As Sabine Marcelis pulls open the oversized door of Martha Sturdy’s Vancouver studio, it’s hard not to admire the outfit she’s wearing.
Wide-leg corduroy trousers and an oversized wool coat might not be a classic pairing, but they are fitted to perfection and worn with a casual coolness; layered underneath is a contemporary rendition on the white-collared shirt. If the outfit could speak, it would recite tales of its fine Italian craftsmanship. The only dash of colour in her ensemble is the green juice from The Juice Truck’s Mount Pleasant storefront cradled in her hand.
“It’s all menswear,” the Rotterdam-based designer says. “It’s a Dutch menswear company called Salle Privée.”
Marcelis is no stranger to this young brand, having been tapped to create the concept for its new Milan showroom, which opened during Milan Fashion Week. Curious shoppers are welcomed by the landmark 16th-century building’s polish marble floors and fresco ceiling. The space revolves around Marcelis’s spectacular designs: enormous plexiglass objects extrude from existing central mirrored walls. It is a beautiful presentation of contemporary details fused into an historical environment.
Marcelis is a natural creator. Growing up in New Zealand, she was surrounded by elements of design from an early age. Her parents grew and sold flowers at the local market, and a young Marcelis would sell her handmade jewellery alongside the blooms. After chasing winters in New Zealand and North America as a snowboarder, she turned her focus to industrial design and studied at Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
“I’m interested in pushing the limitations of materials to the edge,” she explains. “I try to create something that maybe doesn’t exist yet.” In her domain, Marcelis is a manipulator of light, wondrously connecting the natural and the artificial, the simple and the complicated.
An hour before her talk with Martha Sturdy as part of The Mix, a new program for IDS Vancouver 2017, the designer delicately polishes a brightly coloured mirror from her Seeing Glass series—a collaboration with Brit van Nerven—noting that the light above may need to be adjusted before showtime. Using glass as the primary material, the illuminating piece flirts with depth perception through colour and layering. Its visual illusion commands the room and captures the attention of all those who walk into its vicinity.
Marcelis often works with glass and resin. “You can really manipulate those materials,” she explains. “They can be completely opaque, they can be completely transparent, they can be matte, they can be reflective, they can be polished.” The Voie series, another of her works featured at the presentation, further explains how these properties provide Marcelis with the opportunity to play with light. As cast polyester resin diffuses the path, and a neon light source causes the colours to glow. A new relationship is formed, and a spectacle is ignited.
Even international pop star Lorde, a fellow New Zealand native, has been captivated by Marcelis’s light. Through Instagram, Lorde inquired if the designer could create a version of her Candy Cube piece—a hollow candy-coloured resin object that Marcelis describes as “very simple” yet whimsical with its “magical glowing edge”—for the singer’s Melodrama world tour. “I think it’s really cool that this one object can have so many lives within so many different settings,” Marcelis says, recalling the night at London’s Alexandra Palace when she saw Lorde perform alongside the Cube.
On her website, Marcelis explains how she is “forever in search of magical moments,” whether that be through materiality or the manufacturing process. She is actively seeking the unexpected, toying with the curious. A lover of the light, at her very best.
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