Artecnica’s New Los Angeles Showroom

Artecnica cofounder Tahmineh Javanbakht and designer Tord Boontje talk about their lengthy collaboration.

October 17, 2008. The design company Artecnica is known for its collaborations with designers all over the world—Hella Jongerius, Stephen Burks, the Campana Brothers—and for its Design With Conscience program, which pairs those designers with artisans from Peru to Vietnam. But in between their globe-trotting field trips, founders Enrico Bressan and Tahmineh Javanbakht have always called Los Angeles home. This month, Artecnica opened its first showroom at its LA headquarters, just around the corner from Beverly Hills’ famed Restaurant Row and the anxiously anticipated SLS Hotel. Their first event celebrated the launch of Witches’ Kitchen, the latest line in its Design With Conscience campaign, which was designed by one of their first collaborators, Tord Boontje. We stopped by the opening night party to ask Javanbakht a few questions about the new space.

Since your company has become famous for working with designers and manufacturers all over the world, I bet some people don’t even know you were headquartered in LA.
You know, when we had an interview on KCRW, a lot of people said, "We had no idea you guys were here." And for example when we go to the Milan shows and we put up the map that shows where our headquarters is, where all the designers are, where all the manufacturing is, just to tie it all together, everyone is shocked to see that we’re from LA. But once they know, they say it makes perfect sense, especially with our Design With Conscience campaign. California is always a little bit ahead of the curve, if it’s about organic food, if it’s about environmental causes, if it’s about yoga, whatever it is that has to do with being sustainable or having a better journey.

So in this age of global accessibility, why open a brick-and-mortar space?
This is a showroom for us, for other stores, for other designers, for other journalists to say, okay, we’re here. And to get the brand out, to celebrate it. So you’re right, we could be in different places, but why not California? It’s beautiful weather, there’s nice people and it’s our home.

One advantage in having the space is that you don’t have to wait for the fairs to present your newest products, you can launch them with events here. Tell me about the first, Witches’ Kitchen, by Tord Boontje?
We had looked at this black pottery for awhile and we really liked it but we wanted to do it in a different country besides Colombia. And Design With Conscience has many challenges—a lot of challenges. One of them is the country in which these pieces are made. And the countries where we wanted to do it, they weren’t politically safe. So we put it on a shelf for awhile and started the project of Beads and Pieces with Hella. And then about a year and a half ago, we talked to Aid to Artisans and they said now you can do it in Columbia, now it’s safe in Colombia. So we started the project again. It had a lot of challenges—Tord wanted to do some kind of leafing from the local area and vegetation to be imprinted on the pot and to create that system was a very lengthy process.

What else can we look forward to here in your new home?
We’ve already started talking with another friend about doing something with an AIDS project. I think it’s an amazing opportunity for us, and we would love to collaborate in that sense. But we don’t want to do retail, we just want to have a showroom to do events. And of course I would love to collaborate with other designers, but I’m so glad the first one is Tord.

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