Ethically Made: Interior Design Brand Liaigre

SLIDESHOW: Ethically made, each object resonates with noble traditions from Colombia, Nepal, Korea, Tanzania or Vietnam.

Liaigre is teaming up with local artisans to work against over-industrialised processes.

Christian Liaigre was ahead of his time. When he founded his brand back in 1985 and started crafting noble interiors, Liaigre used materials in a unique fashion: sanded pinewood and African Wenge were finely crafted by artisans to create sculptural benches and outdoor furniture. With them, Liaigre gave birth to a new aesthetic that influenced fashion designers and other luxury brands.

In 2016, Christian Liaigre stepped down, leaving two women in charge of running the group: Frauke Meyer as head of interior architecture and furniture collections; and Déborah Comte-Liaigre, who spearheads the group’s 28 showrooms and design service.

Recently installed in a recently refurbished 18th century hotel particulier in Paris’s 7th arrondissement, the interior brand — now simply called Liaigre — is seeking to build its future on a rich legacy. On a day-to-day basis, expert interior designers source French walnut and cedar woods, Makassar ebony, eucalyptus wood or Liquidambar to imagine collections with some of France’s most talented ateliers and master craftspeople. Cabinet makers work creatively with Jamaican dogwood, while bronze sculptors create desirable objects, including mantelpiece ornaments.

Ethically made, each object resonates with noble traditions from Colombia, Nepal, Korea, Tanzania or Vietnam. Perpetuating centuries-old know-how, the 100 per cent cashmere throws are woven on ancient Nepalese wooden looms. Hand-made, each throw is washed with soap and rinsed using spring water from the Himalayas or monsoon rainwater, which act as a natural conditioner for softness. Dried in the sun and inspected inch by inch to remove any rough lumps, the throws are then dyed in exceptional hues: camel, deep blue, bronze, rust, beige. Further rinsed, washed and dried, the edges are sewn to perfection using a contrasting thread.

Rugs are woven by Colombian craftsmen using sisal — a plant from the Agaves family — sourced from local cooperatives. Naturally air dried, the plant’s fibres are dyed using mineral pigments, organic charcoal, soil, graphite, moss and onions. Bound into thicker strings, the fibres are either woven by groups of women — while watching telenovelas — using reclaimed metal knitting needles, or braided into heavy rugs (55 threads) by men in prison, whose unique strength is channelled with a purpose.

In Korea, artists frequently use a traditional enamel technique called chilbo: countless layers and firings are used to obtain dark and opaque colours mixed with more transparent areas. For the Silla trays, artists experiment with a depth of colours and textures: gold and green, silver and blue, copper and plum.

Sculpted by Tanzanian tribal craftsmen, the Durban pots are made of ebony, gathered by village communities and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Shaped using ancestral techniques, each pot is chiselled, then sanded and polished to obtain a satin appearance. Each piece echoes primitive art.

The wood vases designed by a self-taught German artist and forest ranger spotlight the art of wood turning. Trimmed down from a block of wood weighing up to 150kg, each giant vase is almost weightless by the time it is finished. Soaked in water, the wood becomes soft and malleable enough to be hollowed out. Each piece stands on its own with its own lines and wood grain.

Additional objects from this world collection include lacquerware from Vietnam and sustainable weaving techniques from Senegal mixing raffia and Egyptian cotton woven on old looms.

“Teaming up with local artisans, we work against industrialised processes. We respect their work and try to modernise it so that it can appeal to a contemporary audience,” says Comte-Liaigre.

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