Louis Vuitton’s First American Objets Nomades Designer Andrew Kudless Shares His Inspiration For “Swell Wave”

Each year, Design Miami/ brings together some of the most well-known names in the design world, showcasing their works to the keenest of design enthusiasts, who make their way from across the globe down to the Magic City. Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades exhibit is one of the most highly anticipated of the fair and this year, the House debuted the work of its first American designer, San Francisco-based Andrew Kudless. His piece, entitled Swell Wave, is made from smoothly polished oak and Louis Vuitton leathers, making for the perfect statement-making addition to an interior space. Available in two versions—free-standing and wall-mounted—both represent the art of exploration and embrace the idea of movement; two facets that are deeply-rooted in Louis Vuitton’s travel DNA. Here, Haute Living presents an interview with Kudless, just after Swell Wave’s debut at Design Miami/.

Andrew KudlessPhoto Credit: Louis Vuitton/Vera Comploj

What attracted you to the idea of designing an Objet Nomade for Louis Vuitton?
The opportunity to work with a brand that represents the highest level of craft and quality was exciting and inspiring. As a designer and maker, I appreciate working with artisans who have extensive knowledge of their materials and tools.

What were the inspirations for your Objet?
When considering my approach to the Objets Nomades collection for Louis Vuitton, I wanted to explore the concept of travel in a way that reflects my own passion for traveling. I travel in order to experience new things: sights, smells, tastes, etc. This experience, of leaving the familiarity of home, is unsettling and invigorating as it opens us to the unknown. There is an inherent tension to travel that I wanted to capture in the Objet. As you travel you are pulled between the appeal of the new and the comfort of home, between the rush of movement and the endless waiting, between the desire to go and the inertia of staying. I wanted the Objet to resonate with these forces and represent a balance between all things.

Andrew Kudless Swell WavePhoto Credit: Louis Vuitton

Why did you choose the specific materials that are used in your Objet Nomade?
There is an inherent beauty and individuality to natural materials such as wood and leather. The variations in grain, color, and texture reflect our differences and uniqueness in the world. In addition, I needed to chose two materials that best represent and communicate the forces flowing through the piece. The leather straps are strong yet pliant while the wooden shelves are simultaneously stable yet appear in motion.

What have you called your Objet and why?
In an essay by John Muir, a noted 19th century naturalist important to the history of California, he describes a journey along the Yuba River in the Sierra Mountains where he climbed up to the top of a Douglas Spruce tree during a storm. He writes of the joy he felt in being tossed around while the wind blew the tree back and forth:

“The slender tops fairly flapped and swished in the passionate torrent, bending and swirling backward and forward, round and round, tracing indescribable combinations of vertical and horizontal curves, while I clung with muscles firm braced, like a bobo-link on a reed….We all travel the milky way together, trees and men; but it never occurred to me until this storm-day, while swinging in the wind, that trees are travelers, in the ordinary sense. They make many journeys, not extensive ones, it is true; but our own little journeys, away and back again, are only little more than tree-wavings–many of them not so much.”

I read this essay long before I ever moved to California but it was one of the things that drew me here. Muir’s joyous perspective on the sublime beauty of nature best aligns with my own choices on where and why I chose to travel.

Andrew Kudless Swell WavePhoto Credit: Andrew Kudless

Could you describe it in a sentence?
Pulled in opposite directions yet completely in equilibrium, the shelf represents a balance of forces: between movement and stability, between new and old, and between hard and soft.

What does Louis Vuitton mean to you? What was your impression of the House before you began working with it?
Louis Vuitton is the pinnacle of a maker’s success story. From a humble origin to learning a trade to introducing innovative products to the market, the start of the company represents how good products and ideas enter world. The fact that the company was able to not only sustain this level of innovation and commitment to craftsmanship over 160 years but to consistently build on it and expand the business beyond the iconic luggage to architecture, fashion, and furnishings has been inspiring as someone who works between the worlds of art, design, and architecture. When you see a Louis Vuitton product, you know it is well made and well designed. That integration of both form and function is at the heart of my practice as well.

Andrew Kudless Swell WavePhoto Credit: Louis Vuitton

How did you use the Louis Vuitton workshop’s savoir-faire?
I often tell my students that they will learn more from fabricators and materials than they will learn from me. As much as I can teach them, so much more is gained by talking with expert craftsmen and trying to make things themselves. There is no substitute for knowledge gained through working with your hands.

What is your definition of nomadism? What does travel mean to you?
I travel in order to experience new things that break me away from the familiarity of home. This experience is, by definition, unsettling, but ultimately is the root of a lot of creative inspiration for me. Being able to quickly adapt to new settings and experiences and integrate them into your everyday life is the joy of travel.