The Form of Friendship: Abstract Furniture Designers, ilco

Into-form 20- Photo by Tram P Nguyen.jpg

Interview by Isis Nicole


Interview: Isis Nicole

Photography: Tram P Nguyen, Madeleine Duflot, and Ania Marciniak

Madeleine Duflot, 24-years-old, Strasbourg, France


Koa Pham, 25-years-old, from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


Ania Marcianiak, 25-years-old from Warsaw, Poland 

= ilco / 'an abstract furniture project made with love from three friends who met at Central Saint Martins/ 

IN: What were your interests growing up? 

Madeleine Duflot: When I was younger I wanted to be a fashion designer. Then growing up, it somehow shifted from clothes to furniture. Maybe because I grew up in a beautiful house surrounded by beautiful objects from cool artists and designers to flea-market gems. Thanks mum and dad! Also, I realized how the environment we evolve in has a big impact on our well-being, and so I got interested in how to make it the best as possible, through furniture. 

Ania Marcianiak: As a child, I’ve always liked drawing, painting and making things with plasticine, paper, sticks, clay … anything really! I also had a phase when I wanted to become a fashion designer and so my mum taught me a bit how to sew. That’s also when I learnt about Central Saint Martins. After high school I was preparing myself to study architecture and during that process I realized that designing furniture, and products, is what I enjoy the most!

Koa Pham: I grew up as a shy boy and was insecure about my body image because I’m just simply very prominent among people. I hated seeing myself in anything that projected my image. So as a good excuse, I was always with my camera. It was the biggest shield I could have. I could take pictures of people and not be on it. I built up a good enough relationship with my camera that made me fantasize about becoming a photographer. It also shaped me as an observant. But when you are an observant, you start to have a desire to change, fix and solve things. That’s when I realized I wanted to be a product designer.

IN: As a team you've been working on Into-form for almost a year now. What did it take to bring this project to life? 

Ilco: It is a lot of commitment and organization, especially when we have other things going on in the meantime like work or studies. But it is also so exciting to see it happening, to see things working out, to get enthusiasts feedbacks from people around us that we don’t always see it as proper work! Some parts are less exciting than others, and sometimes we would need different skill sets, more business or marketing orientated. But all in all we are really enjoying it and want to work on our next projects.

IN: To my understanding, this project encourages users to take control of how they interact with Into-form. I like the idea of inheriting a role as a designer in my bedroom or fantasy office; imaging how I'd want to arrange the five components. But as a trio in the actual design trenches, what are some of the challenges you face daily?

ilco: One of our biggest challenge so far was probably to find manufacturers to work with. We are young, it is our very first project, and it is quite unconventional. Because [of this] it is harder to get people’s trust about working with us. Also, we always need to lookout for the best options money wise, this is quite a challenge too! And basically, everything we do for this project, we are doing it for the first time, so it is always a bit stressful but exciting! 

IN: I identify with this in regards of building our magazine. If you don't mind sharing, how do you bring awareness and funding to this? 

ilco: Instagram mostly! Actually, this interview is a good opportunity to apologize to everyone for the massive crowdfunding ‘harassment’… it is not the most pleasant part of the work, really, but it was needed. Sorry! Luckily, it all ended well, we over-made it! 102% funded! Thank you backers! 

IN: That's incredible! What else has been your most fulfilling accomplishment?  

ilco: Probably bringing Into-form to Milan. It is weird, crazy and exciting how it all happened so quickly. It just simply, quite randomly started and is where it is now. From a chill chat at a dinner to Milan, within a year. Sounds like an accomplishment, no? But also, before Milan, making the piece real, 1:1, and seeing it used and loved by people for the first time at a first show also felt like a big successful step. And being published on Design Milk! That was ace and so helpful. The press followed, including both Architectural Digest Italy and US … and IN MAG!! Can you believe it? Dreamy! 

IN: How cozy is Into-form and what's it made of? 

ilco: Into-form is so cozy. You have to try it to believe it! It’s also a very huggable piece of furniture. The diameter of each piece fits perfectly for a pair of arms around it. It is made of foam and upholstered with cotton velvet. It's also cozy just because it completely adapts to what you want, at any time! 

IN: Hopefully all of our dreams come true and we get to meet and try for ourselves in real life in due time! Are there any designers you've got your eye on that we should learn more about? 

ilco: We recently discovered Soft Baroque studio doing some very cool and interesting sculptural pieces. We like Guillermo Santoma fantasy, James Shaw and Thomas Barger are also doing beautiful fun pieces. There are actually many designers experimenting and coming up with really unconventional designs, it’s so good! And the more famous Marten Baas and Faye Toogood are still … too good. Also, Gufram latest Disco collection is so funky! You should check out their short clips on Instagram.

IN: What keeps you motivated and refreshed? 

ilco: We are definitely getting a lot of energy from the people supporting us! It is wonderful when people share their positive thoughts about our work, offer their help, and show us they like what we do. It is the best fuel for us to go forward. It makes us confident that what we do is right, and we are so thankful for that. People should definitely always say out loud when they like others people work, encourage them, it is so empowering! And it’s free. Our parents deserve a special note, too. They have been truly amazing and we are blessed to have their support and advice. 

IN: Favorite time to lounge? 

ilco: Any time is a good time, especially with Into-form, because it also fits good friends.

IN: What would make you all happiest when everything is said and done? 

ilco: First off, get Into-form produced by one of the big companies we really like, being able to work on other projects (that means getting some money back from Into-form that we could invest in new works), and then, over a longer year span, maybe grow as a proper independent studio? And most importantly, stay close friends! 

IN: When you think of the word "increase", what comes to mind? 

ilco: When talking about ilco, ‘increase’ would relate to a successful development of our work. Getting it done and getting more done! Basically, make our studio, have a happy life, getting a proper place in the design world, and live happily ever after.

IN: To live out the dream! What do you have coming up?

ilco: We are thinking about working with glass or about doing a very cool and special carpet. Options are opened up. In the meantime, we are also going on with our studies, and we might be living in three different countries, which offers cool advantages but don’t make things easier either. We know we definitely don’t want to let ilco down, so we will see what is doable and there is definitely going to be something because we want it. So stay tuned! 


Originally published in IN #7, Fall 2018

ArtIsis Marshallilco