Matter and Shape: The new design salon bowing in Paris

Inspirations, Focus, Insights

An innovative design salon is set to unfold in Paris' Jardin des Tuileries from March 1-4, alongside Paris Fashion Week®. Dan Thawley, eminent author-editor-curator, has been appointed creative director of this initiative powered by WSN, spotlighting the expansive nature of design.

©Ronan Bouroullec


The very word design is an open treasure chest, as it encompasses fashion, architecture, technology, and creation in general. It's the art of conceiving, combining savoir-faire and creativity. This blend embodies Thawley’s personal and sensitive approach to creation, which took root in his native Australia, where he closely monitored industry evolutions. “I was adopted by the internet,” he quips. He then flew to Europe, where he entered the fashion industry “at a very young age, by modeling and styling.” Antwerp, London, Paris – he built his vision across these European fashion hubs. In 2010, when he took the reins of A Magazine Curated By, founded in 2001 by Walter Van Beirendonck, he discovered “a multidisciplinary approach with the magazine.” He observed a vibrant convergence of some of the most creative minds, such as Francesco Risso, Delfina Delettrez, Simone Rocha, Thom Browne, Grace Wales Bonner, Lucie and Luke Meier, Iris Van Herpen among others. These were “people with strong opinions and a high taste level” that fascinated him and allowed him to witness the "wide hybridity in fashion, the way industry has developed." That array of experiences naturally led him to pilot the creative direction of an innovative and unprecedented design salon.

“We only selected thirty-three designers.”

Matter and Shape presents the work of thirty-three carefully selected designers. The curated lineup features renowned names like Rick Owens, the ongoing collaboration between Sacai and Astier de Villatte, Flos and Charlotte Chesnais, alongside emerging talents from all around the world – France, Japan, Italy, Colombia, South Korea, Spain, and beyond. “It was important to keep it international; I’m an expat," says Thawley, citing “the flourishing French art market” as a driving force. Having dedicated his career to meeting creatives, Thawley initially compiled a list of participants. “I made my shortlist of key players – companies I came into contact with.” In the meantime, an open call was initiated. The result was this assembly of designers who “fit aesthetically together but never met and have never had the conversation, so it is interesting.”

Fashion designer Rick Owens will unveil an exhibition by the French-American artist Scarlett Rouge, alongside a selection of bronze and crystal objects from the Rick Owens Object Collection. Additionally, RDAI, the historic architects of the house of Hermès, will present an exhibition of their B2B service Material Curator, showcasing their cutting-edge material research facility available to decorators, architects, and designers.

"It was important to us that the salon happens during Paris Fashion Week®.”

Matter and Shape introduces a new concept to the design fair landscape by emphasising immediate and short-lead deliveries for showcased products. The idea was not to solely bring together creations “with a 5-figure price tag,” but to attract and gather the aesthetes attending Paris Fashion Week®, “the modern consumers who want to buy a handbag but also have a beautiful interior,” asserts Thawley. “It was important to us that this happened during Paris Fashion Week® because the press, buyers, creatives, designers are all gathered in Paris at that time. There is a confluence of design enthusiasts, people interested in beautiful things.” Whether you're an established designer, a gallery owner, a decorator, or a student, this venue, which is free to access if you register online before visiting via their website, is open to enthusiasts of artistic flair.

“It is a place to meet people, to make it happen.”

The venue was conceived as an agora, a place “where designers, creatives can meet and for students too,” explains Thawley, recalling: " I didn't know anyone when I started out in fashion." For the salon’s first edition, the design of the space was entrusted to LA-based architect and designer Willo Perron of Perron Roettinger Studio. Yes, the same one who, last year, designed the staging for Rihanna's performance at the Super Bowl or Jay-Z's concert at the Fondation Louis Vuitton. However, visitors will be welcomed in a much more intimate setting. "My idea was to have a cocooning place," explains Thawley. "I felt like this place should be quite neutral, no logos, no corporate texts, and light coming from the outside." With a central space to gather and attend conferences, a restaurant by We Are Ona ("already sold out!"), and a boutique, Thawley aimed for "a feeling of lightness, and for people to feel comfortable being there.”

Matter and Shape, from March 1-4, at the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.

Reuben Attia