Partners in life and their company but independently talented, Draga Obradovic and Aurel Basedow’s multidisciplinary studio and workshop for art, collectible design and furnishing items is based in Como, Italy. Known for combining original methods with an artistic approach to materials and composition, they are pioneers in upcycling.
Draga & Aurel began their journey by reinventing vintage furniture and objects in their own style. Their 2009 debut at Milan Design Week marked the beginning of significant partnerships and innovative collections that continue to make an impact.
Q) You’re partners in business and in life and you come from different backgrounds… Draga’s from the world of fashion and textile design and Aurel, your passion is fine art and craftsmanship. What inspired you to open a studio together?
Draga: I’ve been working as a textile designer for many years, and then I felt like something was missing. So, Aurel and I decided to focus on our passions, namely vintage and art and that was the beginning of Draga & Aurel. We are both very curious and “manual” people so it was about searching for and transforming old furniture, discovering new materials and techniques, and building our aesthetics.
Q) Is it easy creating and designing with your spouse? And how do you divide artistic and creative responsibilities?
Draga: Not at all, we are still arguing about who is the artist here! We get along so well because we are often lost in translation. We may be both be passionate about the project but we will often tackle it in a totally different way. Luckily this approach brings up more options and unexpected possibilities.
Aurel: We have found a good way to balance, to learn from each other and to capture the most from our different personalities. Even though today, I am mainly dedicated to my art, while Draga is managing the design studio, each point of view is crucial to our final results.
Q) What words would you use to characterise your style, individually then collectively?
Draga/Aurel: Can we go for three? Classy, sensual, and captivating. Our work is energetic, and expresses a constant contamination of art and design. We are passionate about vintage and contemporary with enthusiasm and care. Our biggest point of satisfaction is when we see that or work resonates with people.
Q) We’ve heard you’re known as the sector pioneers in upcycling. Can you talk about how sustainability influences your work?
Draga: Once upon a time Draga & Aurel were only “upcycling” recycling.
Our first exhibition was called “Contain yourself”. Everything was made from recycled materials, the “container” from laser cat iron leftovers and “contents”; found objects reinterpreted with hand painted textile or coated with resin. Clients were bringing to us their pieces, Granny’s armchair, or Daddy’s desk to be revisited by us. We learn how to design by cutting and pasting vintage furniture. Part of this practice we keep doing as part of our “Heritage Collection.”
Aurel: Sustainability is a very complex issue which doesn’t end up with a choice of the colour or the type of material. It is a general attitude and awareness which involves all of our processes, thoughts and habits across a spectrum of mediums and unique pieces.
Q) Reinventing vintage furniture and objects in your own style laid the groundwork for your Italian studio. What’s your advice for someone wanting to create a space that’s classic but has their own personal flare?
Draga/Aurel: It’s simple advice… surround yourself with objects that speak to you and that gives you an emotion.
Q) Several renowned designers collaborated with Draga & Aurel. Do you have a fave project so far?
Draga/Aurel: We like to work with companies who somehow share our same values and aesthetics, and we approach every collaboration as a mutual exchange and enrichment. Baxter was the first company who believed in us and with whom we have been collaborating for almost fifteen years now; we feel part of the family yet with incredible creative freedom. We are particularly fond of is Rafiki Bookcase, Marylin Armchair, which is a bestseller, and our Liquid Coffee sophisticated leather collection.
Q) Much of your design is vintage inspired, is there a particular era that is influencing your work lately?
Draga: We are fascinated by the creative impetus of the Space Age, at the turn of the 60s and 70s, a period that influenced us greatly. What we like about those years is the vitality, the ferment, the experimentation, and contamination, but also the playful and unconventional approach.
Q) Your recent capsule collection is entitled “Transparency Matters.” What is that all about?
Draga: Transparency Matters is a synthesis of our creative process: it is the perfect mix of art and design, research in materials, inspiration from the past (in particular, we look at the 1970’s), and our eye to the future.
Q) You’ve recently made your North American debut in New York and Miami. Has that been a worthwhile experience so far?
Draga/Aurel: It certainly was, and we have plans to further develop our presence in the continent, thanks to the collaboration with Todd Merrill Studio where it was “love at first sight.”
Q) Are there any upcoming projects that we should look out for?
We are preparing something special for the next Milano Design Week in collaboration with the two most important Milanese galleries, Rossana Orlandi and Nilufar. We can’t reveal more at the moment but we are very excited about it!
Q) Where was your latest trip?
Draga/Aurel: Miami, to attend Art Basel Miami and Design Miami. It was our second time in the city and we really got the chance to capture its great vibes and energy.
Q) Who’s your favourite artist?
Aurel: My main references in art come from the abstract expressionism of De Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Helen Frakehaler and Sigmar Polke, but also Gerhard Richter, Imi Knoebel and more contemporary Albert Oehlen and Christopher Wool.
Draga: I love the minimalism of Dan Flavin or Donald Judd. I am also very inspired by Nanda Vigo and Cini Boeri.
Q) Songs you’re listening to?
Draga: Now I am listening to Portishead and PJ Harvey, and the Arctic Monkeys.
Aurel: Percussions and drums (which I also play) are my favourites. I am currently listening to a lot of Funk from the 70’s (Kool & the Gang, James Brown, War, Earth, Wind & Fire, Parliament). I also love Prince and Frank Zappa.