Although UMÉ Studio is based in California, the story of its founders, Mei-Lan Tan, 28, and Victor Lefebvre, 32, is international in scope.
“Mei-Lan has Indonesian and Chinese roots. I’m French and I studied and lived in Japan,” Victor says, adding that their lifestyles are still itinerant. “Oakland is the place where we stop and regroup.”
The duo, who met while working in Basel for Herzog & de Meuron, established their practice in 2016. Since then, they’ve expanded their network of collaborators, producing sculptural soaps, concrete serving trays that look like giant buttons, and more. Now they are developing a line of silver cups with Indonesian artisans. “We spent time in Bali understanding the local crafts and the silver vessels they use to hold holy water,” says Mei-Lan. “These items have very specific intentions of use: one item, one action.”
We asked the breakout designers about who inspires them, their most treasured possessions, and what daily rituals get them in the zone. Read the answers below.
Tan: Los Angeles, California
Lefebvre: Versailles, France
Something you always carry with you:
T: German ballpoint pen and a leather tassel keychain to remind me of the playful things in life.
F: A tape measure.
First childhood memory related to design:
T: Assembling the wooden puzzles in my room that my dad made for me.
F: Fixing our apartment with my parents.
Daily ritual to get into a creative space:
T: Cup of coffee, checking in on each of my plants, surrounding myself with all the natural items I’ve collected over the years.
F: I grab coffee and call one of my friends in France.
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