Going with the Grain
In the world of design, it's a commonly understood idea that fashion and home share similar mindsets. What becomes a big element on the runways leads to influences in furniture and decor and vice versa.
For spring 2013, fashion designers are taking a cue once more from interior design and architecture. Black and white graphics, floral prints and ikat are all trends that cross over seamlessly, but nowhere is the melding of home and body more pronounced than with wood emerging as a de facto resource.
Of course wood has long been utilized in fashion as a sturdy base, infrastructure or handle. But now wood's aesthetic and eco values are taking it center stage. But why all of the sudden are items from ties and sunglasses to belts and iPhone cases all so proudly "wooden?"
Wooed by Wood
Wooed by Wood, a San Francisco company that hand crafts all of its wooden accessories thinks wood’s innate versatility is the answer. According to co-founders Joh and Julia (who, in true Bohemian style, insist on no last names), "wood is a strong, natural material that is beautiful due to its variation and strength."
Wooed by Wood’s signature offering is reclaimed wood sunglasses in styles both retro and smoothly modern. Styles range from the classic aviator "Quince" to a more eccentric notched cat eye style "Limon."
Among Wooed by Wood’s many other offerings are reclaimed redwood cufflinks with ornate carvings that can add a shot of refined bohemia to a sleek suit. This is another key selling point for using wood in design: wood is a natural resource and one with boundless uses.
"We are drawn to wood as a style compliment because it has a strong tie with nature and is visibly unique. People have used wood from the beginning of time as a tool and it is one of the most core and basic necessities of life," Joh and Julia explain.
True. Since the first inventive caveman, mankind has indeed been "playing with fire" by pushing the infinite uses of wood.
Eye of the World Designs; WeWood
According to Eye of the World Designs, a United Kingdom maker of wooden belts, body jewelry and more, the possibilities for hand crafting accessories out of wood are limited only by our imagination.
"Wood is an organic material that allows you to manipulate it and then form it into another object, sanding and oiling and forming a soft and touchable material," says head designer Hope Von Joel. "It’s amazingly satisfying and tactile. Wood is forever alive and so anything that is made out of wood then has a life of its own."
Perhaps she has only just begun to scratch the surface with her clever and flirty jigsaw belt: colorful blocks of wood on a clear strap that almost becomes a floating work of art.
But before you assume that all of this wood love is bad for the planet, rest assured that many designers value the forests they source from and are keen to giving back as much as they get. L.A. based WeWood produces its rustic but modern men’s and women’s wood watches with a firm and green business mantra: One watch. One tree. One planet.
"WeWood’s timepieces are as natural as the trees in the forests which it helps refill. WeWood plants one tree for each watch sold," say co-founders Daniele Guidi and Alessandro Rosano.
Wood Thumb; Grove
Reclaimed wood is another popular way to get the look without the negative global impact. Micah Stumpf, designer for Wood Thumb, a San Francisco purveyor of wooden bow ties and convertible clutches, is a fan of this method: "Fortunately wood lasts, which means there is a lot of wood reclaimed from old buildings that get torn down. This is the wood we use."
Wood Thumb also makes a cheeky "six pack" holder for making quite the entrance to a house party (if your bow tie didn’t already). They’re well aware of this impact too. "A wood tie gets people talking and interacting in a new or unexpected way, just because there is something unique about it," Stumpf says.
If wearing wood, however, still seems like a stiff proposition, perhaps a phone, laptop or tablet cover from Portland, Oregon’s Grove is easier to handle. Grove offers a multitude of wood carved patterns and motifs, and custom styling is available too.
Co-founders and lead designers Ken Tomita and Joe Mansfield also illustrate a surprising benefit of a wood covering for one of your most handled daily objects: "Because we use natural hand rubbed oil finishes, our customers form a bond with their products that is different from say their metal or plastic phone. Rather than degrading over time as the perfect surfaces get nicked and scratched, our case will patina nicely over time with handling like a piece of antique furniture."
Once again the beauty of wooden accessories is easy to grasp.