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The hip-hop mogul interviews his interior designer Axel Vervoordt and reveals his own plans for a philosophy book, thoughts on Virgil Abloh going to Louis Vuitton, and his future goals for the brand: “I don’t wish to be number one anymore, I wish to be water.”
A curious thing happened when Kanye West sat down to interview his design collaborator Axel Vervoordt. As Vervoordt walked into the Calabasas offices of Yeezy — the hip-hop mogul’s Adidas fashion brand — West seemed preoccupied. He would later admit that his mood was due to longtime Yeezy collaborator Virgil Abloh having just been named Louis Vuitton’s menswear artistic director. But as West and Vervoordt settled in on that afternoon in late March, everything seemed to click.
Both men sensed it, too, as Vervoordt’s answers repeatedly provided perfect segues to West’s next question. It was electric. The dialogue — timed to the publication of Flammarion’s Axel Vervoordt: Stories and Reflections, a memoir co-written by Michael Gardner (full disclosure: the brother of this conversation’s moderator) — waxed philosophical as well as temporal, touching on their work together (Vervoordt helped West and wife Kim Kardashian design their nearby estate) among many other topics. “I need this,” said West. “This is like church for me.”
Vervoordt agreed, but don’t call him a minister. He prefers not to be called a decorator, either. “Some people call me that, but I really don’t feel like that at all,” he demured. Instead, Belgium-born and bred Vervoordt, 70 — who runs his namesake business alongside son Boris just outside Antwerp, overseeing 100-plus employees — prefers to be known as an “art dealer, curator and designer.”
Vervoordt, named to Architectural Digest’s inaugural AD100 Hall of Fame last year, is known for his eclectic eye, talent for mixing genres and time periods, and show-stopping stands at art, antiques and interior design fairs across the globe. He’s designed homes in New York, Miami, Tokyo, London, Los Angeles, and all over Europe and even the Middle East. To those in the art world, he’s also known for his legendary exhibitions at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice during the Biennale from 2007-17.
He’s also the go-to designer for West and Kardashian, as well as Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler. They, like West, have made multiple trips to his home, a 12th century castle known as ‘s-Gravenwezel, and his company headquarters Kanaal, a former malting factory his company transformed into showrooms, workshops and art galleries, alongside 100 apartments, a restaurant, bakery and fresh market. (Others, like Ellen DeGeneres, are just fans: “Axel Vervoordt is kind of everything,” she has said.)
“Axel’s talent is to find the spirit of any place he transforms, and to reflect it back within design,” write Sting and Styler in an affectionate emailed statement. “He finds its history, its mood, its soil. Also, to embrace the idea and fact of impermanence. He is a joyful person and we are proud to call him our friend.”
Same for Robert De Niro, who worked with Vervoordt on the penthouse of his Greenwich Hotel. De Niro tells THR that he drafted Vervoordt to design something special for the city that would stand out. “I like his style, elegance and sophistication,” says De Niro, adding that he most responds to the simple elegance of his work. “The penthouse doesn’t have immediate conveniences that you would expect, but it’s a work of art and a crown jewel in the city. That was the intention, and who else could do that but Axel?”
And who else but Vervoordt could bring West to church on a Friday? “Spiritual is the best word I can use,” West says, missing no beats but also adding the term essential to the mix. “I don’t want to put too many boxes on it because the work speaks louder than words.”
KANYE WEST THR says people will want to know how we met. I remember I walked past your booth [at The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, Netherlands, in 2013] and saw this coffee table. It was a very low, dark coffee table with round edges, and it looked like it was floating, like a spaceship. I remember walking in and feeling like the movie Batman.(Laughs.) Some Bruce Wayne type. It had this very soulful, emotional feeling to the space. I came up to you and said, “Who is responsible for this?”
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