Last month, Meissen, the legendary German luxury brand known for its porcelain, opened a flagship store in Beijing, a moment that the CEO Christian Kurtzke referred to as “coming home.” When King Augustus of Saxony founded Meissen over 300 years ago, Qing dynasty China exported fine porcelain to European aristocracy for whom porcelain or “china” was de rigueur. In order to create Meissen, King Augustus, an admirer of Asian and Ottoman art, had to bring an alchemist back to Dresden from exile in order to develop the European technique for porcelain production.
When Christian Kurtzke invited me to design a collection for Meissen, I considered the history of globalism and design over the last few centuries. Visiting the Dresden City Museum, I was inspired by the Ottoman patterns on items collected by King Augustus. It occurred to me that Moroccan design today plays a role similar to that of Ottoman design in the 18th century. I then recalled Meissen’s role in the development of my own design aesthetic. During the years of my childhood spent in the USSR, my mother collected antiques, including Meissen porcelain.
To create a pattern inspired by Marrakech, I pondered this visual history in the garden of Jnane Tamsna. The Ottoman patterns I’d seen in Dresden had many natural elements, but their symmetry seemed too stiff for the modern world. For me, the quintessence of Marrakech can be symbolized by palm fronds in the wind, which I incorporated into the asymmetrical motifs you see in the Meissen collections, Jardin de Marrakech Style and Jardin de Marrakech Art.
As I imagine the Chinese elite browsing through Meissen in Beijing, pausing in front of a collection designed in Marrakech by a woman of African, French and West Indian heritage for a brand created three centuries ago by the King of Saxony, this story of globalism and design turns in a truly fascinating direction into the 21st century.