Designers and brands, established and emerging alike, embraced the many faces of craftsmanship from across cultures.
“I feel that every time there’s a big change in culture and technology, crafts and local means of production re-emerge in a very important way,” Ms. Antonelli said, “a kind of slow design that is similar to the notion of slow food. We still have the means of production that are industrial, of course, but now we have, in a way, come to re-evaluate and appreciate modes of making that are not necessarily industrial.”
One exhibition that highlighted craft, identity and storytelling was “This Is America,” spotlighting a diverse selection of independent American designers. The curators, Jenny Nguyen, Liz Wert and Alma Lopez, focused on wide-ranging talent and intimate, sometimes poignant dimensions of independent designers of color. One work that personally moved Ms. Lopez was by Monica Curiel, a Mexican American designer whose artistic use of plaster was a meaningful nod to her immigrant father, a construction worker, and elevated the humble material.
Audrey Range, a designer based in Rotterdam, demonstrated the evolving edge of hybridized craft with her “Emissive Chandelier,” the latest in her ongoing series of works made from combining digital rendering and 3-D printing processes — a personal “digital sculpting” technique, as she described it. The resulting work was an iridescent lavender, pale green and silver and with a craggy, sheen surface visually reminiscent of brocade. Meanwhile, the renowned designer Martino Gamper presented “Innesto (rubbing up on the wrong tree),” in which he applied the analogy of plant grafting to upcycle a set of damaged vintage 1930s Cox furnishings by inserting segments of furniture legs and surface details to create a visual mash-up of old and new. “Sometimes, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Mr. Gamper said, “maybe just a detail or a particular joint, like with trees.”
One thing that hadn’t changed was the melding of the fashion and furniture worlds, which have become increasingly close bedfellows in the past decade, with luxury brands like Dior, Hermès and Louis Vuitton heavily investing in their presence. Loewe’s presentation, “Weave, Restore, Renew,” shined a light on regenerative craft practices from Spain, Galicia and Korea that highlight the beauty of age and repair; each has informed a collection of four new woven bag designs made from straw, leather and corded paper.