Jamie Hayon: mad hatter of the design world

From rocking green chickens to mod seats, this Spanish creative is redefining design as we know it

29 October 2017 - 00:00 By Mila Crewe-Brown
Spanish designer Jamie Hayon.
Spanish designer Jamie Hayon.
Image: Supplied

Jaime Hayon wears more hats than Queen Elizabeth. This creative chameleon’s body of work spans the style spectrum, as do the clients he has worked with.

The 43-year-old Spanish designer has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most relevant creators of our times and one of Wallpaper* magazine’s most influential creators. 

But what is it about Hayon that the world can’t get enough of? As with many of history’s greatest creative talents, it’s his disregard for the rules.

Take, for example, his iconic Green Chicken, with its knobbly, jade-green body, pert antennae, and generous, rocking base. It’s an entirely unexpected digression for the humble chicken — sculptural, expressive, and quirky — all attributes Hayon has become renowned for. Redefining design as we know it, he shifts the goal posts and smashes the norms. 

Unsurprisingly, it’s a challenge to classify Hayon, to underline broadly what kind of designer he is. He strives to keep it that way, believing that the designers of today should not limit themselves, but push the boundaries and set themselves free, even at the risk of being misunderstood.

On paper, Hayon is an industrial designer, but in reality he designs chairs, tables, ceramics, lighting, sculptures, watches, clothes, rugs, wallpaper, interiors, glassware, shoes and, well, rocking green chickens.

Hayon is, without doubt, one of the major design collaborators of our time, with everyone in the creative sector wanting a piece of him and his inimitable style, which has been described as fearless, childish, playful, humorous, theatrical, and bold.

'Green Chicken' by Jamie Heyon.
'Green Chicken' by Jamie Heyon.
Image: Supplied
'Animalita' by Jamie Hayon.
'Animalita' by Jamie Hayon.
Image: Supplied

It was only just more than a decade ago that Hayon opened his own studio, having previously worked for Fabrica, Benetton’s communication research academy.

During Hayon’s 14-year-old career as a designer in his own right, his work has caught the attention of the world. The magic that he brings to our relationship with design comes down to an element of playfulness and surprise. 

Who else could have come up with the outsized, animal-like Tiovivo sculpture — which can be climbed into and slid out of — adorned with bright chevrons, dots, and stripes; the enormous, purple rocking sausage; the collection of chairs for &Tradition with their open arms ready to catch or cosset the sitter; or the collection of carefully detailed tableaux in fine porcelain depicting the lives of its characters.

The latter, a project for historic porcelain brand Lladro, reveals the scope of Hayon’s reach: working with a brand that many people perceive to be overtly traditional and surprising us all by wildly reinterpreting its craft.

Likewise, for the centuries-old French crystal brand Baccarat, the designer took its classical craft and made a radical departure, fusing the material with plastic and ceramic, and introducing luscious, fruit-inspired colours to his creations.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Hayon teamed up with Camper to create a collection of vividly coloured leather shoes, inspired by his fondness for dance halls. “If for me, and also for many others, glasses are important in creating the personality of a person, I think that shoes should be too,” he says of the concept behind this collaboration.

'Tiovivo' by Jamie Hayon.
'Tiovivo' by Jamie Hayon.
Image: Supplied
Jamie Hayon’s Palette table for &Tradition.
Jamie Hayon’s Palette table for &Tradition.
Image: Supplied

Hayon’s Palette tables for &Tradition exemplify his signature use of colour and loose form, with their stacked tops in raw materials inspired by the kinetic sculptures of Alexander Calder. His rug collaboration for Nanimarquina’s 30th birthday is typical of the designers’ fantastical style, featuring lips, hands, stools, and bird-like men in hand-tufted wool. 

“Jaime Hayon is a true design star, born in Spain, but forged in Italy under the mentorship of the best. His aesthetic is unique and unusual, almost whimsical — qualities that we seek out in our furniture and lighting at Créma,” says owner Craig Tabor-Raeside. “Whether it’s something from Moooi, &Tradition, Magis, Bosa, or Nanimarquina, Hayon never fails to wow and his pieces are true collectibles.”

As varied as Hayon’s projects are in content and discipline, all of them bear his mark: a signature design language unlike any other. While he preserves craft and tradition, Hayon designs with an attitude and approach that is rooted in the now: he’s a rule breaker and style maker, operating in the space between art and design, function and pure expression. 

QUICK Q&A WITH HAYON

You’re a chameleon, adapting your skills to any number of design fields from fashion to furniture. Does the change in focus present challenges?

I need new challenges to explore new ways for creativity. I don’t even think about it — it comes naturally to me and it’s necessary for me to have new challenges to stay engaged. It must have something to with my personality, I guess.

How do you manage to remain an individual in your work when you’re bombarded by 24/7 stimuli in the creative realm?

I’m extremely active, and, fortunately, I find inspiration quite naturally. I also have the ability to concentrate and visualise. These traits help me to do one thing at a time, and also to turn off all other stimuli when I’m working.

A rug from the Heyon x Nani collection by Jamie Heyon for Nanimarquina.
A rug from the Heyon x Nani collection by Jamie Heyon for Nanimarquina.
Image: Supplied

The very first thing you ever designed under Hayon Studio?

Initially, a water bottle that was never made. Eventually, the AQ Hayon bathroom range and the Josephine lamp. Even if they don’t reflect my current creative directions, both designs still go strong and I’m proud to say they continue selling well.

Which principle is at the heart of everything you design?

Heart itself.

What have the past 10 years of your career have taught you?

To work with people I like.

What was the turning point in your early career?

Stability vs challenge and “the system” vs freedom. I chose the latter in each case. It was a risk: I could have lost everything or I had everything to gain. Again, I chose the latter.

What can we always expect from your work?

A surprise, and, hopefully, a smile.

Rugs from the Heyon x Nani collection by Jamie Heyon for Nanimarquina are available locally at Créma Design.

This article was originally published in The Edit Living, a complimentary magazine sent to select Sunday Times subscribers.


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