While Maison & Objet is so often thought of as the hotspot for a wide variety of up-and-coming brands, it’s also a time to celebrate more established names. This year, the prestigious accolade of Designer of the Year was awarded to Danish design guru Cecilie Manz: the brains behind the beauty of our very own Bang & Olufsen.
“All briefs start with white paper”, states Manz, “and three very important words – functionality, simplicity, and quality”. It is these three properties which are evident throughout the entire back catalogue of Manz’s work – from furniture design for Fritz Hansen to bespoke, experiential products and a number of exciting collaborations.
“Materiality and texture are also important”, she continues, “and colour”. But colour, according to Manz, is often an afterthought by many brands. Not for her. It forms an integral part of the design, tweaking and adapting as needed throughout the entire process. Perhaps, then, this is why B&O’s wide selection of colourways are often lauded as the most stylish within the incredibly crowded audio market.
Manz’s studio remains a small team; she supervises three fellow designers and at times, an intern, from her Copenhagen base. The studio, according to Manz, is “filled with stuff” – not just any old “stuff” as you and I would call it, but objects from everyday life from which Manz finds her inspiration.
Manz’s portfolio is divided in two; the first covers a wide range of experiential projects from her days as a young, unknown designer. It was in 2015 she was selected to partner up with Rud Rasmussen Snedkerier for Wallpaper*’s Handmade Project of the Year, which catapulted Manz to the spotlight. While she still continues to manage her own projects, the vast majority of her work now comes from brand collaborations, which form the second half of her repertoire.
You may even notice a subtle link between her various projects. Take, for example, Manz’s previous work for Fritz Hansen, which featured subtle leather detailing within the upholstery of sofas and armchairs. It was around this time Manz received her first commission from B&OPLAY, and created the Beolit 12; which also features distinct leather profiling. These connections are subtle, but a clear indicator of Manz’s understated elegance.
So, how did Manz end up working for Bang & Olufsen? Originally trained in furniture design, Manz began moving into lighting, ceramics and bathroom products as her career progressed. She states that she particularly loves crafting kitchen utensils, as “these are something you use in everyday life”. While technology may not be the most obvious next step, it is Manz’s desire to craft products that users will love and, most importantly, use on a daily basis, which led her to B&O.
One of her most instantly recognisable designs for the brand is the portable A1 speaker, which “started out like an orange”, in Manz’s own words. An incredible amount of time, dedication and detail went into creating the final product, and it is this attention to detail which Manz claims sets her apart from other designers.
“Being appointed Designer of the Year…I was of course very honoured”, concludes Manz, “and the show [Maison & Objet] is a nice opportunity to show how far I have come”. One can only assume, thanks to her distinctive Danish influence, exquisite craftsmanship and unique approach to design, that there is still plenty more to come.