'Aesthetes' and 'eclectic': two words to describe Cosima and Austin, co-founders of the creative agency and art de vivre brand, CONCEPT. It's a name that reflects their obsession with seeking out meaning and getting to the origin of things. Indeed, “Life is impossible if we are not at the dawn of things” was a maxim Cosima's father, Emanuel Ungaro, borrowed from Antonin Artaud. Cosima and Austin have certainly taken it to heart, and his words still deeply influence the way they live and work today. Restoring meaning, finding depth, being mindful of the strength in the details; getting back to the concept, to the origin of things. A heart call to do what we carry deep within ourselves, and to help others to do so, too.
So, let's go back to the origin of things. Aesthete, a word borrowed from the Greek; “he who perceives through the senses”. “I am both a victim and a product of emotion,” Emanuel Ungaro would say. Cosima and Austin's world is romantic, sensory, sensual. Objects, people, the whole world around us, all speak to them. They feel rather than talk; which is invaluable when it comes to grasping the essence of the brands they work with, that flash of understanding of what makes each one unique, their raison d'être. But it also makes it hard for them to work with people and brands they do not resonate with. CONCEPT is truly an agency of affinity. And it's rooted in a disarming sincerity, rather than snobbery. “Whoever you are, you who come near, what may seem terrible to you pleases me. If it pleases you also, then stay. If it annoys you, then leave! They will both be equally pleasant to me.” so goes a Tuscan saying that's dear to their hearts.
Eclectic: also a word borrowed from the Greek; “he who exercises choice, selective.” “The Eclectics, philosophers who borrowed elements of their doctrine from various schools, especially from Epicureanism and Stoicism”. Etymologically, then, eclecticism cannot exist without curation, and Austin and Cosima excel at seeking truth from multiple sources, choosing the best from each, acting as conduits for the coincidence of thought between the Ancient and modern worlds. On her finger, Cosima wears a contemporary signet ring with a Roman coin. The ring is a tangible symbol of the circle, a divine and perfect form. Without beginning or end, it is whole and unchanging, like eternity - and the CONCEPT logo. Austin and Cosima cultivate the art of capturing the times in which they live, without falling into immediacy.
In their time, the Eclectics were afraid of partisanship. Austin and Cosima have the same reluctance to allow themselves be boxed in, and enthusiasm for pushing limits. Austin; Franco-American with Italian and German roots, feels “universal”. Wide open to the world, he has an insatiable appetite for exploration. Cosima; Italian with a humanist streak, is also French and treats her native Paris like a village. They experience the curation of objects as a journey: in the spaces they shape, African statuettes mingle with Ancient marble figures, pietra dura tables, Chinese screens and sofas covered with Uzbek fabrics. Eclectic choices, in perfect balance and harmony.
Eclecticism is about a love of antitheses, oxymorons and paradoxes. The CONCEPT spirit hovers between light and shadow, knowledge and reverie. Through the ambiances they create, Cosima and Austin cultivate duality and contrast, unambiguously welcoming both rigour and excess. They build and deconstruct the complicated relationship between nature and culture, tease humility and transcendence, discretion and opulence; and wrap it all up in a gentle intimacy that prompts voracious curiosity. In this way, we experience what it is to be human, in all its vulnerability and strength, wildness and perfection. They dive into in the relationships between humans, our patterns of behaviour; what can nourish and transform us. All in the hope of inspiring a better world, to be lived with joy and happiness.
“At home everywhere, but contained nowhere, such is the motto of the dreamer of homes”
La Poétique de l’Espace, Gaston Bachelard.