Currently reading : SB5 Archive (2010): Death Becomes Her

SB5 Archive (2010): Death Becomes Her

12 September 2017

Words by Ben Perdue

Photography by Babette Pauthier

Photography assistant Matt Cutts
Stylist Lilia Toncheva-O’Rourke
Model Natalia K at Profile
Makeup Artist Abi Johnson using Mac Pro
Hair Stylist Hiroshi Matsushita
Set Design Alexandra Leavey
Chair Marie

By understanding the impact of sex appeal on human nature, even when it comes to simple pleasures like sitting, Marie Valognes has returned to the very building blocks of ergonomic design with her Petite Mort chair. The sleek black leather and steel construction, with its functional peek-a-boo slits and seductively curved spine, lends the genre of fetish furniture an elegantly sophisticated edge. A provocative aesthetic rooted in the unique combination of tailoring and engineering techniques at the heart of its conception. But for all the theory and discussion, the most important goal for Valognes as a designer has been achieved: it works.

Hi Marie, where are you answering these questions? What can you see?
I’m answering these questions from my studio in Hackney. It’s all white and curtains cover the windows so I can’t see much of the street outside, and people can’t see the wild things I get up to in here. It’s bright and peaceful; it’s my thinking tank.

Describe what you do and how you came to do it.
I’m a designer; I create concepts and products. I worked in fashion for a number of years and started to experiment and expand my design spectrum. I thought it would be interesting to use some of the ‘couture’ aesthetics and processes for products. Also, for me, the thinking process behind all design fields are linked; it’s all about creating innovative and aesthetically pleasing forms whilst working around physical constrains.

How did you decide on the name Petite Mort?
Petite Mort=little death, it’s a French term for an orgasm. One gets a pleasurable sensation of release and comfort when sitting in the chair, and with it being black and graphically resembling a skeleton, both elements associated with death, it seemed like the perfect name. It also reflects the chair’s ambiguity well.

What was your initial inspiration for the concept?
I’m not sure what triggered the idea; I tend to have eureka moments. I liked the idea of the body being suspended and cradled like a hammock. Using this principle, I came to think of a chair that fits like a garment whilst maintaining the body in position—a single layer of leather that would be ‘tailored’ around the body.
By understanding the impact of sex appeal on human nature, even when it comes to simple pleasures like sitting, Marie Valognes has returned to the very building blocks of ergonomic design with her Petite Mort chair. The sleek black leather and steel construction, with its functional peek-a-boo slits and seductively curved spine, lends the genre of fetish furniture an elegantly sophisticated edge. A provocative aesthetic rooted in the unique combination of tailoring and engineering techniques at the heart of its conception. But for all the theory and discussion, the most important goal for Valognes as a designer has been achieved: it works.

Hi Marie, where are you answering these questions? What can you see?
I’m answering these questions from my studio in Hackney. It’s all white and curtains cover the windows so I can’t see much of the street outside, and people can’t see the wild things I get up to in here. It’s bright and peaceful; it’s my thinking tank.

Describe what you do and how you came to do it.
I’m a designer; I create concepts and products. I worked in fashion for a number of years and started to experiment and expand my design spectrum. I thought it would be interesting to use some of the ‘couture’ aesthetics and processes for products. Also, for me, the thinking process behind all design fields are linked; it’s all about creating innovative and aesthetically pleasing forms whilst working around physical constrains.

How did you decide on the name Petite Mort?
Petite Mort=little death, it’s a French term for an orgasm. One gets a pleasurable sensation of release and comfort when sitting in the chair, and with it being black and graphically resembling a skeleton, both elements associated with death, it seemed like the perfect name. It also reflects the chair’s ambiguity well.

What was your initial inspiration for the concept?
I’m not sure what triggered the idea; I tend to have eureka moments. I liked the idea of the body being suspended and cradled like a hammock. Using this principle, I came to think of a chair that fits like a garment whilst maintaining the body in position—a single layer of leather that would be ‘tailored’ around the body.

How did you perfect the ergonomic design of the shape?
The process was similar to the one used in fashion. I made people of different sizes sit on a basic prototype, marked the position of the different back points and came up with a generic pattern to fit all. I then matched it with medical drawings of human muscle grain as it followed a similar pattern. It seemed logical to mirror the body that sits on it by reflecting its shape and fit.

Are any aspects of the chair construction influenced by your fashion background?
It’s totally based on the principal of garment construction and pattern cutting; the cuts in the skin act as darts, creating shape and openings that adapt to the body’s curves and weight distribution. My technical skills and my background as fashion designer were essential in both the thinking and the execution process.

How important is the concept of functionality in your work?
For me, function is an essential part of today’s design because we don’t really need to produce more things unless they solve issues, add something new, or have a relevant use that can better people’s living environment. Also I do like the constraints functionality sometimes bring; it might be why I do design and not art.

What is it that inspires you about the human form?
I guess I worked around the body for years so it must be ingrained. Human and organic forms generally inspire me; it’s a design that mirrors who we are and our environment.

Can you relate to the element of sex appeal in the surfaces and materials you use?
Yes, the chair’s sexiness was both planned and a natural outcome because of the elements used. I deliberately used black rubber-finished leather, something associated with sex and rock ’n’ roll. And naturally, it has curves that resemble the body, which makes it sexy. Its weightlessness is a sensation also used in bondage, which adds to the sexual connotations. Also it is a skin that fits around your own, so one could be tempted to sit on it naked, skin to skin, whilst listening to Led Zeppelin.

What would be your dream project, and what are you working on next?
I have an idea for an urban modular seat made from recycled tires, which could be used as a park bench or in airport waiting rooms; it would be amazing to see one of my designs widely used publicly…one has to dream. Petite Mort is still going through some changes, I’m planning to make it even larger and I’m doing some research into skin resistance. I’ve also been appointed to give creative direction for a reputable East London leather manufacturer; I’m going to be designing the concept for their showroom and furniture, it will be a vision of craftsmanship for the 21st century.

www.miseenplis.com



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