Wear Your Chair
Vogue Editor Naomi Elizée shares her musings on the increasingly powerful intersection of furniture and fashion
Fashion and furniture have always existed in parallel. Both influence each other, both are dictated by trends, and both are forms of self-expression. But what leads someone to purchase a particular table or set of dining chairs can be entirely separate from what entices the same person to purchase a coat or pair of trousers.
In the last couple of years, as many hunkered down in the midst of the pandemic, the ways in which the two industries are intersected have become more apparent. As with many of the cultural shifts that occur in our current epoch, social media of course had a role to play. There was a wave of people taking to TikTok and Instagram to share their daily routines, interiors, and DIY design tips as many deferred their focus on wardrobe to an emphasis on homeliness. It brought a sense of normalcy and connection at a time when both were lacking, and it got people wondering: Where does furniture end and clothing begin?
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With Pink Essay’s “Wear Your Chair” exhibition last November at NOMIA NYC, we set out to establish a new norm, one that celebrates the mind-expanding impact of interdisciplinarity. A continuation of a passion project started by our very own Matt Pecina, “Wear Your Chair” gave an opportunity to explore the intersection of fashion and furniture with a group of amazing exhibitors whose works examined the ever-changing relationship between material, space, and the human body.
In our effort to continue building this culture where design truly is for everyone, we wanted to hear from one of our favorite style and interior design icons, Naomi Elizée. As an editor at Vogue Magazine, Naomi has a unique and refreshing approach to interior design, one that reflects her use of fashion as a medium of self-expression. Despite her love for color and pattern in her wardrobe, Naomi has opted for a more muted and tranquil style for her living space. Her approach to decorating centers around a desire for tranquility, which she believes helps to balance the inevitable chaos of her fast-paced and dynamic career.
From her love for neutrals to her dream pieces like the Ettore Sottsass lamp, Naomi’s approach to decor is both thoughtful and intentional. She understands the power of investing in furniture that can be passed down for generations, and that thoughtful design can create a sense of stillness and tranquility amidst the chaos of everyday life.
Thanks for meeting with me. I’m really excited to talk to you today for Designheads, this’ll be one of our first interviews.
Amazing. So exciting!
I don't even know how I met David. Actually—I think I met him at Hannah Richtman's house [laughs]. I think that's where we met. I think I've known him for around like three years.
It's funny, I feel like I always forget where I meet my friends. It's all intertwined through Instagram and social media.
That's so true. I feel like I also forgot how I met David! Something to do with furniture, for sure.
So what chairs have you sat in today?
So, I would have to say my Faye Toogood Roly-Poly chair, just because it's in my closet and it is so central to where I get ready every morning. I'm constantly in that chair: trying on my shoes, taking a break, maybe scrolling on Instagram for a little bit—whatever I'm up to that morning. That's pretty much the piece of furniture that I've interacted with [the most today] outside of my office chair, which is not as exciting.
Do chairs like these hold a central place in your day-to-day life?
Definitely. I'm constantly in a chair. I'm at work from nine to five, if not earlier or later, so I'm consistently sitting in a chair and now I'm learning how to also get out of the chair and walk around, so I'm not just sitting all the time.
What do you look for in a chair?
Comfort. I definitely love a comfortable chair. Although, if it’s really, really chic, it doesn't necessarily need to be comfortable. I'll just like sit in it for five minutes. But comfort is a big thing.
Color—I love. I'm a big color person, whether it's patterned or solid colors. I also love something that's oddly shaped, something that you wouldn't necessarily think of as a chair.
You sit in it and you're like, “Okay, we could do this.”
Is there a chair that comes to mind when you say chic, and out there – aside from the Roly-Poly?
Yeah. I mean I have the Mario Botta chairs in my home as my dining chairs. They work great as a dining chair, especially because of the foam roller in the back. I tend to use it to stretch out whenever I'm sitting and doing my work there.
Outside of that – I wish I knew the name of it – there was a chair recently that I sat on that looked like it was completely twisted. In some boutique. It seemed as if you went to sit in it, you would completely fall backwards. But, once you sat in it, you felt fine.
I wish I took a picture or something so I could actually let you visualize it. Sitting in it was just so cool, also just showed that there are so many different ways you can make a chair.
Is your relationship to furniture similar to your relationship with fashion?
It's such a great question. I've talked about this previously a bit too: I almost feel like my relationship with furniture is different from my relationship with fashion. I think my relationship with fashion is more loud, more colorful, with more patterns and such.
When it comes to my interior design and my relationship with furniture, it's a little bit different. In my home, it's a bit more muted, depending on which room.
My closet of course is gonna have more color incorporated into it because that's my day-to-day: what I wear. I'm constantly in color, constantly in different shapes or patterns.
But when it comes to my living room, it's mainly like your whites, your browns—more calming colors: you could walk in, take a breath and relax. It's almost as if my home kind of represents how I would want my mind to be day-to-day, which is a bit more relaxed. A bit [less] running around, thinking about X, Y and Z and different shoots and what I need to do on my own endless to-dos. It's a grounding space for me.
I feel like fashion is this practice of presenting yourself in a way that aligns with how you feel and want to be seen, versus furniture and interior design is more about the kind of mental space you want to be in. Do you think clothing and furniture are really that different considering both are a way of expressing yourself?
Both: I think they are the same, but different. Your clothing is how you want others to perceive you. It's also a part of you, of course: it's your personality, but a big part of it is the [the way it’s perceived].
