-Stevens. His name was on the verge of being forgotten. As his successors, it is our duty to protect his work and keep it intact. In 2009, we decided to create the Mallet-Stevens Studio brand in order to manage his work through the release of high-quality re-editions but also to add value to it through the re-edition of furniture and contemporary objects. The aim is also to find a balance between honouring his designs in a market culture and the economic reality that goes with it.
What messages would you like to pass on through the work of Mallet- Stevens?
Modernity! We should remind the public of the role played by Robert Mallet-Stevens (1886-1945) on the French artistic scene. He was a truly avant-garde architect due to his multi-disciplinary approach - architecture, cinema, decoration - he was able to free up space by using modern materials such as reinforced concrete and to combine his skills to decorate interiors in a manner which unites form and function.. His legacy is as rich as it is eclectic* and he always tried to uphold social values. For him, social peace was the result of a good town planning policy and well-designed homes. A certain notion of space, light and comfort for all. This enlightened philosophy influences the founding principles of modern architecture and design.
What values do Mallet-Stevens and Habitat share?
Mallet-Stevens was the president of the U.A.M. (the French Union of Modern Artists). This social art movement, which brought together artists, craftsmen and manufacturers, aimed to bring art and aesthetic understanding to the greatest number of people. It was also affiliated with certain German movements such as Bauhaus, which is considered the precursor to design. The Habitat brand, thanks to its creator Sir Terence Conran, is still heavily influenced by the Bauhaus period and the concept of affordable beauty and utility. Mallet-Stevens was an obvious choice for Hervé Giaoui, the CEO of Habitat. The two brands come together in their approach to design. And Mallet-Stevens' work and style is still resolutely modern.
*Mallet-Stevens designed major projects such as the Villa Noailles in Hyères, the Villa Poiret in Mézy-sur-Seine, the Villa Cavrois in Croix and the buildings on the Parisian street that bears his name, such as the home of the Martel brothers at n° 10 or the Maison Barillet workshop, which today houses the Mendjisky Museum. He also built pavilions for the Exposition des arts décoratifs (1925) and the Exposition internationale de Paris (1937).