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How Wondervision turns trash into treasure

Alissa Demorest

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How Wondervision turns trash into treasure

Founded in 2018, Wondervision transforms waste generated by luxury brands and gives it new life. The France-based creative collective captivates with its sustainable mission and offbeat creativity. Its founders—Marie-France de Crécy, Stanislas Aroua, Juliette Roulleaux and Sidonie Lasseron—work in symbiosis to reimagine “forgotten” materials.

How is Wondervision structured?

Marie-France de Crécy: The four of us are partners and together direct two entities, in France and Geneva. We take a collective approach, and our different perspectives enrich one another’s work. Concern for the environment is at the heart of everything we do. We know how to convey a brand’s image and identity—we experiment, investigate, and break limits, yet remain true to the brand’s expectations, from creation through production.

How would you explain your creative process?

MFC: The idea is to create using material, rather than ideas, as a starting point, transforming it into different forms and scenographies. Our work is tailored to each client according to how the brand wishes to approach the notion of waste, or “forgotten material.”

Sidonie Lasseron: We work within the codes of luxury, but also within a contemporary narrative, but without the sense of guilt often associated with responsible recycling. The words “upcycling” and “recycling” can be off-putting to luxury brands, so it’s our job to show them that our approach is also imbued with elegance and craftsmanship, and that it doesn’t threaten their identity. Vocabulary plays a key role here, and we’re constructing our own. So instead of talking about “waste,” which is fundamentally pejorative, we speak instead of “forgotten material” that tells a brand’s story.

Stanislas Aroua: Our mission is to express beauty, refinement, and rigorous craftmanship, while also conveying a brand’s codes. In our collaboration with Hermès in Tokyo, we were invited to create a window display for scarves that could no longer be sold (display models, for example), restoring their status as objects of beauty. This narrative transformed perceptions and confirmed both the product and the material as beautiful objects. Another of our strengths is our ability to pair disparate materials in novel ways. In this case, we paired Hermès scarves with plastic. Combining two materials of different value gave rise to a new material that tells a story.

Juliette Roulleaux: Material that has already been used carries significant weight—it has sentimental and symbolic value—so transforming it to give it a new life is an important act. How can we unite luxury codes and secondhand aesthetics? Therein lies the challenge.

Before Wondervision, you worked for Studio de Crécy.

MFC: Yes, and we branched out because at the time we were part of the problem. Studio de Crécy produced an enormous amount of pop-ups, window displays, and more, especially for high-end jewelry brands. We witnessed the impact created by these large-scale global productions. Because they were ephemeral projects, little thought was given to the “after-the-fact”; instead, it was create, install, and then destroy.

SA: The mechanisms of production must be changed. Patagonia did it in the textile industry, but they’re the only ones. Luxury brands are only just beginning—they’re working to make cardboard packaging, for instance, but the entire process must be examined, and that’s a major undertaking for a big luxury brand.

Where is the luxury industry in terms of reusing waste?

SL: Certain brands are breaking the taboo and talking about waste, but there are still countless parameters that must be taken into account and an entire process to be established.

Do brands provide you with clear briefs as to what should become of their waste?

JR: It depends on the brand—we take a bespoke approach, tailoring our work for each client. With Hermès, we were given carte blanche for the artists’ window displays in Tokyo, where our creations were based on the theme, “Monsieur and Madame Mange Tout,” a pair of insatiable gluttons who stuff themselves with the materials and then spit them back out. It was an allegory of our consumerist society. At Hermès, there is a certain freedom of tone that sensitizes people regarding another aesthetic born of random or accidental materials. Educating is an essential part of our work, because we feel that, in the case of certain brands, the teams must be the driving force, but they’re often not sure how to proceed.

You’ve also established new ways of collaborating.

MFC: Yes, the idea is to identify the institutions and places that are important sources of raw materials and that, through design, can generate local production. We have ties in Asia, in the US, and ideally we will create small subsidiaries around the world that can contribute locally.

In October we’ll be opening an upcycling design studio in partnership with Caritas, a non-profit association that combats poverty and exclusion and that operates a major recycling center, where we’ll host exhibitions and workshops, and have a showroom and works for sale. The goal is to raise public awareness while remaining financially accessible. There must be an educational component, since we believe that the commerce of tomorrow will no longer be transaction-based, but rather relationship-based.

This is the second year that you’ve worked on window display concepts with perfume brand Caron.

JR: Yes, when we met with Caron, we embarked on a partnership, which was a new way of collaborating for us, as opposed to one-shot creations for specific projects. Working with a client over a period of several years allows us to more deeply understand the brand’s aesthetics and concerns, making long-term collaboration possible. The decors are stored, recovered, and re-transformed.

Do you work with materials in a closed loop?

SA: Not entirely, because we source some salvaged materials from other recovery sites, like La Réserve des Arts in Pantin. After we’ve finished a project, we select the materials that can be reused, take them apart, and store them. Others are sent to the Réserve des Arts, and others still are re-transformed into resources for our materials library. It’s best when we can save the entire decor, since the materials reflect a brand’s image.

Is luxury your main target market?

MDC: Yes, until luxury assumes a leading role in telling a different aesthetic narrative that encompasses environmental concerns! Through the dexterity of the hand, we enhance materials for reuse, give value to the rough aspect, the bumps and dents, while telling a beautiful story. We work a lot with the perfume, jewelry, watch, and spirits industries. These sectors already have a deep appreciation for fine craftsmanship, and they see themselves reflected in our work.

This article was originally published in the autumn 2021 issue of our sister publication Formes de Luxe.

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