Vogue Living Australia / Continental Drift

Print Articles, Product Design


August 2016 Issue

Continental Drift

French designer Richard Le Sand weaves an exotic narrative through his elegant furniture and accessories brand.

Who is Akar de Nissim? Where is he from? These were the questions on many visitors’ minds as they peruse the luxury brand’s new shop in Singapore’s quaint Duxton Hill enclave. With an aesthetic that can be described as modern-oriental, the consoles, armchairs and coffee tables on display are presented in a manner that is both romantic and refined.

Akar de Nissim is a muse created by the brand’s CEO and founder Richard Le Sand. He is illustrated as a moustached debonair, and described by Le Sand as “a mysterious gentleman born at the crossroads of Europe and Asia as a modern man while keeping and combining the cultural heritage that lie between the two continents.”

In many ways, both creator and muse are alike. Le Sand himself is dapper, articulate, and a world traveller. After spending 15 years in Paris as a designer, he moved to Singapore in 2008, providing design consultancy for companies in China. “After four years, and maybe because of a mid-life crisis, I felt I had the shoulders strong enough to develop a project as ambitious as Akar de Nissim,” Le Sand explains.

The brand, available in Australia at Becker Minty, is all about creating a complete interior environment, which is why the furniture is accompanied by accessories and fragranced waxed candles, encased in smoky black glass jars. Concocted by French noses, these candles introduce the visitor to the traditional terrace-like ‘gallery’ that envelop Akar de Nissim’s exotic world. The lofty second-storey space is where Le Sand and his six staff work on the designs. Their sketches are brought to life by French master craftsman Herve Delahaye and his team of artisans in the company’s factory in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

“We produce more than 90 per cent of the whole collection – even the hinges and the screws are handmade by us,” Le Sand says. “Our strategy is to implement a maximum of skills and craftsmanship within our factory.” This is matched by an equally exquisite material palette, where, aside from solid oak and leather, there is also buffalo horn marquetry, and elusive Obsidian marble – originating from the Mount Ararat region –  crafted into pieces such as the ‘Song Obsidian’ table lamp, ‘Aspahan’ candle holders and the ‘Gusher’ tray.

Storytelling is at the heart of Akar de Nissim’s appeal. “If you don’t have a story to tell, your product will be void of personality,” Le Sand says. Narratives from bygone eras and the ancient and modern worlds of art and design provide design inspiration. The ‘Marceau’ rocking chair, for instance, is Le Sand’s adaption of the Eames’ iconic ‘RAR” rocker, its body designed in solid oak instead of fibreglass, with brass accents and influences from the Ming Dynasty period and the decorative Directoire style of 18th century France.

Eclectic? Perhaps. But that’s what makes Akar de Nissim so intriguing. As Le Sand says, his designs are “part heritage, part contemporary, a little eroticism or provocation, and a lot of craftsmanship.”