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Shelf Life

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

John Tong of Toronto studio +tongtong wanted to create flexible space for fashion boutique Annie Aime, so he merged architecture and product design to build the new display system Les Ailes Noires, or "black wings." We talk to Tong about the freestanding, welded steel racks. 

DB: How did the owner’s desire for a flexible space translate into the new shelving system?

John Tong: I wanted the space to reverberate from art gallery to innovative fashion store. I wanted the displays to be expressive on their own without overshadowing the product. I wanted it to be structural while fluid, controlled while haphazard, rigid while free, static while moving, urban yet refined. 

DB: How has your architectural background shaped your ventures into product design?

JT: I have always been a generalist in terms of bringing together inspirations from my surroundings into my work. I am interested in all things related to how we live, work, and play and how culture is integrated into how spaces and objects are shaped and used. It is a concept that goes back to the Bauhaus philosophy of architectural training, which included everything from graphic design, photography, industrial design, and the decorative arts. 

DB: Besides retail, what other type of environments do you envision Les Ailes Noires being used in?

JT: I had always envisioned that each shape can be used individually, in the foyer of a home, a studio, or gallery. I could also see them in hotel rooms or suites where it would look great as an object with no clothes hanging to being loaded with many, much like the shift from winter to summer—lots of coats in winter to none in the summer, or just an umbrella in the spring. 

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