De Allegri & Fogale 


Hole & Corner meet this London design duo to talk colour, recycled yoghurt pots and why design works best for them through making  

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When visiting a maker’s studio one always hopes to find a trail of visual cues that offers a glimpse into that creativity. Designers Laetitia de Allegri and Matteo Fogale are based at E17’s Blackhorse Workshop and their desk-space is modest but immaculate. Understandably so, as even in these less gentrified parts, space is at a premium and the duo have only been working together for a year or so. There are distinct advantages however, as its name suggests, Blackhorse Workshop comes with a fully equipped wood and metal workshop and a café where you can get a decent cup of coffee and there’s a pleasing array of 'Instagram-able' brunch items.

Upstairs, on Allegri and Fogale’s desk is a well-ordered stationary collection, a selection of stringed chains of different samples, materials and models. Together it makes a pleasing integration of colour, texture and a methodical simplicity. ‘I think we’re quite minimalist, but at the same time we like to mix the organic and geometric as well as natural and man-made materials’ says Fogale.
If you missed Laetitia de Allegri & Matteo Fogale’s installation at the London Design Festival last summer ‘Mise en Abyme’ was a tunnel made from a 10 semi-transparent acrylic panels in different colours installed at the V&A on a bridge spanning the museum's Medieval and Renaissance galleries. Its power was in its perceived simplicity with a clever use of colour and material to create a new spatial perspective, an optical illusion of sorts. 

De Allegri has been fascinated by colour since a young age, she says,
‘I remember spending hours choosing the right green, whilst my friends were all saying, ‘why bother? They are all the same.’ She sees it a skill that’s felt more than learnt. ‘Yes, it’s totally intuitive - based on what I feel works or how I feel,’ she says. This awareness of colour has stood her in good stead – in the 6 years at design studio Barber & Osgerby (where she first met Fogale) she went from an internship to the go-to person to consult on colour for all their projects. 

If de Allegri is the colour conceptualist, she says she often draws inspiration from abstract artists like Agnes martin, then Fogale is the maker and the materials nerd. For him, it was essential they had access to a workshop so they could make models, prototypes, even final collection pieces. ‘The design often comes out of physically making,’
he says, ‘we sketch a lot and use the computer but in the end we make objects and it’s only through the process of making something that you realize the best ways of developing the design.' 

As for materials, they spend a lot of time locating niche manufacturers and designers making new materials through material libraries online. The Internet and social media has made this research so much easier in recent years and the collaboration and interaction that comes from working with other specialist is an integral part of design for them.

One doesn’t expect recycled materials to elicit quite such an animated response but they both obviously get a real buzz from creating the illusion of luxury from more humble man-made resources. Their first collaboration together, in 2014,  –ISH was a collection of shelves, benches and homewares that looked like they’d been made in slate
and marble but were actually composites of recycled denim, cotton
and paper. 

Currently what they are most excited about is something that looks like a white-flecked marble that they plan to use as a component in a retail space for denim brand MiH - but is in fact made from recycled yoghurt pots.  ‘It's an honest material, says Fogale, ‘we like the fact that we use these recycled materials and they don’t say, “I'm recycled, I'm cheap”
but look premium and are custom-made.’ It’s a quietly seditious approach, a re-positioning of ‘luxury’ as something that reflects more on the labour and innovation involved than a material’s rarity. De Allegri and Fogale, without shouting about it, take a more democratic approach to materials and with that an appreciation that the industrial and man-made can as appealing as the natural.

But ultimately for them you can take it or leave it. As de Allegri explains ‘when Agnes Martin was asked in a documentary where her ideas come from she said, that in art you always have to argue why you did what you did, but when you go to see a play the audience don't ask - they take and enjoy it,’ she says, ‘…so for us you can just take it and like it, or not, but you don’t have to explain yourself. I think there is such strength inside these kind of words.’

Images Jon Cardwell