On 19 October, Il Bisonte’s new Capsule Collection will be unveiled at its New York boutique: two sets of wooden-core trays, covered in fine leather, created by renowned designer Shawn Henderson. We asked him five questions in our interview reported here in the Journal. As we say in the business: it’s worth reporting his answers in full.
Il Bisonte also lives in New York. What was your knowledge of the Florentine brand before this collaboration? Could you tell us what you think the image or identity of Il Bisonte is in your city?
I first became aware of Il Bisonte fifteen years ago. A close friend gave me one of your leather-bound journals as a gift because I always use journals for work. I remember how well constructed it was and how soft the leather was.
With the new Capsule Collection from Il Bisonte, small leather goods are back in our homes in a whole new form. Could you briefly describe the collection for us? How did it fit into your overall creative process?
I approached my collection for Il Bisonte in the same manner as I do for all of my interior projects, there’s a purpose and a place for everything. I don’t like clutter and I don’t like having to search for things especially in the morning when I am trying to get out the door. I thought about how I always utilize trays within my interiors. For me a great tray needs to be simultaneously beautiful and solution oriented. As I considered my collection for Il Bisonte I wanted to create an inherently multifunctional tray that could live within a variety of different room settings. The design would have to appear to be simple while still being elegant. Ultimately the name of the collection really sums it all up: There’s a Home For Everything. I worked with Il Bisonte to conceive a pair of well-proportioned canteen-style trays in their exquisite Vacchetta leather quality. I am thrilled with the end result. They’re perfect and I use them every day.
Mr. Henderson, this product of yours is likely to decorate large interiors as well as contain small design objects. Drawing on your experience, what place do you think the Capsule Collection might take in the lives and homes of your customers?
For me it starts with the entry of your home. As you come in and out of your space, I felt it was important to have something that simplified where to put all the stuff—keys, sunglasses, Air Pods—that we seem to carry around with us. The goal was to take the guesswork out of it and to create a designated place, a home if you will, where everything can be organized. Living in a place like New York City where visual clutter is real and something people think about, I thought these trays could be refined while providing an easy storage solution. As I got further into the design process, I considered other areas within the home in which the collection could live. The trays are versatile design objects that can sit on a desk for stationery or be placed on a dressing table to house jewelry, watches, fragrance, and personal care items.
Ultimately, I created two designs: Canteen 01 and Canteen 02. For me, Canteen 01 is a blank slate. The design is clean and minimalist with straight 90-degree angles. Imagine if you will, a floorplan conceived as a tray. On the other hand, Canteen 02 utilizes rounded corners with the addition of simple open boxes—square, rectangular, and round—which add dimension while offering additional organizational opportunities. Canteen 01 and 02, each distinct in their design, were both born out of the same functional
You mentioned the influence of French designer Jacques Adnet, who was trained in different crafts. The collection shows an elegance of lines but hides an eclecticism of materials.
I’ve always been drawn to the honesty and purity of Adnet’s designs. His furniture was equal parts beauty and function and he would consider the space they took up within a room. Adnet’s designs maintain a quiet authority that perhaps feels even more modern today. I wanted to somehow capture this spirit when I approached my collection for Il Bisonte. I avoided any unnecessary decorative flourish much like the work of Adnet or even Il Bisonte. I created seemingly simple designs that rely on the expertise of Il Bisonte’s artisan team. This was a puzzle that we solved together to create something effortless, useful, and authentic.
Wood and leather, vegetal and animal, are two primordial materials, derived from nature in sustainable ways. Do you think the Capsule Collection succeeds in making tangible the global principles of sustainability that Il Bisonte embraces?
For me sustainability demands awareness and action. My approach to interior design has always focused heavily on vintage furniture pieces. When working with a client we always assess what they have with a goal to keep as much as possible and even re-imagine a piece of furniture within the project. When producing new pieces for a client I work with a trusted group of local craftspeople that I’ve developed a rapport and understanding with over a series of projects. My design ethos places newly designed and produced items alongside vintage ones. For me this juxtaposition creates a modern environment personal to the end user.
I brought this mindset and experience to my very first conversation with Il Bisonte. What I wasn’t aware of at the time was Il Bisonte’s hyper local approach to sourcing and manufacturing. Il Bisonte’s continued commitment and ability to produce leather goods collections for women, men, and now home, all within 30 kilometers of Florence astounds me. I made the conscious decision to design what was essential. I developed two concepts that resist faddishness and can inhabit a variety of rooms and design styles. My hope is for the trays to be used, reused, and passed along generationally. I would be thrilled if the Capsule Collection trays become a future vintage item.