The Fendi Peekaboo bag to which they added corrugated leather panels, and a leather stool and enameled-brick bench, also from Roman Molds. “We never planned to work together, it just happened,” says Caputo, who introduced herself to Kueng by knocking on her door when they were in their mid-20s. “She was living with a friend of mine, and was the only other woman I knew of who was interested in industrial design, so I asked her to go have a coffee. ” Kueng overhears and adds, “My first interest was in computer programming, but when I built a bed for myself, I realized I needed to do something with my hands.
Roman Molds, the title of Kueng Caputo’s collection for Design Miami, is inspired by the unadorned travertine arcades of Fendi’s Roman headquarters. (Designed by Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula, and Mario Romano, the building was originally commissioned by Mussolini for the 1942 world’s fair—which was canceled due to World War II—and is one of the most striking standing examples of rationalist architecture. ) Kueng and Caputo stacked glazed bricks in a variety of colors into shapes that mirror the iconic arches that surround the exterior of every floor.
The fact that Kueng and Caputo feel the need to hand-paint and -cut pretty much every element in their work is both an asset and a drawback. “We can’t really scale up,” Caputo says. “I’ve known Lovis and Sarah for 10 years,” says Rodman Primack, the executive director of Design Miami, who founded the New York design firm RP Miller and has worked with Salon 94. “They are very unassuming, and instead of pushing themselves forward in a superstar way, they wait for their work to tell their story.
They both loved the architect Lina Bo Bardi, the designer Eileen Gray, the design collective Memphis, and the sculptor Isamu Noguchi—and shared a deep appreciation for craftsmanship. (Just out of secondary school, Caputo was the only woman in Switzerland to go for a welding certificate. ) Since they started collaborating at university, Caputo and Kueng have designed every piece together, from sketch to model to execution. “We’re like an old married couple now,” Caputo says. “We finish each other’s sentences.
Lovis Caputo (left) and Sarah Kueng in their Zurich atelier, with a glazed-brick, leather-topped palm tree that will be part of their Roman Molds collection for Fendi at Design Miami.
They do what I love for designers to do, which is explore materiality and create new processes. ” Primack was instrumental in bringing Kueng Caputo to the attention of Silvia Venturini Fendi. “Their primary focus is how new techniques can be applied to craft, which is exactly our approach at Fendi with leather and fur,” she says.