As I stood in the vast expanse of white walls, small marble balls whizzed by a labyrinth of four steel tracks. My eyes traced the path of one marble, eventually detracted by another along the same path. I then waited for the moment opportune to interrupt the movement of a marble, removed it from the circuit, and later, displaced it at another part along the track. It was all very reminiscent of a childhood bygone, except now, I was no longer a child fiddling with a toy rolling ball track at my family doctor’s waiting room.
Suspended mid-air before me was Loop, an installation by the New York-based art and architecture design firm Snarkitecture and Swedish clothing label, COS. Unlike the archetypal crop of contemporary installations that leave onlookers pondering its intent, Loop’s reminiscence of childhood, was easily within grasp.
“The installation started with a sphere and a glass marble and using them specifically in association with play on the idea of it being a children’s toy. We were interested in how big we can take this familiar toy marble and scale it,” says Alex Mustonen, partner and co-founder of Snarkitecture.
400 metres of track have been engineered to send the marbles in a loop around the rooms.
The interwoven steel tracks from one room lead to another, depositing the marble balls in a growing rickle of white. In observing the display, the intrinsically bound similarities between COS and Snarkitecture were apparent. While the intricacies of the intertwined tracks allude to COS’s technical precision, the pared back colour palette of cool, pastel blue against a canvas of spotless white, called to mind the brand’s signature minimal aesthetic.
“We were interested in that idea of technical precision that we employed as a metaphor, where the idea of controlling takes root in the way the sphere’s roll down in a linear, precise way,” says Mustonen. “Another thing that we paid attention to was the colours. We wanted it to add a contrast to the space and we were really interested in this kind of cool, blue steel because of its coldness that reflects the technical aspect to the project, while at the same time, having a natural association, in this instance, to the sky.”
As far as creative collaborations go, beyond speaking the same visual vocabulary, having an acute, mutual understanding of the underlying brand ethos underscores the eventual outcome. The world in which COS and Snarkitecture converge has been conceived through a long standing working relationship – the two have collaborated twice before.
“The first time when we started working together, it was about getting to know each other, how we work and understanding each other’s brands thoroughly,” recalls Karin Gustafsson, creative director of COS.
Echoing a similar sentiment, Mustonen says, “Some projects and collaborations are easier than others. Each collaboration really begins by having a conversation about not only the brand but what they’re currently looking at from a design standpoint and what’s influencing their collections. Usually, it is not so much about creating something that is so directly informed by the collection but taking some ideas and finding ways to reintegrate and reimagine those things.”
COS and Snarkitecture’s maiden creative union dates back to 2015, when the two collaborated on a contemporary concept store that showed at Salone del Mobile in Milan, subsequently, curating a retail space in Los Angeles in 2016.
100,000 white marbles fill one of the two rooms at the exhibition.
“This time, the starting point of the project was very much the city, Seoul. We felt that this was another side of a creative collaboration that we haven’t really explored. It’s more playful and interactive,” says Gustafsson. “It’s very different from what we have offered before. It’s more immersive and it’s about walking into a room and experience something in sort of a cocoon.”
With each collaborative project, COS investigates an alternative facet, all while keeping insight its taking towards an understated, clean veneer.
“When we started in 2006, we knew we wanted to achieve a collection of a high quality as we found out that it is something that has been lost for a long time. And we tend to focus on what we’re offering and we deliver,” says Gustafsson.
It is this unique positioning that distinguishes COS from the troupe of clothing brands that saturate the marketplace. Unbothered with trends, the Swedish brand stands in a calibre of its own, marching to the beat of its own drum.
“I think we can be perceived in many different ways and I think what is unique is that we offer collections that are more timeless. People have likened it to blank canvases that can be worn in many different ways,” explains Gustafsson.
Guided by a clear design acumen yet malleable in its creative ventures, COS has through the years formulated the blueprint for well-received partnerships. The end product, always bearing an unmistakable quality craftsmanship grounding all of COS’s works.
“COS has done very well in engaging with the design world in a way that is very true to a designer’s intent through seeking out designers who are interested in creative work because of a concept and giving them a space to create interesting work,” says Mustonen.
As the Loop exhibition sees its way out of Seoul, COS has a slew of new projects on the sidelines, amongst them, an installation commissioned by Studio Swine and a showcase at Salone del Mobile and Miami Design Week.
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