Your furniture is a bit more intimate. It feels a bit more vulnerable: you are welcoming people into your space, where you are your most comfortable, where you are your truest, truest self. Your safe space. And so I feel like your furniture adds a layer of vulnerability that your clothing may not exactly have.
Do you like hosting?
It's crazy, because I always thought I hated hosting and I realized recently that I love it—that I'm just a Virgo who loves to panic until the moment. And then I have the best time.
But I really do love hosting people in my space. I've hosted a few game nights and it's so great to see how people interact with the furniture too: those people who sit on the couch, those on the floors—using the floor pillows or just on the carpet—or maybe just in the dining area, leaning on the kitchen counter… wherever. It’s fun to welcome my good friends–with whom I feel most comfortable–into the space. It's your home, you know: I’m excited to see the many lives in which it'll live.
You have to protect that energy of your home, you can't just have everyone over. But you want to also be able to share it with your friends and your loved ones.
I'd love to get a sense of why you think furniture and fashion have become more intersected, especially now.
I feel like there's a longstanding relationship between furniture and fashion, but with the pandemic and people being at home more, it just came outta nowhere and blew up. More people wanted to invest into their homes – to be able to come home and see the pieces they’ve collected. It’s curating a lifestyle.
Luxury fashion houses are doing the same thing. If you’re a Marni girl then you live that lifestyle. You’re completely involved in their eclectic style. You walk into the Marni SOHO store – there’s ready-to-wear suspended in the space above you on stainless steel rods. It’s very Marni, as opposed to Jil Sander: their store’s interior is clean, white.
Each translates to the person shopping in those spaces. For me, my go-to brands are very much Marni, Martine Rose, etc. so it makes sense to incorporate that into my closet and other rooms in my home as well. When the brand is cultivating that lifestyle it helps the consumer incorporate that into their life and home too.
Do you feel like the internet has increased the fluidity between the two industries?
Oh, yeah. The Internet controls our lives, basically. But, especially on TikTok, seeing all the people talking about their interior design hacks, their dupes, which is very light subject matter but also makes it a bit more accessible to people: those that didn't necessarily know you could shop outside of regular furniture stores.
It showed a different side to it, showing that it is accessible and that you—the regular person, the person that's not in this interior design world, which can be very inclusive—you incorporate certain design tricks into your home.
For me it made it a little bit more like, “Okay, I could do that.” If I see something in Domino, I can go to Home Depot and get some wood slabs and make it into my own. Which I did!
Really intimidating at first—I was like, “What are the dimensions that I need? How do I get this wooden slab?” But [laugh] it works!.
You're reminding me of when I tried limewash painting just because I saw it on TikTok [laughs]. No, but I agree, the internet definitely democratizes the furniture and design world. It’s way more accessible.
What do you think about wearable furniture? What’s your take on it?
I think it opens up the floodgates for creatives to just think outside of the box, to think outside of the norm – not be so one-track-minded. I think creatives are easily consumed by the thought of what can be produced and what is profitable. Whereas you should create simply because you never know where that could lead, which I think has led to this surge in wearable art. It’s past function, it's also design, and also beauty. You don't have to define your work so much anymore. You’re able to think beyond that, which is where beauty is made. It welcomes creation.
Would you consider yourself a designhead?
I feel like I would love to consider myself a designhead one day. I’ve recently been very immersed in the design world and I’ve been loving it. I am so thankful for all of the opportunities that I've had working with various people like David on this project and with 1stDibs. And also working with artists and bringing new pieces into my home.
And maybe I'm just being humble, but I feel like I want to have a little bit more time to explore the design world before I can really call myself a designhead. But I do love connecting with so many people and having access to this world.
Do you feel like that's an important part of your life in general? Being able to meet all these people doing amazing things?
Oh, it's my favorite thing: being able to meet with new and up-and-coming designers is what keeps me going, truly.
Being able to have a small part in their growth and help them in whatever way they need, whether they only need a sounding board for advice or need to be connected with someone.
That's my number one thing as an editor within the fashion industry: being able to uplift these young designers. It's just so difficult for them. There are all these brands that have been around for years and years… it's hard to keep up and to get that recognition and access that you need. It's all about access, money, and being able to connect them with similar designers.
Is there a piece in your home made by an up-and-coming designer you interacted with?
It definitely has to be my coffee table: The Quad Table by Mike Ruiz-Serra. I saw it on Instagram like two years ago—someone was at an event and they were taking pictures of this incredible coffee table.
I spent three days trying to find the table, find the name, and somehow found it through the gallery that was posting it. I reached out to Mike and was able to get that coffee table within three months. I was so excited once it came [laugh].
That's definitely one of my prized possessions in my home, because it's just something that I'm gonna have forever. A forever piece. And it changed my understanding of investing in your furniture: thinking that maybe this is a bit more expensive than what I would have wanted to spend, but that the amount of use and [value of] having it in my home outweighs that.
And now I can have it in my home for years to come and my kids will love it. It has rounded edges so they won't hit their heads on it. It's perfect, whenever I get to that point—[laugh] we're not there yet.
I love that you bring that up because it’s not just investing in a piece of furniture and keeping it for longer, but also potentially passing it on to another generation: extending its lifetime, making it possible for new memories to be made around it.
Exactly. I'm excited to see the many lives in which it'll live.
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