In Conversation with Rising French Designer Wendy Andreu
Recently graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven, Wendy Andreu is a young french designer. She focuses on technique and let her intuitive approach take the lead in her development of objects, garments and matters.
I met Wendy this summer in Montreal. We sat in a park to discuss, and after only a couple of minutes we found ourselves talking about how design and art had the possibility to rearrange the world. It was one of those thorough encounter that I felt needed to be shared.
E: What attracted you to design?
W: I started when I was pretty young. At 14, I was studying applied arts because I wasn’t interested in doing a general program. I think it is the capacity to think abstractly that attracted me to design. I had been to the open house of a school and I really liked how they were describing things. I remember that there was a wall where we could read ‘verticalité’ (verticality). When you see a wall, you never think ‘it is vertical’; but it is.
You have the object, but it is what’s behind this object that interests me. The observation, the description; I think it’s all about having another point of view on things. It is not easy to have this capacity to observe and see, but it brings another form of beauty to life. That’s what appealed to me, and what still pleases me.
“Organization is something I find absolutely fantastic but I always keep space for procrastination and spontaneity.”
— Wendy Andreu
E: I noted something you once mentioned: “Organization is something I find absolutely fantastic, but I always keep space for procrastination and spontaneity”. What does your general work schedule look like?
W: I usually arrive at the studio at 9 or 10, and leave around 19 or 20. My days are rather organized. I have a list of things I have to do, but if I don’t feel like doing something I don’t do it, otherwise I know it will turn out bad. Though when I have interns or when I work on collaborative projects I can’t do what I want so it regulates things a little bit.
What I realize now though is that the work of creating things, the design process, I do it in the train. I draw in trains, planes or airports, but not in the office. It feels too static to conceptualize. The studio is only the place for production.
E: You realized your Regen collection by developing a new technique allowing to create waterproof garments without stitching, using ropes and latex. How did you end up making this discovery?
W: I actually started to work on this in 2014, in school at the Design Academy, Eindhoven. The subject was ‘material’ and I wanted to work on soft matters since I didn’t know anything about it. At that time, I primarily worked with metal and wood, but I was really bad in the textile workshop. I even happen to broke some machines… It was total anxiety, but I still wanted to work with this matter, so I decided to stick textile together instead of sewing.
I made some experimentation and analyzed this matter that had a soft side and a waterproof side. I then decided to use the properties of the material to do a rainproof collection, it’s the first thing that came to my mind.
E: It’s kind of crazy that you developed a new technique which is now at the heart of most of your products, mostly by diving in the process in which you felt the least confident.
W : Yes, I know! But that was very encouraged at the Design Academy. We were always asked to get out of our comfort zone. So that’s what I did.
E: And do you know how to sew now?
W: Well, after all of that, I did a fashion internship at Faye Toogood and I learned how to sew. But it’s not my passion. I bought a sewing machine this year, but I didn’t use it yet…
E: When you create a new product or garment, do you usually start with an image in mind, or does it come later in the process?
W: I really ain’t someone who draws forms. Some designers do that, and do it well, but it is not the way I work. My work is more functional.
E: So your process is more physical?
W: Yes, what I like is the construction of things. I am not really a designer of forms, I prefer to ask myself how to build. That’s what interests me.
E: Do you think that’s why your designs are rather raw?
W: Yes, but now I work more and more on the pattern, so there’s the decorative side that comes in question.
E: Like the flat fabrics you recently announced?
W: Yes, I created them to encourage collaboration and create made to measure things for brands. For example, I recently made cushions with that for architects. There’s a lot of things that are possible with this fabric. There’s the waterproof aspect, but there’s also the decorative side. I think this application is as valuable as the other, so I don’t put it aside.
E: Apart from Regen, do you work on developing other techniques?
W: Well, it’s really my signature, so I focus on that to develop it as I can. I always have new ideas and I do it. But apart from that, I still work with metal and wood. I am rather open to develop other things with other matters. I don’t really see any limits in my work.
“I like to think of the bridges between matter, people and space.”
— Wendy Andreu
E: In your website’s bio, you mention that you “like to think of the bridges between matter, people and space”. I found this statement particularly interesting. Do you perceive design as a social potential?
W: I think that there is a context for everything, and that we have to take it into account. There is always the space, the place, and the reason why it is made. For some projects, like the installation we did in Oloron, we have to create a story, that is consistent with the theme, the festival, the city… On the other hands for other projects, the social aspect is less present. There’s a difference between design that we are imposing in the space, and design that we create for a predetermined place.
In my work, I think that the social aspect is first and foremost in the creation. I like to be surrounded and share things.
E: How has been your experience as a woman in the design world so far?
W: I don’t feel like it is necessarily harder in the daily life, but when you look at the portrait, the list of designers in major events, it is often man dominated, so it can be quite discouraging.
E: What was the ratio like when you were in school?
W: When I was at the Design Academy, it was pretty equal, maybe a little more of women. But now, when my work is exhibited in the real work field, it is mostly along men’s. I often ask myself where the women are, I wonder where the girls I’ve been studying with since I was fifteen disappeared.
E: Why do you believe this is?
W: I don’t really know. It really is a question I ask myself. Even here at the studio, I am in an incubator for young designers and artists, and there are only women. So I asked the director why it was like this, and she told me that women where more inclined into asking for help then men.
E: Maybe because they don’t really have the choice if they want to make it?
W: Maybe. But after, when I go to event like the symposium I just went to in Bratislava, where women are at the heart of the organization, there’s always as much women as man. Maison et Objet in Paris is also pretty equal, and it is organized by a woman.
E: Yes, I guess women are more sensible to this reality!
W: Yes, but in the end, I think we shouldn’t think about the fact that we’re women. We just have to do the work, and keep doing it well.