Oscar Piccolo had been experimenting with pleated paper lampshades for about a year when the designs went viral on Instagram. From his school in London, the Sicilian design student had regularly posted pictures of his lamps, which closely — and appealingly — resembled overgrown cocktail umbrellas. Someone sent the pictures to someone else, who sent the pictures to Sight Unseen (which dubbed the lamps “instantly iconic”) and the next thing he knew, Piccolo was featured on Vogue’s website. For months, eager commenters asked when the lamps would go on sale. Piccolo released a few in September; they sold out instantly and haven’t yet been restocked. In January, he says, he’ll likely put up a few more.
Pleated lamps aren’t new — just the opposite, actually: most Victorian-era lampshades were made of pleated cloth or crêpe paper. But now young designers around the world are repurposing the prim, staid style, making pleated shades without ornamental ruching or beading; some look almost cleverly repurposed, as if someone took some run-of-the-mill window blinds and fashioned them into a conical shape.
At New York Design Week’s show at Creatures of Comfort this year, Medellín-based designer Sophie Lou Jacobsen showed a simple, pleated lamp on a steel base. Soon after, Spanish designer Arturo Alvarez released pleated stainless steel mesh lamps, in white, avocado green, and rusty orange. Back in New York, our trend bellwethers (ceramicists), are making pleated shades out of clay. Forrest Lewinger of Brooklyn brand Workaday Handmade, for instance, recently posted a picture of a hand-thrown terra cotta pleated shade on a stoneware base. (“Kind of funny looking,” she says of the lamp. “The way I like it.”) A couple of miles south, Natalie Weinberger created four stoneware lamps with pleated ceramic shades; all four colors are sold out. And ahead of all of them, Swiss design duo Jörg Boner and Christian Deuber won an award at imm Cologne in 2010 for their concrete and metal pleated floor lamp. They modeled theirs after lamp shades they saw at a senior citizen home in Untersiggenthal, Switzerland. Few designers would find the — as they dubbed them — “old, stuffy, dusty shades” romantic, but they did.
It’s possible that the resurgence of pleats didn’t come from any single lamp designer, but rather from Issey Miyake, whose Pleats Please collection has undergone a renaissance in the last couple of years, with interpretations showing up on runways in 2016, and knockoffs at Zara, Topshop, and H&M. Miyake has even dabbled in pleated homeware: in 2016 his line released pleated placemats, tote bags, and cushion covers with Finnish brand Iittala.
But Weinberger, for her part, thinks the craze comes from a lamp made in the mid-1960s by Danish furniture company Caprani. Piccolo’s looks the most like this one: it’s a floor lamp with a pleated linen shade in colors like burnt orange, brown, and white, and, like Piccolo’s, it has a delicately curved spine. “The Caprani has gained a lot of popularity as of late,” says Weinberger. “I’m fairly certain West Elm will have their version any minute now.”
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