The Textiles & Objects Shop

A Vitra Anecdote

The Textiles & Objects shop opened in New York City in 1961. Designed by Alexander Girard, the concept was far ahead of its time. Combining furniture created by the Herman Miller trio of Girard, Eames and Nelson with Girard’s textiles and a carefully curated selection of folk art from around the world, T & O had a unique ambience unlike anything else of that era.

Folk art at this time was thought to have insignificant monetary value, but by placing it in an entirely new context far from its point of origin, people were able to consider it from a completely different point of view. Girard did not acquire the objects because he felt it was a good investment; he collected folk art because it brought him joy. This spirit, which permeates all of his work, is embodied in the Textiles & Objects shop.

"Most of the objects come under the heading of the "delight department of daily use;" that is, things used simply for delight," said Alexander Girard about the objects chosen for the shop.

Spontaneous and stimulating, the folk art ranged from dolls, carved figures, brass boxes, toys and woven tribal textiles, all of which were collected by Girard and his wife Susan during their extensive travels around the globe. The acquisition of folk art was one of Girard’s primary passions. This endeavour served as a way to share with the public his fascination with and reverence for traditional crafts from many places, including England, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, Sicily, Turkey and numerous other countries.

Beneath a ceiling that sparkled with 350 mirrored light bulbs, shop visitors could meander through a space filled with suspended fabric panels, some sheer, others opaque. The experience was one of bold and restrained colours playing against the clean white of the built interior. Alexander Girard left no detail unattended, and the result was an unprecedented amalgamation of sophisticated whimsy. Candy-coloured upholstered ottomans, Eames fibreglass chairs covered in Girard’s Op Art patterns, and Graphic Print Pillows added to the mix. Girard’s ability to blur the lines between high and low, art and design, function and form made for a particularly enchanting setting. Custom shelving that served to showcase individual objects while simultaneously sparking a dialogue amongst them added to the experience.

Folk art inherently tells a story about a place and a people. This energy within the objects was something that deeply interested Girard. By bringing together the collective stories of cultures and people from around the world, he forged a form of globalisation that allowed for a deeper understanding of the human experience.


Publication Date: 05.09.2016
Author: Aleishall Girard & Stine Liv Buur
Images: Graphic: © Girard Studio, LLC
Textiles & Objects shop designed by Alexander Girard for Herman Miller, 1961.
Color photos: Charles Eames. © 2016 Eames Office, LLC (eamesoffice.com)
Black and white photos: Todd Webb. © Todd Webb Photographs Portland Maine