Crème: Interdisciplinary Democracy
Collaborating closely with a wide array of clients – including Hyatt, Shake Shack, and Gerber Group – Crème applies it hands-on approach in everything from interior, product, strategic and branding design. We spoke to founder Jun Aizaki about his practice and the new Exchange Signature Collection for Stellar Works.
New York design firm Crème was founded by architect Jun Aizaki on the principle that all design challenges can be solved with the same problem-solving methodology. The diverse design team approaches every new project with a holistic understanding that all elements are equally important. Collaborating closely with a wide array of clients – including Hyatt, Shake Shack, and Gerber Group – Crème applies it hands-on approach in everything from interior, product, strategic and branding design. The firm develops retail, hospitality, residential, event and pop concepts but also custom objects and furniture. Notable projects include the Mr. Purple bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the Greystone Hotel in Miami, branding for the Irvington Bar & Restaurant, Journal Standard’s Tokyo flagship, and the Guapos food truck in Philadelphia. Crème’s Exchange Collection, which started in 2016, was awarded best collection in ICFF New York’s Editor’s Awards in May 2017 as they revealed an indigo dyed special edition of their Exchange Chair – exploring traditional natural dying techniques while celebrating the beauty of indigo. We spoke to Jun Aizaki about his practice and the new Exchange Signature Collection for Stellar Works.
Could you tell us a bit more about your practice?
Jun Aizaki (J.A.): Our design studio is like New York; multi-cultural, international, dynamic, passion driven. New York’s creative energy inspires us as a whole and the incredible variety of individuals living here. Diverse backgrounds and talents drive our practice towards a high level of collaboration, which is key to our process. We nurture a culture of design democracy and draw inspiration from our clientele, our design team’s diverse backgrounds and from our extended family of artists and fabricators. We are storytellers and experience builders. Our exploration does not begin nor end at the completion of a building, space or object, but rather when a person interacts with the space and the experience enters someone’s lifestyle.
How and when did you started collaborating with Stellar Works?
J.A.: About five years ago, we began working with Stellar Works on a chair design for our Eventi project. Exchanging preliminary sketches and prototypes established a fruitful relationship. The results were the beginning of the Exchange Signature collection.
Could you describe your new collection for Stellar Works? What is the narrative you employed?
J.A.: The first collection started with the Exchange Chair in 2015, which was initially designed with the intention of growing into a full collection. When the first design was launched in Paris, it was received with great interest. This response reaffirmed our goals of expanding the chair into the full Exchange Collection. The new collection is both traditional and contemporary, timeless and modern. While drawing inspiration from the iconic spindle form of a classic Windsor Chair, we replaced the conventional wood material for steel. We created a new design that fits better in a modern lifestyle. Each version is available in multiple finishes. The steel chair back is also customizable in a variety of shapes and patterns. Employing practical, transformative and humble shapes ensures that the collection is honest, balanced, and timeless.
What are the materials, designs and industrial/handmade processes you explored in this collection, which makes it unique and distinctive? How did you employ Stellar Works’ unique craftsmanship?
J.A.: Stellar works began a unique partnership with Laval, developing a level of craftsmanship from a long history of European design. All wood is worked by hand while the metal is made by a company specializing in bicycle frames, shaved and finished by hand. We work closely with Stellar Works through multiple rounds of prototyping, design, and fabrication. They do 99% of the work in-house, making the collaborative process fluid. They have all the skills necessary to turnaround and develop quickly and efficiently. They also know their market well. Members of the Crème team spent several days in Shanghai working closely with the Stellar Works team to develop early phases of the collection.
How do you see Stellar Works profiling itself both on the hospitality and retail markets in the near future?
J.A.: The power of hospitality is that it creates an experience that inspires customers and offers an opportunity to take a piece of that inspiration and integrate it into their own spaces. Nowadays people are curating their home, creating environments made of objects they love. Stellar Works creates this bridge. With Pinterest and Instagram, people are sharing photos of hospitality projects around the world and are exposed to different design pieces. It grows interest and inspiration both on a hospitality and residential level.
What is your perception of Shanghai as a megacity compared to Paris or New York?
J.A.: Like our Exchange Chair, Shanghai is an amazing mix of the traditional, contemporary, modern and timelessness. This is beautifully showcased in the meeting of Shanghai’s authentic architecture, British/French influence, and modernist buildings. It’s a city where styles meet to become something new and original.
Is Stellar Works more Shanghai-based, Japanese or Global?
J.A.: The design scene in Shanghai is one of the most prolific in the world, and Stellar Works can be proud of the role they play. They are truly global. Their founder is Japanese but their skills are rooted in a French craftsmanship. Stellar Works is based in Shanghai but collaborates around the world with different partners, much like the Crème team. Crème is also formed by an international group of designers, brought together to create something truly unique.
What would be your ‘dream’ Stellar Works project?
J.A.: There are so many furniture projects we’d love to explore in the future. Perhaps a baby crib, living room pieces, bedroom pieces, a standing desk, outdoor furniture, more pieces for hotel projects, but perhaps most importantly developing more collections that will stand the test of time.