Olivier Garcé and Clio Dimofski have been inseparable since they met during their third year at the Camondo school of interior design in Paris. The work of their young brand, Garcé & Dimofski, sits at the crossroad of craft, artistry and design. Fascinated by the imaginative world of Achille Castiglioni and the elegant yet simple lines of the Swedish Grace movement, among other influences, they mix different styles in unexpected ways. “Our work connects the imaginative with the practical,” says Garcé. “Aesthetics should embrace singularity.”
Today, they work and live together in Lisbon; prior to this move, their careers spanned Beijing and New York, Shigeru Ban Architects and Pierre Yovanovitch’s studio. “After working for many years for various architects and interior designers in France and abroad, and following the birth of our daughter, we were at a turning point in our professional and personal lives,” remembers Dimofski. “We are adventurous by nature, and it was time for a new challenge.” In 2021, the couple chose to settle down in Lisbon and envisioned the genesis of their gallery and multi-disciplinary design studio. “We wanted to work with local craftsmen and export this knowledge worldwide,” says Garcé, who, as a child, used to spend summers with his family in Portugal.
Ahead of launching their showroom in summer 2022, the duo have laid the foundations for this new phase with an installation in Lisbon’s historic Graça Convent. The exhibition, titled “Mensagem” — derived from one of Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa’s major works — offered a glimpse into Garcé & Dimofski’s practice, which focusses on creative collaboration. “Navigating between art and design is what defines us,” says Dimofski. “We don’t understand our work in terms of a particular style, but rather as a constantly changing language, influenced by the craftsmen we work with.”
The show at Graça Convent unfolded like a story “held together by enigmatic totems”, according to Garcé. “We looked for things that provided a platform to encounter each artefact in a unique way — like old beams supporting a display of eclectic objects and furniture, which find their own aesthetic coherence when combined.” Among the pieces were sculptural ceramic works by Garance Vallée; another long-term collaborator, Ian Felton, designed a pair of nesting tables with Portuguese black clay tops and hand-carved and ebonised oak bases. “I had organised a sort of ‘creative exercise’ with Olivier and Clio over quarantine in 2020, where we brought some artists together,” says Felton. “It ended up turning into an installation in their apartment in New York and received some great responses. They were moving to Portugal the next year and wanted to do the same thing again with more intention and synergy. That sounded fascinating to me.” Carving a series of chairs in his backyard at the time, designer Minjae Kim was also on board immediately. “They were lacquered Douglas fir chairs with very simple graphic motifs and felt like a good fit,” Kim says. “Working with Garcé & Dimofski is always enjoyable. We communicate very lightly but always seem to be in tune.”
Garcé & Dimofski’s new studio and gallery space is designed as an apartment, housed in a 19th century Pombaline building in Lisbon’s Arroios neighbourhood, and will host year-round open events, collaborative gatherings, and art and design installations. Working in parallel on a new line of furniture, a scenography project with The Invisible Collection for Sotheby’s New York, and both urban and rural residential projects in Portugal, Garcé and Dimofski are also dedicating time to a project with designer Charlotte Taylor.“It will be launched in September 2022, with the intention of mixing digital content with physical items”, reveals Garcé.
After living in Lisbon for several months, the duo continues to find their place in this new environment, where creativity is booming. Each region has its own culture and offers a variety of possibilities for entrepreneurs. That doesn’t mean, however, that move hasn’t come with its challenges. “For many decades, Portugal was centred on itself,” says Dimofski. “It’s only been in the last 10 years that outside interest in Portugal has soared. The challenge we are now facing is to manage quality, schedules and logistics in a more open market. But we are really pleased to see that each manufacturer we work with still maintains its family spirit.”