Time Traveller: Joyce Wang Brings Louis Vuitton's Objets Nomades Showcase To Life
Joyce Wang had a nomadic upbringing. Born to Shanghainese parents in Honolulu, she was raised in Hong Kong, sent to boarding school in the UK and attended university in Boston, London and the Dutch city of Delft. On holidays she would accompany her father on trips to Switzerland, Thailand and India—not to the well-trodden centres, but to obscure, industrial towns where he had business with manufacturers.
“I would tag along and we would stay in really strange places but it was a kind of deep-dive into different cultures and communities, which was always really exciting,” she says. From time to time a factory owner would invite the two of them home for a meal. On these occasions Joyce would relish the opportunity to observe the finer details of domestic life in a foreign context; the way the table was set, the rituals of dinner, the atmosphere of their home. Every nuance fascinated her.
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A design journey
This cosmopolitan upbringing had a lasting impact, imbuing Joyce with a thirst for adventure and colouring her approach to interior design. If there’s one recurring theme in her work, it’s that she loves taking people on journeys, whether into the past, the future or alternative realities. Mott 32, the restaurant project that launched her career, invites diners into Hong Kong’s hidden past, while Spiga in LHT Tower transports guests to 1950s Italy.
Contemporary wall mouldings and abstracted garden motifs in the suites at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, spell Joyce’s modern take on the traditional English home. At the E by Equinox St James health club in Mayfair, bold black slate and polished metals transform the historic structure into something out of a science fiction film.
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The art of travel
The spirit of travel is also at the heart of historic luxury house Louis Vuitton, which has been facilitating the grand voyages of the world’s beau monde for more than a hundred years. Established as a purveyor of luggage, the maison pioneered the flat-topped canvas trunk, which, being stackable and light, revolutionised 19th-century travel.
While the brand has evolved significantly since its inception, it maintains a deep reverence for its past. Louis Vuitton honours this heritage with Objets Nomades, a collection of limited edition, portable objects designed by luminaries in the fields of art, architecture and interiors.
Standout pieces from this innovative range include the cloud-inspired Bomboca Sofa by the Campana brothers, a curvaceous glass-topped Anemona Table by Atelier Biagetti, and Ribbon Dance, a dynamic, fluid chair designed by homegrown wunderkind André Fu.
The maison will showcase its latest collection during Art Week in the Central Magistracy building at the Tai Kwun cultural hub. This year, the installation is set to be as extraordinary as the pieces on show. In recognition of their synergies of spirit, Louis Vuitton has commissioned Joyce Wang to create the scenography—the theatre, so to speak—around the objects.
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Curating an experience
Instead of simply presenting pieces on plinths, Joyce and her team have devised an elaborate domestic tale in which each piece of furniture plays a part. “People need to imagine these objects in their home, so our idea is to transplant a home into the existing space,” she says.
The Central Magistracy building, with its mix of grand formal rooms and intimate chambers, lends itself particularly well to this vision. “There’s a really interesting mix of scale and we want to work with that. Rather than say, ‘Let’s make these little spaces back of house,’ I want this to be a journey where we bring people through the contrasting spaces and in and out of the imagined confines of a home. We want it to feel as if you’re travelling through someone’s house, and we want to explore the personality of that person.”
Comfort is key
Ultimately, Joyce wants to foster an atmosphere of “subtle luxury,” which she feels encapsulates Louis Vuitton. It’s an aesthetic that increasingly informs her work, too. Whereas she once gravitated to bold ideas and slick materials like shiny metals and polished stones, her spaces are increasingly relaxed and soft.
“I feel like the word comfort has been neglected for a while. I think things can be too minimalist or too hard with marbles and metals. I want to make spaces softer because we are increasingly in this digital world, and people want to be cocooned and hugged. Spaces need to do what the digital world can’t. No matter how much money you spend on design or how much marketing you do, nothing can replace comfort.”
This is reflected in her decor for the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, and the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, where natural light now floods the rooms, bedheads are upholstered and rugs continue underneath desks and beds.
No matter how much money you spend on design or how much marketing you do, nothing can replace comfort.
It’s somewhat ironic, or perhaps entirely understandable, that this queen of interiors loves to get outdoors in her down time. The mother of three is an avid scuba diver and snowboarder. While for the most part she’s celebrated as an urban, industrial designer, she’d like to work on a resort in the near future.
“That’s the dream. It’s to do with this relaxed lifestyle again. How do you describe luxury in a setting where you go from one space to another—even through a lobby—in your swimsuit? How do you cater to active lifestyles while maintaining a feeling of luxury?”
With projects under way in New York, Melbourne, London and Hong Kong, and a resort in her sights, it’s safe to say the designer continues her nomadic existence.
Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades will be exhibited in the Central Magistracy building at Tai Kwun from March 23 to 31. Please check hk.louisvuitton.com from March 16 for registration details and opening times.
See also: Joyce Wang On Storytelling And Interior Design
- Photography Alex Maeland
- Styling Rosana Lai
- Hair Alex Chan
- Make-Up Megumi Sekine
- Location Tai Kwun