Traditional and contemporary designs are two distinct styles and approaches that seem mutually exclusive. While the first refers to something that is produced following the long-established tradition and belonging to the old world, contemporary design, by definition, involves trends that are happening today. But what is contemporary here and now won’t be in ten years, but rather something entirely different. This very feature of constant change is what makes contemporary design so dynamic, heterogeneous, and receptive to integrating new ideas with old concepts and knowledge.
Tradition as a Source of Innovation
In the hands of an expert, traditional and contemporary can work pretty well together. If innovation is about making new combinations and bringing new meanings, tradition may as well be a source of innovation. Many contemporary design studios look at tradition this way, deriving ideas and inspiration from traditional techniques, materials, and styles, while still doing things their own way. At the same time, while designing products for the international market, they are creating economic opportunities for local artisan and handmade productions. Their unique products target niche markets within which demand for original, high-quality, socially responsible design with traditional resonance is growing. In the age of globalization, we all own the same products. However, more and more consumers want authentic, timeless, and socially conscious products that embrace the value of the old world and still give the comfort of contemporary life.
Socially Responsible Design
Aztro proudly works with brands that use and reinvent traditional techniques and aesthetics to create new valuable product meanings with a contemporary twist. Jadzia Lenart and Wiktoria Podolec from a weaving studio Tartaruga approach design as art. They create unique, eye-catching hand-woven kilims, rugs, and wall hangings that stand in opposition to the mass textile industry. Their carpets are made only once without ever repeating the same design out of leftovers from carpet mass-production. With a desire to preserve local artisanal knowledge and values, all of their products are handmade with traditional tools and techniques.
Drawing inspiration from African and indigenous aesthetic elements, Rosario Sobrino from BERA creates beautiful and colorful handmade textile jewelry that celebrates the heritage of ancestral and local cultures. The design studio GRES was born out of a desire to keep local Colombian hand-woven techniques from vanishing. Their beautiful series of pillows and blankets honor Colombian traditions in craftsmanship while fitting into contemporary homes with elegant patterns and neutral colors.
Design studio D.A.R. Projects, creators of KUX and DAR Textiles, uses design as a tool for preserving traditional knowledge and generating new value for the Andean community in Perú by helping them achieve better economic opportunities. D.A.R. partners with local indigenous craft communities to produce high-quality, functional design objects developed in line with local capacity and techniques. Their baskets and cushions are a real demonstration of Andean craftsmanship
The Human Touch
Unlike mass-produced products, each handmade item is the creation of a single person who invested his or her time, skills, and passion for making it. There are no two identical handmade products, which makes them unique and exclusive. Buying a handmade item means owning something special with a human touch and a story behind it. Plus, they are green as it takes less energy to produce handmade pieces, and they don’t require mass transportation like items made on a mass production line.
All of these brands revitalize the tradition by combining old and new components in their design approach and thus building a new appreciation for it. Inspired by their heritage, they embrace their social responsibility to preserve long-established traditional techniques and create products with new meaning and purpose. Bridging the gap between contemporary and traditional, these designers offer to consumers something that could be passed down through generations - a product with a character and added value. Something that fits equally into a contemporary home as well as the consumers’ beliefs!
Journalist and Writer
Asja is a content writer specialized in the arts, design, and culture. She holds a BA degree in Art History from the University of Belgrade and an MA in Art & Cultural Management from the University of Turin. Over the years, she worked as an art gallery assistant, art writer, editor, and content creator for various art-related and design-related magazines, galleries, and online marketplaces. She currently lives in Paris, where she works as an art history and world heritage guide. When not writing, researching, or leading tours, Asja is strolling through her favorite and most beautiful districts in Paris – Le Marais. Her motto is: "Put all you are into the smallest thing you do." It is a verse from a poem by one of her favorite poets Fernando Pessoa.
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