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Finding Harmony in Contrast

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Images courtesy of Unison and Kaitlynn McQuaid

When is a sailor stripe more than just a sailor stripe?

“When you combine the whole package—bedding, pillows and the artwork—it’s not just looking at the one pattern,” says designer Robert Segal. “It’s unison—everything working together.”

Segal is co-founder of the aptly named Unison--an eight-person operation producing printed textiles and bedding, which are showcased alongside other designers’ work in their Chicago storefront—with his wife, Alicia Rosauer. From the studio’s close relations with producers in Portugal and Rhode Island, to daily check-ins with the sewing team across the street from their headquarters, everyone works together to produce the final products. That extends, of course, to Segal and Rosauer themselves, who are both responsible for designing striking prints and discovering new products to feature in their airy store and on their website.

Unison’s clean designs are influenced by Marimekko—the Finnish design house where the duo spent nearly five years under the tutelage of the legendary Kristina Isola and Fujiwo Ishimoto—as well as Crate and Barrel, the Chicago-based retailer that brought Scandinavian design to the masses (founded by none other than Segal’s parents, Gordon and Carole Segal). Like their predecessors, the customer is always top of mind for Segal and Rosauer.

“We’d like to believe that products can be democratic and consumers can feel it’s approachable,” Segal says.

Unison’s approachable aesthetic is gaining ground in the Windy City, where they launched a new location last fall. Whether its their own work or pieces by guest artists including Susan Dwyer or Stephen Eichhorn, the overall theme is all about contrast, Segal says. He loves unexpected pairings like Dwyer’s delicate gold paper mache bowls with Eichhorn’s black-and-white pillows evoking aerial photos of earth. They’re just two of the pieces that convince Segal he’s in the right place at the right time.

“This concept of supporting American-made goods has taken off in the last two years,” he says. “There’s a lot of young talent out there. It’s a really fantastic moment to be a designer, to be a creator, and [to be a] consumer.”

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