Modern is a state of mind. It’s an art form that belies the premise form follows function. It’s furnishings with sleek, clean lines - sculptural forms devoid of ornamentation that are beautiful in their simplicity. And here in Central Virginia, ever since it opened its doors 25 years ago, LaDifférence International Home Furnishings (LaDiff) has been the arbiter of the modern aesthetic.
LaDiff will kick-off its 25th Anniversary festivities on Saturday, May 7th, with the arrival of “Magis on the Road,” an exhibition celebrating 25 years of innovative home furnishings created by Eugenio Perazza’s Magis company. And a rare personal appearance by the iconic designer, Karim Rashid. Rashid will help to unveil “The Jungle,” a sculptural installation that plays upon the flowing sculptural form of the Magis Chair One, at the 14th street Turning Basin. “The Jungle” will be on view through the end of May.
“Design is the essence of LaDifférence,” said Andy Thornton, founder and president of LaDifférence. “It seemed only fitting that our 25th anniversary events pay tribute to the designs and designers that are at the core of our success.” Inside the store, The “Magis on the Road” exhibit pays tribute to the timeless modern designs some of the world’s most innovative designers. The exhibition, created to mark the Magis company’s 25th anniversary, celebrates the international creativity of a design team that seeks to make objects of daily use into technologically advanced and aesthetically innovative products. Magis designers include Karim Rashid, Ron Arad, Konstantin Grcic, Jasper Morrison, James Irving, Stefano Giovannoni and Marcel Wanders.
As the first retailer to recognize the void in the marketplace for well designed contemporary furnishings, LaDifférence blazed a trail into uncharted territory.
“They said it couldn’t be done,” continued Thornton, “That no one in their right mind would try to sell contemporary
design in this bastion of the tradition.” The pundits were proved wrong, and in Central Virginia the LaDiff name has become synonymous with cool.
“We’re thrilled that Karim Rashid will be here to represent the Magis designers,” said Sarah Paxton, the vice president of LaDifférence. “He is an icon of modern style. And his minimalist, yet sensuous aesthetic is the driving force behind many of our favorite designs.”
Over 1000 objects in the market place, including the Garbo trash can and Oh chair, bear Rashid’s signature, and his client list reads like a who’s who of modern design. During his appearance, his work for Umbra, a long-time resource for LaDiff, will also be highlighted. Rashid will also sign pieces of his design from the Umbra and Magis collections. Umbra is also marking its 25th anniversary in 2005.
LaDiff’s 25th Anniversary celebration events will continue through October with a focus on design and the designers who continue to surprise and delight the industry with their creations.
The LaDifférence 25th Anniversary celebration kicks off on Saturday, May 7th with the Magis Road show, the unveiling of “The Jungle” installation at the Turning Basin and Karim Rashid’s personal appearance. For more information, contact LaDifférence at 804.648.6210.
Andrew Thornton, president: A true internationalist at heart, Andy spent his formative years in cities as diverse as Paris, London, and Rio de Janeiro. After his first business venture designing and building handcrafted, custom, high-end furniture, he decided ‘starving artistry’ was not his forte. From a two-year experience managing an import/export business in Haiti, Andy’s interest in international importing was born. Returning to Charlottesville, Virginia, where his parents had retired, Andy opened LaDifférence (Vive la difference is Haiti’s motto) and his retail career began. With LaDiff, Andy moved to Richmond in 1994, where he has been involved actively in organizations that improve the civic and cultural climate of the city, including his co-founding and chairmanship of the River District Alliance, and participation on the board of the Richmond Economic Development Council. Andy’s greatest enjoyment from LaDifférence comes from international travel; the changing world is his greatest inspiration.
Sarah Paxton, vice president: A native of Richmond, Sarah caused her parents great concern when, during her first year at the University of Virginia, she decided to major in Ancient Greek. Post graduation, after debating between a return to school and a retail venture, Sarah worked for a small gift shop in Charlottesville where she honed her customer service and selling skills. Lured to LaDifférence by the possibility of becoming an active partner, Sarah joined the store in 1991, where she quickly became a retail ‘Jill of all trades’. In 1994, Sarah moved with LaDiff to Richmond, rediscovering her love of the city’s downtown. Today, Sarah shows her support of the city through her membership on the board of the Retail Merchants Association and her current chairmanship of citycelebrations, an urban non-profit that energizes Richmond through festivals and events. When not actively engrossed at LaDiff, she and Andy enjoy time with their 4-year old daughter in their house on the James River (within the city limits, of course).
Ivor Massey, secretary: A self-described recovering attorney, Ivor is the venture capitalist behind the scenes at LaDifférence. Having been partners with Andy Thornton for 25 years, Ivor has seen LaDiff through really bad times and really good times. A Richmond native, Ivor is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Miami, after which he practiced law in Florida before his return to Richmond in the early nineties. Managing his investment activities fulltime, Ivor embraces technological innovation, encouraging continual advances for LaDifférence throughout its 25-year history. Through his role as president of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, Ivor promotes respecting, remembering, and saving Richmond’s history while exploring and enjoying the possibilities of her future. Ivor lives in Richmond’s historic fan district and enjoys the furniture benefits a LaDiff partnership provides.
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