Moving Tatamis

French creator and designer José Lévy introduces the first ever furniture collection to be produced in traditional tatami.

Following his firework-inspired collection for Monoprix last winter, he makes mats fly this year at the Maison et Objet Hall 7 stand H79 fair presenting a world debut with the Japanese manufacturer Daiken, a leading home building materials company in Japan. There is a complete range of furniture: Sofa, armchair, bench seats, stools, side tables, a storage cabinet and shelving, launching this material typically found on the ground into a state of weightlessness. A change of function was requested by Daiken in order to consider this material in a new light and move away from its traditional use. Daiken has a mission to lead the harmonization between human, space and environment for the better quality of life of customers.  It is always found in at least one room in each Japanese house: the infamous washitsu (traditional Japanese room). The tatami used for the collection is woven from Japanese traditional paper wa-shi and not straw to provide better resistance. The collection wiil be available just after the fair at Joyce gallery 168 rue de Valois 75001 Paris.

Moving Tatamis is a collection of ideograms forming a reinterpretation of the ancient art of tatami. The French designer José Lévy defies visual codes and materials, raising washitsu elements from the ground giving shape to a unique range of light and elegant furniture. In contrast to the standardised modern vintage art of living, José Levy is a breath of fresh air adding exoticism to his personal nostalgia and bypassing the Brooklyn look. Consistently understated chic expressed through cherished minimalism.

Japan and tatami are dear to the designer instigated by a love affair that runs in the family. At the start of the 60s, Anatole, José Lévy’s grandfather, founded Judogi manufacturing kimonos, hakama and katana in Japan. ‘I encountered Japan early on thanks to him. It was my first experience of anything exotic, of some other place, of the ‘unusual yet beautiful.’ All these objects fascinated me. They were very important in my relationship with anything foreign, beautiful, dreams and distinction. In the 70s, people travelled less, Japan seemed very, very far away,’ José Lévy recalls. Once a year, Anatole visited his suppliers and took advantage to continue to explore the country. He supplied European clubs, sports shops and before long even the Olympic Games thanks to an ingenious anti-slip system for his tatamis developed with machines imported from Japan. In his shop on Boulevard Beaumarchais he articulated, among kimonos, kodachi and hakama, a visual and sensual heritage that he often recaptured through fashion, then at Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto in 2012. This is where he encountered Japanese formal authenticity and the principal remains the same for this collection: tatamis, precious woods, lacquer and waxed, light wood.

The particular sensitivity with which he designs all of his creations can be sensed; his obsession to make us see and feel quite freely. Cocoon armchairs, little asymmetrical side tables with one side delightfully curving downwards. The matt tatami contrasts with the gloss lacquer and the waxed wood. This in-depth and respectful knowledge of Japanese culture is always apparent. This is one of the important reasons why Daiken requested him to design the collection. He is a very precious designer who has both deep knowledge of Japanese culture and beautiful senses of French. The collection can be combined as desired and comprises tables, seats and functional, discrete storage. The modular storage cabinet placed on its base recalls Charlotte Perriand’s Asian experiments combining functional geometrical meticulousness and traditional materials. Perriand chose bamboo, and Lévy tatami. He beautifully assumes this status of interior designer steeped in pre and post-war, but resolutely contemporary culture.

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