Getting to the bottom of all things

Designer Stephen Kenn likes to take things apart to truly understand and then reinvent them. Watch him work while he’s creating Victorinox inspired furniture.

Stephen Kenn – furniture design inspired by function

Stephen Kenn is many things – a Canadian, a whisky drinker, an aesthete, an adoptive Los Angeleno, a denim fetishist – but he is first and foremost a designer of objects. He is known for his range of sofas and chairs combining a steel exostructure with heavy-duty webbing straps and cushions upholstered in military-salvage materials.

And he has recently collaborated with Victorinox to create three unique pieces: a desk-cum-draughting table, a chair-cum-stepladder, and a multifaceted closet. Doubtless they will follow in the vein of utilitarian and muscularly beautiful style he has made his own.

Using the old to create something new

You could also call him an authenticist: visit him in the attractive live-work space, not from LA’s Arts District, that he shares with his wife and business partner, Beks Oppermann, and you’d also discover an affection for old books, rare single malts and the pair of vintage motorbikes on which they disappear on adventures. That search for authenticity also informs his affection for materials. “Military-salvage fabrics have already been used for something that speaks to the world,” he says, “and to throw that fabric away would be to discard a part of history.
To give it another life keeps it in people’s minds.” But there’s much more to Kenn’s vision than simply reimagining the past. In his collection for Victorinox, he see the importance of objects such as the Swiss Army Knife that serve many purposes simultaneously. He is a fan of the “small house” principle, by which objects must serve a function in as small a space as possible. His freestanding closet, for instance, includes a set of shelves, a full-length mirror and space for hanging garments.

A look at how a maker works

Join Stephen creating the Victorinox furniture series from the first sketches to the welding and sewing all the way to the assembling of the furniture.

He’s interested in deconstructing as well as constructing: before moving into furniture design, he ran a denim start-up, taking apart worn pairs of jeans, distressing them further, and then rebuilding them. Later, he did the same with leather bags. And now with furniture, he creates objects that aren’t only handsome, but also tell their own story.

“I wanted to rethink the way a sofa is made, so I broke one down into its three elements – the wooden frame, the metal springs and the upholstery. Then I decided I wanted to make those more transparent, so I grabbed a friend who was a welder, drew up a frame and asked him to weld it together. We ran some belts through it and laid the cushions on it and, when I first sat on it, that was the moment I thought, “Oh, perhaps we can start doing this – we can create environments that tell stories…”

Stephen lectures about his philosophy

At this year’s Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire, Steven Kenn talked about his curiosity led design approach. He shared his tips and tricks on how to channel curiosity into a business idea. Stephen also had a talk about his small house approach in our Flagshipstore in Zurich and visited Victorinox Headquarters in Ibach to see the factory and meet our CEO and his family.

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An homage to Victorinox: Stephen Kenn for Victorinox

The Stepladder Chair

For design lovers who want to aim higher

The Stepladder Chair – comprised of a steel welded frame with a powder coated finish and an leather sling seat. The multi-functionality of the chair is found when it is unsnapped at the bottom of both back legs and the top backrest is tipped forward, pivoting on a hidden hinge until the backrest touches the floor. The chair can then be climbed as a ladder for reaching top shelves – or the sky.

The Convertible Desk – for dinner parties as well as work splurges

The Convertible Desk – comprised of a sealed walnut surface with steel welded and powder coated legs and center panel. The multi-functionality of the table is found when the legs are removed from the surface structure and repositioned 90 degrees making it possible to function as a desk. With a hidden storage compartment and an adjustable angle work surface – a multi-functional desk for everybody who like to multi-task.

The Storage Column – as diverse as the things you put in

The Storage Column – comprised of four independently moving cubes made from a laminated plywood, sealed walnut cabinet drawers, a powder coated steel wrap with perforated fold down shelves and a full length mirror surface. The multi-functionality of the column is found on each surface of the cube. So no matter who you are and what you do – the Storage Column is ready for you.
The best of all: these multipurpose pieces are available for sale. Check out Stephen’s Victorinox collection and order your piece today.

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