I was interested in a time when there was a greater sense of wonder and optimism about the future,” Apparatus creative director Gabriel Hendifar explained at the brand’s Manhattan headquarters last February. “And that brought me back to the 1960s.” This era of hippie idealism, Space Age ambition, and color television was the starting point for the company’s new collection of furnishings—the largest to date—which, delayed by the pandemic, has been waiting patiently for takeoff ever since.
On that visit last year, Hendifar and his team were trying their best to maintain that positive outlook. Italy had just confirmed its first cases of COVID-19, and the fate of Salone del Mobile—Milan Design Week, where the firm planned to introduce the new pieces—hung in the balance. Salone was eventually canceled, leaving Apparatus and its designer peers scrambling to reschedule their debuts. The launch is back on track for this summer (though it will take its cues from the ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions). Such plot twists could not have been better suited to the new collection, ACT IV—a nod to the current climate of global economic, environmental, and political suspense. When we regrouped this past November, nine months into a global pandemic, anxiously anticipating the results of the presidential election, Hendifar reiterated, “We’re still waiting to see what’s next.”
Thankfully, Apparatus has always risen to the occasion. When Hendifar and his now-husband, Jeremy Anderson, founded the company in 2011, they were focused on more immediate needs. Having just moved in together and unable to find any lighting they wanted, the couple worked with off-the-shelf components to develop unexpected yet eye-pleasing fixtures (among them runaway hits like the Cloud chandelier and Highwire series) that felt both industrial and handmade. In the years since, their designs have grown decidedly more theatrical—as emphasized by their annual parties—and narrative-driven, with inspirations ranging from Austria’s Wiener Werkstätte to Iranian decorative arts.
The latest collection reshapes a 1960s fantasia with human hands. “It’s like a model of the future rendered in plaster,” Hendifar reflected. Modular rugs of hand-tufted silk and wool can be joined using brass clasps reminiscent of the late Pierre Cardin’s Space Age fashions. Orb-shaped lights sheathed in satin and suede, meanwhile, evoke the plastic fixtures of Joe Colombo. And seating calls to mind, as Hendifar puts it, Regency robots, its metalwork and leather upholstery so precise it almost appears injection-molded. Describing one drinks table that doubles as an incense burner, Hendifar recalled a scene from PlayTime, Jacques Tati’s 1967 film. Its protagonist, a Frenchman befuddled by the modernizing world, visits the glass-encased home of a friend. His host delightedly lifts the shade of a table lamp to reveal his stash of cigarettes. “This ridiculous function makes you smile,” noted Hendifar, adding, “While things shift all around us, these moments of joy are so important.”