Studio Fabien Cappello is a spacial and furniture firm based in Guadalajara, Mexico. The studio first opened in 2010, to produce work in different contexts; from commercial objects to specific editions and public environments. All works share a high consideration for both craft techniques and industrial production, reflecting design through people and their interactions with space, environment and material culture.
My name is Fabien Cappello (France, 1984), I’m a furniture and product designer. I studied at the University of Art and Design (ECAL) in Lausanne, Switzerland and in 2009 obtained a Master’s degree in Design Products at the Royal College of Art of London under the tutelage of Martino Gamper and Jurgen Bey.
I founded my eponymous studio in 2010 in London. Much of my studio’s early work explores the idea of the creative use of local resources and local manufacture.
Between 2010 and 2011 I was awarded research residencies in Korea, Portugal and Italy to work with local artisans. At this time, many of the projects involved surveying and mapping local resources, often identifying what is not used or valued as part of the design process.
My productions revealed unexpected aspects of the locality and an open approach to the working practices of culture in the making. The survey I made in 2011, inventorying small industries and artisanal workshops in an underprivileged suburb of Lisboa and the resulting production depicting it, got acquired by the permanent collection of the British Council.
In the following years, I based my studio in London, developing what is at the core of its actual work methodology: “understanding design not as an isolated exercise, but as the connection point between people and their life, production and culture, places and identities”.
During this period, I developed an eclectic body of work for public institutions, museums and design galleries.
Some of my most important projects include, my research as part of the Stanley Picker Fellowship, where I looked at how local manufacturing in the western part of Greater London can be used to generate public space furniture for the city of Kingston upon Thames, the lighting exhibition within the XVIII century collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Bordeaux, a personal exhibition of a scenic living space in a XIV century fortress as part of the programme of Villa Noailles a center for design in the South of France, and various special projects for renowned galleries such as Nilufar in Milan or Gallery Libby Sellers in London.
In 2015, my work was exhibited in Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and collected by various european public collections. That year, I got selected as one of the 20 best designers under 40 years old by Wallpaper* magazine.
The following year, I moved the studio to Mexico’s City historical center which served as a very fertile context for the refining of my practice. Exploring further the concepts that were running through my work in the very diverse, popular and youthful context of this Latin-American metropolis.
My most recent work has been dramatically influenced by the complexity of the Mexican material culture making the most out of its resources and locality. Acknowledging all the possibilities involved in the creation process of each project has become my studio’s distinctive identity.
The scale of projects I have been in charge of has shifted from designing objects and furniture to generating integral solutions for public and private environments.
This vision is most recognisable in my first public interventions in Mexico, such as “Room with a View” for “Dos Casas” hotel in San Miguel de Allende, from which the SFMoMA acquired a sofa for their permanent collection in 2019, the reading room for Archivo Gallery in Mexico City and 3 consecutive years as the designer responsible for the furniture and fittings of Material Art Fair.
My 2020 exhibition at Ago Projects “Artes y Oficios”, made my design strategies even more tangible: “My work is trying to propose a non-aspirational aesthetic, that relates to a new order of values. It means using elements of vernacular culture, and material that are overlooked or little considered, but that are relevant solutions. It’s never about mimicking but about trying to make durable and culturally significant places for people”.
For me, the practice of surveying local resources and acknowledging all the social and economic dynamics behind each object, has not only been a methodology for developing all the studio projects, but has also been the motivation behind a body of research to think about the practice of design more as a democratic tool for change, than a refined technic.
In the past years, I’ve published the results of some investigations looking at our material environment through axis like resourcefulness, popular imagination, practical brilliance and cultural diversity, finding in México an important case study to focus on the economies and its design that have resisted to western industrial homogenizatión.
In “Sillas Callejeras”, a book published in 2019, I documented 100 hundred chairs that were found on the commercial streets of downtown Mexico City, that users built or adapted to their very specific needs and the space they had to use or guard their stall. This research expresses clearly why popular imagination is so important to understand design social and economic dynamics in a context like Mexico.
After the lockdown, I conducted a survey of all the production facilities around my studio, relocated during 2020 to a central industrial neighborhood of Guadalajara. I identify them as possible suppliers for my own projects, but also to create “Rumbo” an open directory that the creative industry and general public can use to locate formal workshops and informal makers to create, fabricate or repair.
My most recent research published is, this catalogue of “Objetos de resistencia”, an inventory of objects found in a variety of popular market places around the western central area of Mexico, considered important because they reflect an economy that is in friction with the global neoliberal market, by being local, slow and proportioned.
This body of research is about archiving objects and systems not because they belong to the past, on the contrary, Cappello advocates we see them as valuable design examples and proposals for the future.
Fabien Cappello – @fabien_cappello