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Rafael de Cárdenas

Rafael de Cárdenas. Portrait by Andrew Boyle.

Rafael de Cárdenas’—recently named Maison & Objet America's Designer of the Year—design prowess runs the full spectrum of aesthetics. The Manhattan-based architect (who has a second outpost in London) gave Baccarat’s Madison Avenue flagship store hand-cut, wooden sawtooth walls as a subtle nod to the high-precision diamond cutting of its glass. A world away in Cape Town, de Cárdenas went with an interior of neon-hued gradients and geometric shapes for the South African menswear line Unknown Union.


“Working with an undefined brand driven by youth culture, we were able to tell a story that didn’t exist yet,” says de Cárdenas. “There’s storytelling as part of the brand. You’re trying to get people to be immersed in the fantasy.”

For one of his recent projects, the London flagship boutique of Italian jewelry designer Delfina Delettrez, his concept sought “a way to bring Italian richness to England.” He created a palette of luxurious contrasts: the glint of steel and brass against the richness of fur and malachite. “It feels ancient, exuberant, Italian, yet very contemporary,” de Cárdenas says. And, he was even able to imbue the space with Italian sex appeal. “The way the malachite wraps the back wall inviting the shopper down the stairs is suggesting and seductive. It is a particularly favorite feature of mine.”


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