Faye Toogood on her NYCxDesign collaborations and the rise of comfortable design

Cozy Up

It’s been a busy year so far for Faye Toogood. The London-based designer and founder of her eponymous studio landed in New York last week to celebrate collaborations with Poltrona Frau, Garde, and Hem—fresh off the heels of an equally busy Milan Design Week, where Toogood debuted a rug and furniture collaboration with cc-tapis and Tacchini. The debut was a genitalia-filled takeover of cc-tapis’ showroom, titled Rude Arts Club.

Perhaps it seems like a lot of spinning plates for one person, but Toogood has long been a multihyphenate before the word multidisciplinary became a key buzzword. After studying and making art, the designer has gone on to do fashion, homeware, furniture, rugs, and interior design.

Her latest collaboration with Poltrona Frau, Squash, is a soft and plushy line up of furniture and accessories. Sitting on the Squash chair in the company’s new New York flagship, Toogood spoke to AN Interior about her design process, the rise of comfort-forward design trends, and the evolution of her visual language thus far.

The Squash collection comprises armchairs, ottomans, side tables, rugs, and mirrors (Courtesy Poltrona Frau)

Kelly Pau (KP): The past few months have seen a suite of collaborations between you and numerous brands. Why was Poltrona Frau the next choice?

Faye Toodgood (FT): A couple of years ago, they asked me if I would be interested in working with them. I have to say at the beginning I was like, “Toogood and Poltrona Frau?” It wasn’t natural for me. But then I went to their factory and saw the way they work and their archive. What I saw in the archive—the history of Poltrona Frau and some seriously iconic pieces designed by amazing designers—I was like: If they are prepared to go for it, then let’s do it.

The Squash collection is defined by plushy and folded leather and curvy edges (Courtesy Poltrona Frau)

KP: This collaboration does feel quite different from Poltrona’s more rectilinear, contemporary style.

FT: I think so, too. I guess working with them on allowing the leather to fold and wrinkle that’s quite uncommon for them. Not only the shape but also the way we treated and embraced the leather was a different attitude, a different approach. I think my approach is always to come along and do the absolute opposite of what’s been going on.

KP: What does your design process look like?

FT: I was looking at [Poltrona’s] rectilinear pieces that are very long and thought I’m going to try and bring something that has a more relaxed quality about it, something contemporary and into the future. I thought I would create a solid frame that feels like more classical upholstery, but at the same time curved. Then to combine that with something that feels more like a giant pillow, or giant duvet, something where it embraces you. It was very much done as a reaction. And I made some miniature versions. I always work with drawings of work and model making, so everything was model-made first.

The curvy frame of the Squash mirror comes in a large, floor length size or as a compact handheld mirror (Courtesy Poltrona Frau/Faye Toogood)

The designer makes a model of each piece as part of her design process (Courtesy Poltrona Frau/Faye Toogood)

KP: There’s certainly a connection or throughline visually between the Squash Collection and your most recent collaboration with cc-tapis, Rude Arts Club, which was installed in the Milan showroom during Salone del Mobile. What draws you to the soft and sculptural?

FT: It’s a challenge for me because I’m not considered an industrial designer. I guess I wanted to try and work out how I can take my more sculptural approach to furniture and objects and also make it soft.

KP: Was softness always an integral aspect of design for you or has it evolved over time?

FT: Maybe because my background is more fine art than design, I think what’s going on for me in my life and what’s happening for me definitely has an influence. Comfort feels like something that I want, so I think there is a journey that I’ve gone which is more autobiographical in the way that I’ve approached design. I definitely feel at the moment that I want these comforting shapes.

But it’s interesting; over the last 10 years I’ve created a lot of work, but this year is the first time I’ve worked with some of the bigger Italian manufacturers. And it’s fascinating to me: Why would they come to me? Does the world need more work? New stuff? Probably not. There’s clearly something that I’m offering which is not part of their current language. I think it is, firstly, the kind of more sculptural side of things, but also I think it is more that as a woman designer, there’s intuition about how I want you to feel when you sit in the furniture, rather than just how it looks.

For Tacchini, Toogood designed a Sofa, titled Solar, that looks like a pile of pillows and padded light fixtures using a paper fabric (Andrea Ferrari)

The designer’s art and art-inspired rugs work covered the cc-tapis showroom during Milan Design Week (Andrea Ferrari)

KP: Along with your own draw toward comfort, it certainly feels like the world emphasized that need during and after the pandemic.

FT: I predicted it. During lockdown, you get asked, “What’s this gonna do?” I said what’s going to happen is we’re gonna see a lot more color and pattern, because I think people need to feel joy after a period of time of not feeling any. But also I think they need to feel comfortable; not just comfort—security. That’s why I describe [Squash] as a hug. It goes beyond the concept of comfort toward more of an emotional feeling that you need to feel protected.

cc-tapis and Toogood translated artworks on paper into wool rugs (John William)

KP: You mentioned your background is grounded more in art and fashion rather than design. How has this alternative background affected your design approach?

FT: For me, there’s no rules. If you trained in something, then you come with preconceived ideas. You’ve also studied everybody in that genre, and you’re kind of ready loaded. Whereas I guess I approached it with why can’t we do this and why can’t we do that. It means you’re not coming up with preconceived ideas of what is good and what’s not good, so it’s a kind of freedom.

Also, my background is in interiors as well. I was with World of Interiors for nearly eight years. I’ve been in a lot of interiors. I’ve made some interiors, and I’m really passionate about interiors, and so I sort of know how you use furniture, and how interior designers put things together. I don’t know if industrial designers always think of that. So maybe I’m thinking more as an interior designer, as a mother, and as a woman.

The Rude collection was inspired by a Francis Bacon exhibition (Andrea Ferrari)

Suggestive shapes and bumps bring a bold aesthetic to the rugs (Andrea Ferrari)

KP: Are you still working or interested in working in interiors?

FT: Furniture and clothing has taken over, but I do really love doing it. I’ve just finished my own house and I do very much have a passion for interiors. I just don’t seem to have the time to do that, but I’m always open to finding the right project. I’ve always wanted to do a hotel. I haven’t found a hotel owner brave enough to take me on yet.