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Fashion al fresco

Marni’s statement-making outdoor furniture – with catwalk flair

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Fashion al fresco

June 08 2013
Jenny Dalton

Those who have yet to furnish their gardens with real statement-making, talking-point furniture, fear not: The Conran Shop is coming to the rescue with its new stock of 30 outdoor chairs from Marni’s 100 Chairs project. But fast action is recommended, for Jasper Conran and his team are buzzing with excitement about their latest arrivals and it’s unlikely these pieces will be around for long.

Marni’s foray into interiors began in 2012, when owner and creative director Consuelo Castiglioni showed 100 variations of colourblock-metal and PVC-string woven chairs, deckchairs, sofas and tables in Milan. Handmade in Colombia by craftsmen and former prisoners, the pieces were each a variation on a theme. The collection was a hit with design critics, both for its breath of fresh air and because proceeds from the sale of the chairs went to ICAM, a Milanese fund that helps the children of imprisoned mothers and supports the resettlement of a number of San Gil prisoners in social and working life.

The 100 Chairs project has been ongoing ever since. An edition of 125 featured at last year’s Design Miami and Art Basel fair, and a new collection showed at this year’s Milan Saloni furniture fair in the warehouse-like setting of the Marni Spazio on Viale Umbria.

Conran’s buying director Paul Middlemiss fell for the chairs on sight: “The installation was beautiful, in a wonderful building, and the background to the product is inspiring too.” Most of all, however, “the chairs are very elegant and honest”.

Although Marni had little design input into the chairs themselves – they are based on well-loved Colombian archetypes that frequently appear in South American homes – the unusual colour combinations and weave patterns were selected by the fashion house’s design team. While the initial 2012 collection featured hothouse lilacs, oranges, pinks, greens and yellows (the kind of glorious colours Marni’s fashion collections are well known for), this year’s update is generally a more chicly muted affair. Darker greens and blacks anchor terracottas, yellows and deeper purples. They’re beautiful indeed – and perfect for the UK’s less sunny climes.

First picture: chair, £1,095. Second picture: lounger, £995.