If Halloween is the first thing that comes to mind when you see a hospital bed, you might want to cut down on your medical horror flicks…
A.F. Vandevorst’s current installation as part of Selfridges’ Dead Cool initiative isn’t so much a nod to fetishised splatter as it is a reflection of the Belgian designers’ neat aesthetics and their penchant for institutional order. But like goths and current pop stars have been telling themselves for years, Halloween is a state of mind. With that point of departure, we hit-up Selfridges to meet the masterminds behind A.F. Vandevorst – husband-and-wife designer duo An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx – and get a closer look at “The Smallest Travelling Store In The World.”
How did you come up with the idea of the travelling store?
Filip: The idea started in Belgium, where we did the first store. We found a free space and ended-up staying for six months. People liked it, and people from abroad saw it and started saying, “Why don’t you do this in England or France or Germany?” But it seemed too difficult to set-up the whole thing all over again, so we came up with the idea of doing a compact version and focussing on just one ‘object’, which was the hospital room.
How would you describe it?
Filip: The whole installation is nine metre squared when it’s unpacked, and just three metres squared when it’s packed-up. There’s the bed, there the pharmacist’s cabinet with all the knitwear, the racks, a TV screen in the ‘sitting room’, a small nightstand and so on. We have everything on those nine metre squared. And since we can easily take the store to wherever in the world, we call it “The Smallest Travelling Store In The World.”
How does it work?
Filip: It’s very much a way to create a new dimension of shops – it can be in a gallery, in a store, wherever. It all fits in one van. You build it in two hours and you take it down in two hours. For instance, we did one in Paris – at 10AM, we packed the van and drove to Paris, arrived at 4PM and by 6PM, the store was open. At 10AM the next day, the store was closed down again and we went home. It’s a nice tool for communication and marketing, but it also adds an extra dimension to our world because it relates to our design.
In what way?
An: It’s more a reflection of our showrooms, our offices, our atelier… the way we decorate always has a hospital element to it. It’s very clean. It reflects the A.F. Vandevorst world. The medical aspect is reflected in everything we do. You’ll always find uniform elements in our collections, which of course relate to this, but it’s more of an overall reflection of the A.F. Vandevorst world.
What fascinates you about the medical universe?
An: It’s clean and neutral. You can compare it to uniforms, in a way. It’s a clear image – everyone knows what it is. The fascinating thing about institutional things is that everyone can easily recognise them from afar. A nurse, a police officer…
How about the creepy aspect of the medical universe? Do you consider that?
An: No, because for us it’s more about the interior decoration part of it. It might look creepy to you, but it’s not how we approached it.
For a lot of people, there’s a fetish aspect to the medical universe as well. Is this something you draw on?
Filip: I think when you’re really into something there’s always a fetish element to it, but it’s not the biggest part of our interest. It would be easy to take it in that direction, but you also need to have a certain aesthetic so it doesn’t look cheap.
Dead Cool runs at Selfridges until All Hallows’ Eve, Monday 31st October.